Peter Philpott

A Year and a Day in the Dark Forest
For My Children

What on earth do you think you can act with but who you are?
Peter Riley, Lines on the Liver

This sequence of poems was written, mainly, between New Years Day, 1981, and New Years Day, 1982, the bulk of it in Bishops Stortford (with some sections in Dyfed). It records some domestic events, including a birth and a holiday, as well as seasonal changes and events, and also a range of responses to the times – at the beginning of a decade of despairing social and political closure, but also of a certain sense of intellectual opening. It was a time of reason pursued beyond itself, and of a growing fascination also with what reason excluded. Both are present here, and too responses to my job of teaching (at that time) English and Literature in a Technical College, and to a Cambridge-based poetry scene.

It is a very long and complex text. You are invited to read it following a number of guided routes identified by waymarks. A linear progression would give an inaccurate sense of the poem. These routes are listed on the next page, together with some of the landmarks and vistas they take you by. Basically, some are shortcuts, but others take you by the scenic route, while a in a couple of places you will find yourself slipping headlong – just give in the journey when this happens. Do be aware that as you negotiate its terrain that some routes through may not be visible from certain viewpoints; and that once the journey is embarked on there is no easy way out until you reach its end. The poem was written with this complexity integral to it: unpublishable on paper. It has taken the creation of this website to give the poem a public existence. Its inspiration was not in fact digital, but Wordsworth's "Preface" to The Excursion (edition of 1814), and his comparison of the relationships between his works to the multiplicity of sites within a complex Gothic edifice.

Some of the individual texts were performed with Jon Slater and Dave Houssart as the band The Playground in and around Harlow in the late 80s. A few of the poems therefore have audio tracks linked to them. For further details see The Playground pages.