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'One tree can't breathe for the whole world': Simon Armitage marks chainsaw felling at Sycamore Gap

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The poet laureate, Simon Armitage, has written a poem to mark the destruction of the Sycamore Gap tree at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. Titled ‘The Holy Land’, it focuses on the “cock of the north” with a “brainless power tool” who may have committed the act. The focus on the miscreant has been taken by some to reflect Armitage’s previous life as a probation officer.  The poem talks of how “the chainsaw yawned / then breezed through hundreds of years / of weather and kings and wars / and blah blah blah.”

The mood of the poem is of forgiveness and resurrection, as it talks of how the tree –“that sycamore saint” - which famously featured in the Hollywood film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, had become “a movie extra / or mindfulness poster /or Instagram pose – truth is / one tree can’t breathe / for the whole world …”. It concludes: “The carpenter’s art / begins with a death; / now build a forest, / now plant a house, / now carve a leaf.”  


You can read the whole poem on Instagram here







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M.C. Newberry

Tue 21st Nov 2023 20:44

A previous existence as a probation officer elearly enthuses
the idea of a poem of this sort. I would have preferred a sign
of the deed being seen as indicative of a poverty of love for
the landscape - and a selfish disrespect towards it that infects much of today's society. As it happened, by chance I caught SA's
Winter Walks TV programme in the early hours a few nights ago, during which he walked a five mile stretch of the Yorkshire
coastline to Robin Hood's Bay. Unexpected and pleasurable.

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Stephen Gospage

Sat 11th Nov 2023 08:43

A fascinating, substantial poem, combining disappointment at the perpetrator and act his act with an element of forgiveness and reconciliation. The language is rich and the style vivid. It's good to see the poet laureate doing this kind of thing.

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