Featured Anthology – Oxford Poets 2007 – Hugh Dunkerley

The last poet to feature in this series is Hugh Dunkerley, a teacher at the University of Chichester and currently West Sussex Poet Laureate. We move back to nature and the organic with Dunkerley’s poetry, how we are connected to nature and how we are also completely separated from it. However his work takes on an idea of there being something beyond, “for me a poem usually begins as something almost physical, a feeling of excitement which coalesces into a few words or lines”, a sense that his writing has to expose what it is that the poem is trying to say.

I believe poetry is still relevant and important because it retains the ability to replicate the complex nature of experience without giving in to the kinds of explanations that ideology and mass consumerism push on us every day. It is a space in which we can contemplate the ultimately mysterious nature of existence.

Ominous in its communication of desertion and unknown threat, ‘Early Warning’ conveys the the sense of humanity being both a part and apart of nature, here in a detrimental manner, with a delicacy that we would not normally associate with such a dystopic image.

Early Warning

Suddenly the bees deserted the air,
the hives fell silent
and the garden filled with an absence.

Meanwhile the numb flowers
went on offering up their sweet surfeit
to nothing and no one

and he scoured the skies
for some dark unseen threat.
Later, as he was planting the first

of the new potatoes,
the rain came, running in rivulets
down his back, soaking his shoes,

drumming on the hives like hail.
That evening, on the news, he heard
about the stricken reactor,

thought of the potatoes in their darkness
ticking with danger,
of his own wet skin, how by morning

the bees would swarming
at the hive entrances,
yearning for nectar.

(This poem is reproduced with permission from Oxford Poets 2007: An Anthology, edited by David Constantine and Bernard O’Donoghue, published by Carcanet Press.)