Marc Woodward is an Anglo/American poet and musician living in the rural English West Country. His writing reflects his green surroundings, often with a dark undercurrent and a hint of wry humour. Sea Crow Press is delighted to be publishing his new collection, Shaking the Persimmon Tree, in spring 2022. Marc wrote this collection from the wild and sunny hills of Abruzzo in central Italy, as well as reporting from his usual territory in the bucolic English West Country. The poems range from environmental concern (‘the right-****ing-now of climate change’), to the Covid pandemic, police badgers (!), escaped lovers and archeological road trips – as well as facing up to some of the darkest shadows which stalk us all.
In his own words:
I’m delighted to announce my new collection Shaking The Persimmon Tree will be published by Sea Crow Press and I’m thrilled to join the growing family of this new, exciting, publisher based on Cape Cod.
Cape Cod holds a special place in my heart – back in 2015 I came over to the Cape to teach mandolin at a weekend ‘camp’ in East Sandwich. After the weekend was over I rented a cabin on Gull Pond near Wellfleet and holed up there to concentrate on writing. My chapbook A Fright of Jays had come out earlier that year and I was putting together work that was eventually published in 2018 as Hide Songs – including a sequence of poems written on the Cape.
I went at dawn to Newcomb Hollow,
a war reporter for Breaking Light,
to see the last gasp darkness swallowed
down the gullet of a mackerel sky..
I was spied by periscoping seals
peep holing through the barbed edge ocean,
commanding waves to raid and steal
in constant pillaging incursions
(Excerpt from The Battle of Newcomb Hollow – Hide Songs pub. by Green Bottle Press, 2018)
When I was there it was early October, the summer crowds had left and the Cape had the distinct feeling of the party being over. And that’s fine with me, I’m not good with crowds. I prefer to visit a beach at dawn, a quiet gallery or a bookshop relaxing into its own dust. Somewhere I picked up a copy of Walden by Thoreau, it could’ve been that secondhand bookshop attached to an Oyster bar overlooking an empty lot and windy curl of beach (surely that’s a combination you’d find nowhere else but on Cape Cod?) – but the book was new so I think it came from the little bookstore in Provincetown. I’d driven up there to go out whale watching:
Motoring out under a yawning Cape sky,
we pass three lighthouses on yellow dunes
into the oculus of air and ocean.
Shearwaters run upon the sea then rise,
tripping upwards from their light fantastic
as we scan for humpback, minke and fin.
(Excerpt from The Light at Cape Cod – The Tin Lodes, pub. by Indigo Dreams 2020).
Thoreau seemed appropriate reading while living in a cabin on a lake – even if only for a few days! The following week I was booked to play a gig upstate and on my way from Boston I drove through Concord, Thoreau’s home town. I didn’t stop though. Maybe next time.
Whether I get out to the Cape again remains to be seen – my memories from that time are recorded in verse – but it feels special to be reminded of my visit by working with Sea Crow Press.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t end this post with some lines from the forthcoming book which focuses on my homeland of England and Italy where I’m fortunate enough to spend occasional periods.
This is a one-sentence sonnet designed to leave the reader slightly breathless and flustered – perhaps like the Cape on a crowded summer’s day!
Lovers in the Elephant Grass
Sunlight stripes us through the wavering stalks
as we lie breathless and high, listening
to the frantic insistence of skylarks,
feeling our hearts recover, pulses slow,
numb to all of time but this one moment,
wild within the elephant grass raffia,
its thin shadow grid moving across us,
so if we half close our eyes we flicker
like the final frames of an old film show
about jailbreak runaways who outwit
the hounds and strip off in a southern field,
shedding more arrows than eager Cupid,
only to find their malnourished bodies
tattooed with a sweet and biblical crime.
Marc Woodward has been published internationally in a wide range of journals, anthologies, and online sites. He was writer-in-residence at The Wellstone Center in Santa Cruz, CA. in 2018 and shortlisted for that year’s Bridport Prize; won the 2019 Keats’ Footsteps Prize, and was commended for the 2020 Acumen Poetry Prize and the 2020 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.
His previous collections include A Fright of Jays (Maquette Press, 2015), Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press, 2018), and The Tin Lodes written in collaboration with well-known poet and professor Andy Brown (Indigo Dreams 2020).