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Philip Gross: Rites from A Day at the Earth House
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Rites from A Day at the Earth House

In the church of St James, at his post
on the font a priest with no face holds two smooth-
coiled snakes at bay. The two stone avenues
coil up over the hill to the henge. Out of sight

the organ tunes up for a wedding and, white
ribbons shivering, a sit-up-and-beg

white Morris takes a road marked red
on the map, that cuts the henge. A sideways

glance: the bride in the back looks, let's say
carsick, as they slow to thread between

great stones. The dancers on the green
wag their hankies like aunts on the end

of the platform of centuries: Morris men
in white laundered blouses slashed -

cross their hearts - with these sashes
of blood red, like barber's poles.

Philip Gross

"That intense but ambivalent attraction we can have... to prehistoric monuments, and to the other relics of vanished societies, may be what draws many to archaeology; but archaeology - the telling of stories about the past - can only do so much to illuminate our complex emotions or pin them down. The rest is, or could be, the province of poetry.

Philip Gross is one of the few poets to tackle these dark areas, and his latest collection, A Cast of Stones, is a set of meditations on Stonehenge and Avebury. In these acute, disturbing and often exhilarating poems he nails truths - the sheer indecipherability of the stones, for example, and the limitations of guidebook knowledge - that no archaeologist would dare to state. He also captures what may be the very essence of the appeal of the past - our simultaneous connection to it, and complete separation from it - that necessarily sounds leaden or lame when expressed in prose."*


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Posted by Littlestone
24th December 2006ce

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Megalithic Poems (Littlestone)

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