Between the Word and the World

For John Clare.

beautiful horse on green grassy pasture

Some remember your madness, your poverty, your unusual grammar, your melancholic breaks, but you loved the land and had some of the wild pasture in your blood––and the blight.

An eager listener, a student of nature’s music, you let yourself be carried on the wizard noise of the wind. You were always inviting others to join, but your neighbors preferred to count the land in parcels. To no end.

For you, poetry was the means of hearing, and by it you learned to read the living land, a music unto itself.

You found the world through the word, learning to name its birds by the sounds of their wings in flight. Listen a minute, you reminded, and hush.


When I learned that today is the birthday of poet John Clare (1793-1864), I decided to spend some time with his work, as well as with an essay by Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, “Listening with John Clare,” which highlights the poet’s particular sensitivity to the sounds of the land he walked so well (from Studies in Romanticism, Fall 2009).

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

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