And if the Picts were still with us
what western rock would they be huddled on
and in what tongue would they curse us?
Poem 2 of Canto 2 (https://poemofthenorth.co.uk/canto/canto-2/#two) is written by Jane Dobson, who tells us she was born at Cawder Ghyll, West Yorkshire. She has blogged about revisiting the site at http://janeadobson.blogspot.com/2010/08/bd23-2qg.htm. Cawder Ghyll was the maternity hospital in Skipton, since demolished but then in the West Riding, now North Yorkshire, where I would have been born, like my six siblings, (though as I write that, a vague memory resurfaces that one of them may have been born in the ambulance en-route) had my mum not been the advanced age of thirty-eight by the time I came along, necessating a journey to the more sophisticated facilities of St John’s Hospital, Keighley, also in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but now in West Yorkshire.
That convoluted sentence says something small of the complex micro-features of geography, history and their nomenclature that often form such important parts of our self -identification, even, perhaps especially, because they are things that others would be oblivious to and uncaring of.
I hesitated in my creative response to Jane’s poem to say, as I did, sort of, that the image of a ‘frayed edge’ is wrong, because of course it does is job, in its context, perfectly well. But my interaction with the Poem of the North project of course comes from my particular context, and that includes, at the moment, considering the extent to which any notions of identity of self and of community can validly be grounded in geography considered as having limits, edges, borders at all, and – given their existence, like it or not – what makes one boundary more valid than another (a natural river, manufactured wall, line on a map, territory in the imagination?).
(Every north is someone else’s south