Forest moor or less: Dawn Bauling and Ronnie Goodyer, Indigo Dreams

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Exercise to preserve physical and mental health has become even more important during the pandemic. And walking is still a relatively easy way  – and currently permitted, within certain boundaries – to do this. Appreciation of this adds to the enjoyment of Forest moor or less by Dawn Bauling and Ronnie Goodyer, partners in love and publishing and writing poetry at the independent press Indigo Dreams.

Two publishers producing a book of their own poetry might lead to accusations of vanity publishing. I’m here to tell you that there is no question of that in Dawn and Ronnie’s case. This is a delightful collection and collaboration, where it is not so much the individual poems – although a number are very fine – as their overall effect on the spirit. Although you can’t get into your cars and then follow in their footsteps at the moment, this is nevertheless a poetic walking guide to the West Country and beyond, in which their enjoyment of it all should lift the mood. 

The couple live in a Devon forest on the edge of Dartmoor. They quickly tune into that sense of the past when walking in the countryside … “talk to the Anglo-Saxons through mist.// I scrape my fingers on midwinter air, / peel back the centuries’ layers, hold close / the rowan tree that leads me to spring.” (‘Communing’). Druids are invoked by “my breath forming genie-lamp mist” in ‘Fragments of the Mystic Moor’.

There’s an interesting observation in ‘Summer Evening, Cam Peak’ – “The querulous and the quidnunc [gossip, back-stabber] don’t climb hills” – which feels like it ought to be true. (They’re probably hunched over their computers on Twitter). A line in ‘Being There’ – “my dog is a steam train running against / a barrage of birdsong” – has the railway detective in me sniffing the air. I happen to know that Dawn and Ronnie live close to the site of a rural, pre-Beeching rail junction; and that their local walks may well be criss-crossed with traces of old rail tracks.

There’s more history in ‘Misty Morning, Hildersley Fields’, an invocation of

 

               the smoky conversations of death-or-glory

        soldiers, billeted and waiting for the foreign fields

        of 1940, in bucolic beauty prior to battles.

 

       No crosses here, but late wild poppies

       bleeding into the soil, watched over by the

       land-girl crops of new generation farmers

 

There are outings and poems set further afield, to Elgar’s Malvern Hills, to West Bay in Dorset, and a Betjeman pilgrimage to St Enedoc and Wadebridge. And there are more personal poems, a love poem expressing regret that they did not meet up earlier in their lives (‘In the lane’), and a reference in Ronnie Goodyer’s ‘Walking Through My Family’ to losing a son “who let go of my hand too soon”, a subject he returns to in ‘Make this poem whole again’. 

The overall impression is of a loving couple making the most of their time together. You are not so much an embarrassed eavesdropper, as a welcomed friend, privileged to be sharing confidences. Some might think also, though they are too modest to remind us, of all the collections of poetry that they as publishers have given birth to. (Declaration: that includes my own pamphlet collection, in 2015). Walking happens to be out of bounds at the moment for Dawn Bauling, who is recovering from a broken ankle. Write Out Loud wishes her a speedy recovery. We all feel fairly locked down, too. But you can go strolling in the head with Dawn and Ronnie, by leafing through this uplifting collection of outdoors poetry.  

 

Dawn Bauling and Ronnie Goodyer, Forest moor or less, Indigo Dreams, £11

 

 

 

 

◄ Wendy Klein to judge £200 Slipstream competition

TS Eliot Prize readings and announcement of winner to be streamed on Sunday 24 January ►

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