Elaine Walker: Writing Horses 2

Elaine Walker - Virtual writer-in-residence - October 2012
Elaine writes fiction and non-fiction about the horse. Her work has been featured at The Guardian Hay Festival and translated into several languages. Her book The Horses, mentioned in this piece, is an excellent post Apocalyptic story, in which a family who have been holidaying in remote Scotland find that everyone who lived in any community numbering more than a few is dead. The family are trying to survive on a Scottish farmstead, but life is desperately difficult, particularly when the family’s father dies. And then the horses come...

As well as lecturing in Creative Writing and English Literature, Elaine offers bespoke courses and mentoring in Creative Writing. Mention Jane Badger Books for a discount on courses and copies of Elaine's books - you can contact her via her website.

Writing residency - week 3

To follow on from my discussion of writing about horses last week, here are two poems inspired by my own horses. 

The first was originally published in Transparent Words in 2011; the second is a new piece, not previously published.

Autumn Horse

Against the fading brightness of a bank of mountain 
ash, with the burned brown ends of last year's reeds beyond, she 
surveys her surroundings. Behind her, a crown of red berries, a wreath 
of golden leaves, a swathe of crisped and faded purple heather. Her black
and white spotted rump is round as a full moon floating across the tired-moss 
field. Her finely shaped head is alert, the arched-bow neckline echoes the curve 
of the moor against the muted sky. She plants her neat hooves evenly with each 
step. She is interested but calm as she explores her new field, keeping a distance
from the unruly geldings crowding along the fence to call to her. She does not 
trouble with  them. A whole day, she wanders ground that's strange beneath her, 
smells air that's  damp and rich with loam and tastes grass that's a  new texture 
in her mouth. She is thoughtful, cautious, but not overwhelmed. She will breathe 
the peat-soaked air from the moors until the rhythms of her blood are attuned to 
this place and she blends like her patterned coat into the russet background of 
the rippling valley. By evening, I have named her 'Rowan' and the colours of 
autumn have gathered around her.


We talk over mugs of tea. He sits at the kitchen table while 
I stand, leaning against the worktop, where the kettle is cooling.

Points of contact -  people we know, places we've been -  bridge the
awkwardness of strangers so we can distance ourselves from the tears drying on
my skin and the kindness that brought him here at the request of a neighbour - a
long, slow journey at short notice because I needed help. 

Older than I expected, he wheezes and has trouble with his legs. 
Yet he came at once. 

Do I know Mari, from the shop? Yes. Ah, cancer.  And John Top Llan? Yes, of
course, he did our fencing. Oh, poor man, no, I hadn't heard. 
So young. Anwen and Tec? Yes, I know them too. Really? That's sad. That's very

We share stories of our children and smile a little. Then he tells me his wife died
five years ago. He lives alone now. We fall silent. 

Through the window, I see his JCB outside the gate, facing homewards. The
drying earth clinging round its wheels and bucket has started to crumble onto
the road. His walking stick and spade are wedged into a grille on its side. 

Out in the field, my old pony lies beneath the freshly disturbed ground.

Elaine Walker
Both photographs copyright Elaine Walker

Next week: Fact, fiction and reality - writing what I know

Previous posts:
Reading Horses

Writing Horses, part one


Anonymous said…
Really gorgeous poems and photographs. I am enjoying Elaine's writings very much!

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