Vulpes Libris on Ted Hughes and Fay Godwin's ElmetPosted: April 7, 2009
Last week Moira at Vulpes Libris wrote a terrific review of Elmet, a collection of poems by Ted Hughes with accompanying photographs by Fay Godwin. I owned a copy of this book–or rather its earlier incarnation–when I lived in West Yorkshire in the 1980s and this review convinced me to buy another. What I love about the place is perfectly captured in the book: the harshness of the landscape and calm domesticity of the villages and towns. These are solid, practical places, built for a purpose in a landscape that provided raw materials for industry, but is not kind to humans:
The Calder Valley in West Yorkshire (just in West Yorkshire … although it flirts dangerously with Lancashire) was carved from the local millstone grit by ice, wind and rain. When man first arrived in the area he inhabited the higher ground, along the spring lines. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution – and the industries that needed water – he migrated downwards, leaving the old villages deserted and the old dwellings decaying on the hillsides. The valley bottom filled with people, mills, chimneys, and cramped, overcrowded housing – all fighting for space between the canal, the river, the road and the railway that weave through it.