Criss-crossed with desire-lines and flight paths, Penelope Shuttle and John Greening’s Heath is a wild chorus of poems written in call and response across Hounslow Heath. Through bramble, furze and over wild tracks, we explore the run-out grooves of a rapidly vanishing edgeland that may soon go under the tarmac of the proposed third runway at Heathrow. This is eco-poetry beautifully realised and retold in the form of a contemporary fable, straying from the known routes into the borderlands between the human, natural and the supernatural.
Alone on the heath, under the constellations of aircraft holding patterns, and with only these eloquent, shape-shifting poems as our guide, we encounter highwaymen, witches and ghosts, follow the tracks of the last wolf in England, and find ourselves incanting the heath’s calendar of spells and enchantments.
Heath speaks to us, sings its own centuries-old song of seasons; both born and raised in its shadow, Shuttle and Greening’s deep connection of memory to this place brings forth a remarkable cycle of magical and bitter-sweet poems.
"What an impressive, well-researched piece of double-imagination this book is, combining the personal memories of two well-known contemporary poets with a history of the land and townscape in which they both grew up. Read these poems and you will never tread the proliferating wasteland of Heathrow Airport without being grateful for this warm, sprightly, thoroughly entertaining introduction to its rural past." - Anne Stevenson
"Although ‘Hounslow Heath barely exists today’, Penelope Shuttle’s and John Greening’s poems conjure back its lost acres, returning to roots, treading ‘old desire paths’. Their lines, lilting with place names, find room for the Clouded Yellow butterfly, for the Red Kite, for market gardens with raspberries and rhubarb. Heath holds highwaymen, the great planes of Heathrow, the small flight of a bumblebee. Here are poems which dance, which pad beside a traveller, which mimic the shapes of scarecrows on the page. This is a work of love. But beware the ghost with a briefcase – and the Wolf of Perry Oaks." – Alison Brackenbury