Sleepers, a poem by Stewart Carswell

Sleepers.jpg

A curtain of ferns
spreads at eye height
to a child, and parts
from the push of a hand

to expose
the shrinking clearing
and the treasure at its centre:
an ancient sleeper

laying like a sunken casket
and shrouded by a puzzle
of oak leaves. The specimen
ornamented with metalware:

rusted plates and bolts,
brooches carried by the dead
to the next station of life.
Close the curtains. Change the scene.

A figure stands at the end
of the platform, his face masked
by a flag. Steam
spirals around him,

a spire above rows of sleepers.
There is one line
drawn from childhood
through junctions to connections,

and the destination close
to definition.
I feel the platform vibrate
from something about to begin.

The figure sounds his whistle.
His flag drops
and it is my face unmasked
and time to leave this dream

and I see it now. The trackbed
has lost its track and I have lost
track of time. I get up
to check my phone

but there’s no signal
and my daughter is asleep,
habitually dreaming
of a better life to travel in

and I see it now.
The ancient sleeper
is a relic, an inherited burden,
second-hand history.

I step outside
and the first engine of the day
sets out light and I see it now:
I know what to do.

***

Stewart Carswell grew up in the Forest of Dean. He studied Physics at Southampton University, and has a PhD from the University of Bristol. He currently lives and works and writes in Cambridgeshire. His poems have recently been published in Envoi, The Lighthouse, The Poetry Shed, and Ink Sweat & Tears. His debut pamphlet, Knots and branches, is published by Eyewear Publishing (2016). Find out more on his website or on Twitter.

Wells-next-the-Sea, a poem by Ian C Smith

wells by sea photo ian c smith.jpg

I am anxious driving through green England
always moving on, never stopping long.
In Norfolk, an argument east of The Wash
an old man wearing a cloth cap
strokes a horse’s whiskery nose in grey light.

A man, a horse, a cart, a sign.
Yes, she wants to take the ride
but with the reins in her experienced hands.
The old man hears us out, considers us,
before agreeing to a test drive.

He watches.  Scavenging gulls hover.
A merry-go round and round the empty carpark.
I talk her up, a city boy standing close,
clop, clop my praise overflowing.
You’d think she was Clancy’s daughter.

Our high seat might be a magic carpet,
morning air still, few cars, glimpse of sea.
Horse skiving, I ask how she knows the way.
The horse does.  I’m just along for the ride.
Some early shoppers stop, turn to stare.

The old nag’s pace increases.
We must be heading back, she says.
Aren’t you steering?  In control?
Hardly.  Stop waving, you show-off.
She seems happier now, in her element.

The horizon behind, I picture Europe beyond,
my mind fizzing with travel’s romance.
Then the old man, looking lonely, relieved.
He says, I knew you’d be all right,
his words a lighthouse beam of hope.  

***

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Live Encounters, Poetry New Zealand, Southerly, & Two-Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.


Spring In This Place – a poem by Will Burns

I choose the bee-flies for company today.
Sunlight on beech leaves,
cool sweat in the warm wood,
the blue flowers of the season.
Not numerology or some old painting
I think you might like.
Not a poem I hope you read for signs of life.
I fall hard for this place every day
the way we do for people we shouldn’t.

***

Will.JPG

As part of The People’s Forest project, the poet Will Burns is creating a series of new works inspired by Epping Forest. Over the year Burns is penning a collection of poems, one per season, in part reflecting on the unique nature of Epping intertwined with his own experience of the forest real and imagined – here we have had the pleasure and privilege to publish Will’s poem for spring.

The People's Forest

The Peoples Forest with type-small.jpg

We’ve been following The People’s Forest project with interest, rooted as it is in place and what it inspires. Co-curated by Kirsteen McNish and Luke Turner, The People’s Forest includes a programme of events, talks, gigs and artistic collaborations, and continues the history of great writers drawing inspiration from nature and the outdoors to present a literary programme designed to seek out new writing related to Epping Forest – London’s strange and wonderful woodland, and its unique history that has been shaped and maintained by man.

As part of the project,  Faber New Poet and Caught by the River poet-in-residence Will Burns will create a series of new works inspired by Epping Forest. Over the year Burns will pen a collection of poems, one per season, in part reflecting on the unique nature of Epping intertwined with his own experience of the forest real and imagined, and we are extremely pleased and proud to announce that we will be publishing one of the forthcoming poems here on the Elsewhere: A Journal of Place blog.

Burns has proposed a long walk from Wendover Woods to Epping Forest, revisiting the physical act that his mother made in her lifetime, and as a family unit twenty years ago. This journey will in part shape the latter part of the series and will revisit family history, memory and these two forests many miles apart. This journey will cross the rivers and chalk streams and hillsides of this odd and lost middle land between the capital and the bulk of the country. He will also be exploring what this strip of lush, wooded country means - this dividing line, in this divided time.

Will’s first poem “The Word For Wood” appeared in Caught By The River’s online journal in March that conjures up themes of isolation, crisis and crossroads:

The fertility symbols of other, older cultures
harass me through the cold wood.
The sounds of jackdaws going berserk
(though the sound is not their name…).
I might as well come clean—
all this is to impress somebody else
though they have long given up interest.
First I read they had left the conversation,
then I watched them leave the house,
finally I heard they left town

Speaking about the project and his connection to the location, Burns said:

“Epping Forest has loomed strange in my imagination since childhood. I grew up just outside its shadow, in Enfield, and my mother was born in Epping itself without ever knowing the place. Since moving out of London at 10, I have always loved woods – either 'my own’ out here in Wendover, or others that I’ve visited. They are places unlike any other in our imaginations and I feel as if there is a whole chapter of my memory linked to that part of London but somehow missing. I hope to recover it through a year of walking and thinking and writing in the forest.”

We are really excited to read more from Will as the project continues and we hope to bring more from The People’s Forest to our readers in the coming months. For the full programme of events taking place, click here.

Everything I Didn't Find in Vancouver

Painting by Jase Falk.

Painting by Jase Falk.

By Jase Falk:

Warm light and wanting circle in through my earbuds. Patterned question marks and safety lights line the aisles of the plane. I’m missing you already as you write poems and drink matcha in Winnipeg. We weren’t steady in our love then and we aren’t now either, but in this distance and exchanged letters it felt like there was a growing—we wanted there to be a growing.

I stepped off the plane, my gender caught up in tangles of hair. The way you used to run fingers through the knots and listen to the slow hum of my heartbeat pulling up through veins traced down the length of my forearms taught me the meaning of safety. A latticework of language formed the shape of us. I needed shape to myself; had I no shape to myself? Years passed through me like how grandma used to whisper stories while the world slipped by, our cups of tea shimmering to its beat, leftover paska bread, eggs dully cooked, yokes a disintegration of yellow in the pan.

Float through Vancouver like a ghost; spectres of me dance down alleyways in graceless imitation of you. I’ve always envied the way linen hangs differently on your shoulders, like soil grew and wove it there. No lack of confidence in your cursive. My stumbling into coffee shops, penning words like you penned down words. My wanting you bore such resemblance to my wanting to be you. Your letters gave me form like the inside of my bones.

Flashes of red and yellow as I travel through the underpass. Loud sigh of my bicycle break’s un-oiled song. This city’s grid is not interrupted by muddy water. I kept peeking over the boardwalks on Granville Island only to see faint ripples of my face return.

Drift back from apartment on Davie street to wet lines and rainbows sliding down Commercial Drive. All is queer at night, but in the day we hide ourselves. All is poured out here, but back home I hide myself.

Night of fairy lights, soft guitars paired with words falling petal-like on the small crowd bundled up in wine stained blankets. There is a kind of softness that knows how to cut out space in a world which does not want it. I’m all broken open up in tasseled fissures. Never knew words that could work their way through such a thicket of skin. Afterwards, a woman shares her smoke with me. We talk by the fence while groups of warm bodies move aglow like candle light nearby. I hope to find identity. I don’t quite identify. Her words cluster and form hickeys above my collar. She knows but doesn’t say. I know, but don’t know how to say. I told myself I would not serve, but here I am passing wine amongst loving faces under porch lattice, vines carry their long bodies down to play on our shoulders. We are graced. We sing grace though we don’t know it. Don’t know who we’re singing to as wax spills over tablecloth, the light almost out. She would have asked for a kiss goodnight, but saw my unknowing for she had known it before. Warm arms fasten body to ground then fall away like the smell of rain carrying me into the night.

Your wanting spurts out in a phone call, alone with its uncertainty. I change my flight and leave a week early. The seat buckle tightens around my waist and the flight attendant asks “sir, would you like a drink?” I gather question marks from around my feet, tattoo them onto skin. You curl loose fingers around my shoulder and don’t know me. I grow into you—toss my questions in the messy corners of your room. Return the fullness of myself; put this body in motion. We tangle into one another, we still don’t have the right words, but brush chalk dust off and name each other till we find a stillness. Vancouver listens, patient in the distance, for anything to awake in the absence of its cedar.

***

Jase Falk is a non-binary writer who spends time in archives daydreaming of cedar trees and different futures where we have a chance. You can find them on Twitter here.

At Bradford's Rail and Bus Interchange: What Ship is This?

What Ship is This? – Photo: Robert Butroyd

What Ship is This? – Photo: Robert Butroyd

By Robert Butroyd:

Rav Sanghera wrote a play about it, Gerard Benson wrote two poems about it, and I’m standing with my back to the Victoria Hotel next to Fran, and we’re staring at it. At first glance it appears to be apologising for even being there, tucked away below the road. Apologising for replacing the double arched roof and fluted columns of the demolished Bradford Exchange with a functional angular box. But maybe Bradford Interchange is not the blight on the spirit that it thinks it is. Rav Sanghera thinks it’s a place full of fascinating stories. Someone at ‘Metro’, the ‘combined authority’, or whoever runs it now, thinks it has potential as an art gallery. Gerard Benson certainly thought it a place of poetry. So, we head across the road.

Fran spots the fractured white sails above the entrance. But what sort of ship is this? She compares it to stepping into Sydney Harbour with its famous Opera House, and its roof of white sails. In the canopy, above the queuing taxis pumping the air with diesel fumes and the drone of their throaty engines, I see the sails of an Egyptian felucca floating dreamily down the Nile. Rising above the sails the pyramid of glass resembles the bridge of a cruise ship, where the crew, thinking it a good idea at the time, took a short cut, maybe the Suez Canal, and having badly lost their way intended to moor up for a short while, but rather liked the place and decided to hang around.

Inside, the grumble of diesel is mixed with muffled conversations, instructions, exclamations, and the random bleeps of modern life: Greggs' oven warning the bacon will burn, reversing buses, pinging mobiles. The departure boards, timetables, shops, and commuters rushing for buses, trains and home remind Fran of the Paris Metro. She’s not thinking of the daily commute, but the first steps on a journey to a more romantic place. The interior reminds me of a place designed by airport architects: functional, a people moving machine, not a place to linger. But linger we must, as buses run late, or we run late, or we go to the wrong platform, or we misread the timetable, or granny is on the next bus, having missed the one we came to meet. Maybe that’s why someone thought to hang paintings along the top of the walls on the upper concourse. Something to distract, keep us out of mischief, keep us on our toes, keep us asking questions - not wrong ones like, where’s my bus? But right ones like, why are there these paintings of elephants, seals and clowns? Who painted them? Who put them there, and why haven’t I noticed them before?

Feet Not Made For Dancing – Photo: Robert Butroyd

Feet Not Made For Dancing – Photo: Robert Butroyd

Of course, there are other things we can do while we wait. How about a bit of dancing? Fran thinks it’s an intriguing idea. So did Gerard Benson. It was a moment three little dancing girls probably forgot as soon as their bus arrived, but it was a magical moment captured in his poem, ‘Snapshot: Interchange Bus Station.’ But dance, where? The three girls, up past their bedtime, watched over by their chatting mums, were inspired by what appear to be random patterns made by the red and blue tiles on the floor. The design may once have had an intention though it is hard to see now what that might be. Looking down Fran sees fragments of a star, oblongs, parts of a chessboard and other more peculiar shapes. Dancing to ‘an inner music’, the girls choreographed their moves between the lines, jumping together from one tile to another, flailing their arms. Children, expressing themselves in the moment, before they are told they can’t: can’t dance, can’t paint, can’t sing, can’t act, can’t write, told so often that in the end they can’t, and so, in the end we don’t. A moment of inspiration captured by a poem. Fran wonders ‘who sets down standards to tell us we are not good enough to do these things?’

On our way out we stop at the information point and Phil behind the desk is pleased that we ask about the paintings, telling us they are hung there all year, only taken down at Christmas. We are pleased too, pleased because they are unexpected, almost hidden, and that someone has made the effort, the effort to hang them and take them down, and then re-hang them. There can’t be any money in it for those who run the Interchange, whoever they are, or for the bus companies, or the artists. Until Fran pointed them out I had never even noticed the paintings below the roof, but now I see them, I hope the bean counters in accounts don’t. For now, I’ve found my ship, a ship of camels and clowns, of dancers and elephants, of stargazers, and joyful time wasters. This cruise ship can stay.  

***

This essay was inspired by:
Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange, a new play by Rav Sanghera, Freedom Studios
‘Community Pride’, ‘Interchange Bus Station at Night’, and ‘Snapshot: Interchange Bus Station’, all by Gerard Benson (2014) The Bradford Poems, smith/doorstop books
Unnamed Artists, Bradford Interchange

Robert Butroyd is the editor of Good Companions around, an online project inspired by J.B. Priestley, who took delight in what we are often told are places of little consequence, but through closer inspection are found to be no such thing.

Five Questions for... Will Burns

Photo: Wendover Woods, courtesy of Will Burns

Photo: Wendover Woods, courtesy of Will Burns

We are extremely pleased to welcome the poet Will Burns to Elsewhere: A Journal of Place for the next in our series of “Five Questions” interviewers with writers, artists, practitioners and indeed anyone for whom place is central to their work, whatever that may be. You might have spotted Will on these virtual pages recently as we reviewed the new album Chalk Hill Blue that he made with Hannah Peel, a thoughtful and thought-provoking collection of poetry and music rooted in the landscapes of Buckinghamshire where Will lives.

Named as one of the Faber & Faber New Poets for 2014 and the poet-in-residence at the wonderful Caught by the River, Will’s poetry evokes a strong sense of place and was praised by The Guardian for its “quiet intelligence and subtle ways of seeing”, a description that we can only wholeheartedly endorse. A regular live performer, Will has read at festivals around the UK including Port Eliot, Green Man and Glastonbury and you can catch him at a number of festivals this summer as he tours Chalk Hill Blue with Hannah Peel.

On with the interview...

What does home mean to you?

Like most people I suspect, ‘home’ is a bit of a complicated word for me. It definitely applies to Wendover, the village in Bucks where I live now and lived from the age of about ten until I left home. And even after I left I’ve always come back. Sometimes only for a few months or so, and sometimes out of necessity - but I suppose the point is it’s always there, which is a function of home I think. I have to say London too. I was born there, and  I’ve lived there, in various spots, almost as many years as Wendover, all told. But London’s such a big thing isn’t it? The little areas you get to know might feel like home for the period you know them, but change is so fast there that you leave and a year or so later it feels entirely alien.

Which place do you have a special connection to?

I’m going to say the Rough Trade shop on Talbot Rd. My Dad was one of the owners of the Rough Trade shops until about three years ago, and I grew up seeing him in that shop as a child. Then I ended up working there in my twenties. I was there a few days ago and I hadn’t been there for a couple of years, and I realised just how burned into my consciousness and imagination the place is. Some of the posters, the counter, the architecture, the smells of the place. What a strange contradiction a record shop is - it changes completely every week when a new batch of releases goes up on the walls, in the racks in the windows, and yet at the same time it’s not changed for thirty years.

What is beyond your front door?

The main high street in Wendover. Although that section is actually part of the Ridgeway, so you’re on an ancient path the moment you put a boot out the door. It’s a classic market town high street with an abundance of charity shops. We’ve resisted chains for the most part though, so it retains a sense of itself. Take the road left out of the door and up the hill and you follow the Ridgeway onto the scarp. Ten minutes and you’ve got views across the whole vale. Nobody talks about the Chilterns really but they are a very beautiful place.

What place would you most like to visit?

I’d love to go to Iceland sometime. I’ve always loved the Sagas and the history of Northern Europe. But India as well. My grandfather was born there and it was him who inculcated my love of wildlife, partly through his stories of India. It has sort of remained as an unscratched itch ever since.

What are you reading / watching / listening to / looking at right now?

A new album by my all time favourite band came out today, so I’ll be with that non-stop for the foreseeable future. That’s Union by Son Volt. My capacity for listening to them is pretty much infinite. And I’ve not really been able to stop reading One Lark, One Horse by Michael Hofmann since it came out. I’m one of these obsessive types I think who re-reads and listens to things once I’ve fallen for them.

***
Will Burns website
Twitter

Vindstille

IanCSmith.jpg

By Ian C Smith:

I have my memories, some award winners
even if they lack the charm of a Doisneau
also, mementos of trepid exploration.
One, an example of good composition
always a comfort, I keep near my bed.
A woman stands on a jetty of rocks
holding an infant, her back to camera
motionless, facing a lake, or sea.
Clouds bank behind a distant boat.
The silence is a perfect example of art
in this early Scandinavian monochrome.
Mother and child.  Journey’s end or beginning.

I bought it in Denmark, driving from Norway.
Later, just off a ferry, near Lübeck
I captured heavy holidaying Germans
in a vast caravan park where it rained.
My tent humid, gear now locked in the car
I plodded around puddles to the laundry
where I tried to translate instructions.
I ended up screaming at a machine.
Watching hausfraus, obese twins, sniggered.
Ja, ja, I muttered, thinking of Arbus
as I bundled up my pathetic smalls.

My decrepit car tracked history’s map crabwise
amusing Europe’s posing border guards
their sneers echoing those lumpen twins’.
I cut myself opening a can of beans
bad news buzzing me again in the fast lane.
When I was no longer the slowest driver
East German police tailed me over potholes
past Leipzig’s cindering orange haze
after I shot their helicopter in a car park
my thoughts by then U-turning for home.
Was it Auden who said photography
brought a new sadness to the world?

With my precious lenses in leather pouches
and the knowledge that when the eye blinks
it sucks part of someone else inside it
as well as part of himself at that moment
I carried that woman and child in my pack
wrapped like my equipment and damaged hand
a talisman during those Sturm und Drang days.
It encourages me when opportunity lurches
as I round a corner of the human map.
I concentrate on the miracle of light.
Yes, that, and timing and silver emulsion.  

***

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Live Encounters, Poetry New Zealand, Southerly, & Two-Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.

On visiting the Dylan Thomas Boathouse, Laugharne

AnnaEvans2.jpg

By Anna Evans:

Approaching along the peninsula, the town seems to lie at the end of the road, like reaching a final destination. A castle stands guard over the quiet estuary, dramatic and imposing, its battlements slowly reclaimed by the landscape. It is a trip I embark on as much to look for traces of the past, a memory of a prior visit fifteen years ago. Arriving at the hour of dusk in early spring, the town quiet and deserted, the Boathouse already closed for the day. We walked along the street to the pub where Dylan and Caitlin Thomas used to drink together in the evenings. Then we continued our journey into Pembrokeshire, driven on by the time.

I am thinking of a photograph on a beach somewhere on that trip to Wales. Dark clouds and grey sea. There is synchronicity in the image; our faces are together, touching in the half light. When photographs were still like slips of chance on the paper. Thinking about being outside as night fell in the mountains, sharing a bottle of wine; jubilant in the almost total darkness, with no lights to guide us home.

Today I am on time to make the pilgrimage and see inside the house, but I had imagined my return differently, that I would have more time to look around and to absorb the atmosphere of the place. I am distracted, harassed; my mind caught in the argument we had this morning, still unresolved. Family life spinning around us, its currents of confusion. I am looking for clues of something. Thinking back to a simpler time and recalling pictures of my past self, shrouded in the rain-soaked hills and twilight of the Welsh skies. Dylan Thomas is important to me. His poetry resonated with me, the colour of language. He gave me a way to think about death and the passing of time, and about change.

Thomas lived in the town with his family, and for the last few years of his life acquired the Boathouse and the writing hut. It is a place in which he wrote some of his most important poems, and a place that witnessed arguments, the disintegration of his marriage, of his body. A life lived outside convention. The house is understated, leaving scope for imagining life here. I look around, my camera stuck on sepia mode, nostalgia in the recreated drawing room space. A notice explains that this is not the actual furniture, much of which Caitlin sold in response to the ever-advancing demands for money, the unpaid bills.

Family photos on the wall. Dylan and Caitlin in a rowing boat, his deep brown eyes stare into the camera. The exhibition tells me that Dylan would retreat to his writing shed, away from the noise of the children, from the travails of family life. The closed door. I look out from the window at the far-reaching view out into the bay, across the estuary, outwards to sea. Thinking about the precarious balance of art and life, between real life and life on the page, and about trying to carve out a space for one from the other. Thomas is seen in a pure sense as an artist, one who created his art and placed it above all things, the artist as genius, demon angel, doomed to destruction.

I continue back along the path to the writing shed. It is beautifully restored and has inspired many aspiring artists, as the photographs and paintings of it attest. It is overlooking the water, the sweep of the bay and the harbour where boats lie, picturesque, as if cast adrift from the sea. A place to think about moorings and being unmoored.

I am always compelled by images of writing spaces and desks, by descriptions of how and when writing takes place. I think of my own chaotic balance of writing and life, the hasty tidying away of books and paper to make a space for living, my writing is always on the move, from one place to another. A dedicated writing space where things could remain untouched is every writer’s dream. Where, as Caitlin explains, from two until seven each day – often she would lock the door - Dylan would disappear, returning hours later with a perfectly crafted line or two of poetry. In his writing space, the many lists of words he compiled. The possibilities of language, and the meticulous hours spent in constructing a single sentence. Looking out to sea, a retreat away from the domestic confines of home, exposed to the waves and sealed off.

Leaving the writing shed, I begin to walk, thinking to head back into the town. There is a path leading to the churchyard where Thomas is buried, and a sign says that ‘the path to Dylan’s grave can be muddy.’ It occurs to me that I am the same age now, as Dylan when he died. I would like to keep following the path but I am uncertain where it goes and how long it will take. Instead I read your messages, you are wondering where I am, how long I am planning to be away.

Looking back as we drive onwards, the remains of the castle unexplored, the map open displaying the route along the coastline, the town falling away behind us.

Now I see that the road continues.

About the author:
Anna Evans is a writer and researcher from Huddersfield in the north of England, currently living in Cambridge. Her interests are in migration and literature, cities and movement, and she completed an MA in ‘Writing the Modern World’. She is currently working on a project on the places in Jean Rhys’s fiction and has recently launched a blog playing literary detective around Paris and London in seach or Jean Rhys and other wanderings, titled And The Street Walks In. 

Printed Matters: The Line Between Two Towns

Laura.jpg

We are really excited about this place-related project from our friend and Elsewhere contributor Laura HarkerThe Line Between Two Towns is a new zine that explored the Esk Valley line between Middlesborough and Whitby in northern England, bringing together writers, poets, artists and photographers who have all been inspired by the different destinations on the line between the two towns. Here is Laura's introduction to the zine, and you can order your copy online here.

The idea behind this zine came from wanting to explore the differences between Whitby and Middlesbrough, and all the unique nuances and cultures that set them apart from one another. Though there are such stark differences between the two towns, there is still one thing that brings them together: the Esk Valley Railway.

It clocks in at only 36 miles long, but the Middlesbrough and Whitby line was once part of a larger network of railways that covered the area until many lines were closed after Dr. Beeching’s cuts. Thankfully, the line remained open due to its popularity. Originally intended to serve the mines and quarries across the region, the Esk Valley line quickly became a hit with Teessiders who realised that it placed the North Yorkshire seaside just over an hour away.

Over the past few decades, the area’s industry has disappeared, Brits have set their sights on sunny European beaches, and the line is now rarely busy except for Bank Holiday weekends. But it continues to be an important lifeline for many in the villages it passes through, connecting them to Middlesbrough and Whitby.

I was born in Middlesbrough but we moved to Glaisdale, just outside Whitby, when I was 11. Carefully picked up from my urban childhood, I was transplanted to the countryside where most other kids were members of the Young Farmers and thought my Boro accent came from Ireland. Even though my childhood so far had been spent less than 30 miles from Whitby, I realised there was a large gulf between these two locations – industrially, culturally and aesthetically.

This isn’t something that bothered me that much until I moved to Berlin and I was constantly asked the same question: Where are you from? When Germans and other non-Brits asked, the answer was easy – I went with North Yorkshire. But when Brits asked, expecting a more specific pinpoint for their mental map, I couldn’t bring myself to give just one answer.

I couldn’t just say Whitby and ignore Middlesbrough or that would be turning my back on my first decade, family ties, and roots as a Teessider. But I couldn’t simply say Middlesbrough, as I’d spent 15 years on the moors by this point. My Boro accent is long gone and my Middlesbrough geography gets hazy whenever I step off Linthorpe Road in the centre of town – I can’t quite stomach saying I’m a true Teessider. And so I thought about writing a personal essay on this identity crisis and the towns that sparked it, using the Esk Valley Railway to bind it all together. When I realised there was just too much for me to say, I decided to make this zine and open it up to submissions to try and create something of a printed tapestry of the area.

The zine includes works from local writers, poets, artists and photographers, all of which have been inspired by stops along the line. Threading together their work along the context of the Esk Valley Line, I wanted the zine to explore the cultural and landscape shifts that can be found taking this particular train journey, from starting in Middlesbrough surrounded by tired factories and ending in Whitby just steps from the beach. And it might actually help me figure out what to say whenever someone asks me where I’m from.