“4000 Miles” is one of the first poems written for Refuge from the Ravens. At the time of writing this poem in Lancaster, Michael (who was the main writer) had already walked 4000 miles around Britain. But it was Francis his co-writer who gave the poem a jaunty, peaceful air although it describes being on the move, living out of a tent. For all the harshness and challenges, there is the gratitude for simple pleasures and blessings.
Walked down in morning light From where I slept Blue sky, cold hands, wet You know it’s cold when you Can’t roll a cigarette Weather good, a nice enough day From 4000 Miles, By Francis & Michael
Francis’ reading of the poem has a gentle musical quality to it which evokes the lightness and airiness of a bright cold day: “Good weather for walking, Timing my steps to yours. Keeps me warm, Doing a lot of walking these days.”
Months later, at Back on Track in Manchester, as a group, we transform the spoken word poem with a collage of vocal sounds. We aim to capture and record the breeziness and “inner nonchalance” of the poem with a swing and a swagger to the chanted lines – “Got the sleeping bag dry…blue sky, cold hands “Out in the green world, Inner nonchalance”
There’s a feeling of nervous excitement and anticipation in the room, and the usual tales and laughter. Even the Pink Panther gets a look in as Amy tells us of how she searches for lost items, slinking around like the panther and humming the theme tune to make it more entertaining!
The magic happens as we relax, getting the mood of the piece rather than fixating on getting it perfect.
Everyone brings their own qualities and skills to the mix, and though the end product is of course important, it is the valuing of our own and each other’s human experience that counts most — a balance between doing the poem justice and having fun. It truly amazes me what pathos and beauty has manifested along a chain of people, many who have never met and will never meet. I wonder how many more miles Michael has walked, as I write this.
Out in the green world Inner nonchalance Concentrate on the beauty And don’t worry ‘bout the past Matching my steps to yours Weather good, it’s a nice enough day. From 4000 Miles, by Michael & Francis
By Philip Davenport. April 2022
Refuge from the Ravens is supported by the Heritage Fund. In 1798, Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge sparked a literary revolution — poems in everyday language, telling of people on the margins of society. 200 years later, homelessness and social inequality are still with us and even on the rise. This project invited people with lived experience of homelessness and other vulnerable people to meet Wordsworth across time, replying in poetry, art and song in a Lyrical Ballads for the 21st Century.