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Distance and Memory

Peter Davidson

Foreword by Robert Macfarlane

Distance and Memory by Peter Davidson
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Categories: 21st Century, British, Scottish
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (320 pages)
(Pub. Jun 2013)
£14.95 £13.45
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(Pub. Jun 2013)
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  • Excerpt
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  • Reviews
  • 'There are still larks on the Laverock Hill, so many even now that sometimes the cold sky above the farm road seems full of them. And from the far end of the footpath through the castle wood you can see the shadow line which the slope of the hill throws across Ardinn in the next valley to the south… In so many senses this secret landscape and its past lie in the shadow half of things.'
    This is a book about remoteness: a memoir of places observed in solitude, of the texture of life through the quiet course of the seasons in the far north of Scotland. It is a book grounded in the singularity of one place – a house in northern Aberdeenshire – and threaded through with an unshowy commitment to the lost and the forgotten. In these painterly essays Davidson reflects on art, place, history and landscape. Distance and Memory is his testament to the cold, clear beauty of the north.
    Foreword by Robert Macfarlane


    The Green Evenings 
    Secret Hills 

    Northern Waters 
    Spar Boxes, Northern England 

    Summer in the North 
    The Rich Boys of Bygdøy and other fragments of a summer 
    A Northward Journey and a Summer Storm 

    Bringing Home a Portrait by Cosmo Alexander 
    Painting Northern Scotland 
    The Food of the North (with Jane Stevenson) 

    Visits in Autumn 
    A Letter from Copenhagen 
    The Grim Consolations of the North 
    The Aesthetics of Remoteness and the North 

    Winter in the North 

    Epilogue: The Snow over Madrid 

    Peter Davidson was born in Scotland in 1957. He is currently Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall, University of Oxford. Peter has edited the Clarendon Poems and Translations of Sir Richard Fanshawe (Vol I, 1998; II, 1999); the Clarendon anthology of seventeenth-century English poetry, Poetry and Revolution (1998), and (with Jane ... read more
    'Peter Davidson's profoundly civilised and lyrical book is [...] shot through with exquisite poignancies. These have as much to do with the nature of the place - the nature of extreme northerliness - as with the author's finely trained eye. [...] he knows how to see into things, and not only the simply visible, but also the rituals, the inner structures, and music - Lieder and ballad at the piano - of a sequestered, professorial life in rural Aberdeenshire. [...] The stuff and pace of poetry underwrites Prof Davidson's nights and days. He has written a most remarkable book in the same class of accomplishment as the work of Robert Macfarlane, who introduces it.'
    Andrew McNeillie, Country Life
    'This is a poet's book, his mind wide open to the cultures of the world, especially of the north, specifically Aberdeenshire. The language is luscious, musical and precise, rich with quotation and the cultures of, especially, northern Europe, from minerology and industry to poetry, painting, music [...] The book glows with moments of light, on a city, a river, in a room.'
    Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales
     'Peter Davidson has written a remarkable and unusual book - I have started the book but want to make it last the summer. It is a sustained prose poem, very moving in its effect... I am savouring it, reading it slowly, hoping to prolong the pleasure of these exquisite essays through the summer. It is, I think, one of the most beautiful books to be written in Scotland for many decades.'
    Alexander McCall Smith
    Praise for Peter Davidson  'This impressive and unusual collection sets the tone straight away: "The falcon flown, far in the starving air / So many lost, this long, half-secret war." Davidson's verse is meticulous, metrical, alliterative; driven as much by musical half-rhyme as full rhymes; historically specific; highly emotional but broadly impersonal (these are the opposite of anecdotal poems); and intensely romantic.'
    Victoria Moul, The Friday Poem
    'He shows us in Arctic Elegies a land and state of mind both lyrically described and thrillingly delighted in - a land and state of mind both eminently deserving of celebration, and capable of shining suddenly with beauty and transformative warmth.'
    Derek Turner, Brazen Head
      '...these poems adopt and create song forms, giving an eerie and unsettling tone that combines the archaic and the modern in striking ways... Davidson's skill with rhyme and an almost-liturgical syntax give a tense and moving atmosphere.'

    Sean Hewitt, The Irish Times
    'Davidson's work is as ravishing as it is mysterious, and although they are elegies these poems are deeply joyful occasions.'
    David Wheatley, The Guardian
    'This is a "concept album" of a collection, in that all the poems sing to each other. It has a pleasingly archaic feel... There is a long-suffering melancholy and a sense that even the frost might melt.'
    Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman
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