"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.
I lit a candle in the shoeing shed,
in the place
he’d stooped and sweated,
to brand the horn with slippery steel.
It burned all night,
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.