‘this is deep mud this is / pure mouth’ (Alice Oswald)

by wiggs66

who needs gaiters

Soon to be heading off on another extended and no doubt mud-ridden walking trip, starting in Fiordland at the bottom of New Zealand where the advice is to get used to putting your boots on wet in the morning…so thought I’d start the year with a muddy poem by Alice Oswald, whose work is sticky with the stuff.

The symbiotic relationship between Oswald’s walking and composition technique is well-documented, with this piece apparently generated by her nights spent tramping around the Severn Estuary. It was published under the title ‘Mud’ in Spacecraft Voyager 1 but later became the articled clerk section in her long poem A Sleepwalk on the Severn, which (if you’ve not already read it) I highly recommend – http://www.faber.co.uk/9780571247561-a-sleepwalk-on-the-severn.html

Oswald’s precise interrogation of landscape has a kinetic/somatic force, relying as it does on the movement of the breath, the body, the interplay of thought and mouth. You can hear the estuary licking its lips. Here’s an appetiser –

‘and so many mucous mudglands / so much soft throat sucking at my feet // I thought be careful this is deep mud this is / pure mouth it has such lip muscles / such a suction of wet kisses’

Here’s hoping the mud in the antipodes won’t be quite that hungry…and if anyone has any good tips for poetry stop-offs, bookshops etc, anywhere between the southern edge of New Zealand and the north coast of Australia, please do pass them on.