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Blacksmith poet, Joseph Butler, was born in Oxford in 1962. He has earned his living as a farmer, teacher, and boatbuilder as well as blacksmithing. These poems grew out of working with a family of 3 generations of blacksmiths in an Oxfordshire forge, they are linked up with the Greek myth of Hera and Hephaistos, the crippled god of fire and metalworking, and patron of craftsmen, and bound up with his own family drama. This is his first, exhilarating poetry collection.

"Joseph Butler’s first full collection Hearthstone is stunning. It keeps to its themes of violence and transformation, both human and material, with an unbending clarity of vision and linguistic exactness. These poems are all crafted things, with the stalwartness and grace of perfect ironwork. They mark without question the appearance of a major talent." — Bernard O’Donoghue

"A striking new talent, he bring the skills of is craftsmanship to his poems. In just a few words he unlocks a new world. The reader inhales its atmosphere…" — Rachel Campbell-Johnston The Times.


He was to have been a gift
to my seeker-after-trifles,
to the glad-eyed lord-and-master
in whose loving I once shone:
a son to curb his wandering,
a baby boy to still his lust;
when all he craved was conquest and the chase.
So maybe he was ill-starred from the start.
Maybe it was hope that skewed his shaping.
But all these months of pregnancy I dared to dream;
grew fat with dreaming, full of it.
I came to term and squatted, sweated,
thrust him out – my talisman,
the being who’d absorbed me for so long.

Shoeing shed

That evening
I lit a candle in the shoeing shed,
in the place

he’d stooped and sweated,
lifted hooves
to brand the horn with slippery steel.

It burned all night,
puddled wax
in the channels of the cobbled floor.

It was summer
and the white froth of nettle
flowers craned in at the window;

columbine and vetch
trailed their stems
the length of the metal rack.

In the cemetery
the swallows skirled and feinted
through the cypress shelter-belt.

The clod I tossed into the grave
was warm, husked with sunlight.
It shattered on the coffin lid.