Imaginative account of life in Iron Age lake village

December 29 2017
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THE Romulus and Remus statue at Pen Hill and Wells Cathedral were early inspirations for Anna Lewis’ poetry.

She was a pupil at Wells Blue School when she won a national poetry prize.

Now, several prizes later, Anna has published her latest collection, A White Year, a sequence of poems set over the course of a year in the Iron Age lake village at Glastonbury.

“I read the Glastonbury excavation reports while studying for a PhD in Iron Age archaeology, but afterwards the village remained in my imagination,” she said.

“What was it like to live not on solid ground, but on the edge of a marsh which was constantly encroaching? What pressures might have been felt by a child raised in a small, geographically isolated community, under the scrutiny of fellow villagers? Why, when almost no adult remains were found on the site, were the bones of children discovered beneath the floors of several houses?”

Anna says that most of her poems are prompted by this feeling of slight disturbance, and that she writes about other people and places to try to understand them better.

She added: “Compared to a single poem, a sequence gives greater scope for developing a narrative, moving back and forth through time, and playing with different rhythms and tones.

“I drafted A White Year gradually, month by month. In this way I was able to pay more than a fleeting imaginative visit to the lake village, but to follow its inhabitants through the seasons, and draw a little closer to their experience. I hope the effect on the reader might be the same.”

A White Year is published by Maquette Press and is available through Anna’s website: This is the opening section from the new book:

Around the stub of a nest two or three summers empty,
a blackbird shores up the wattle
with beakfuls of bark and moss.
On hands and knees in the sprawl of leaves
I forget my mother and father, my sister.
Again and again she returns:
her blades and her hinges, the sparks of her eyes
which see me and fix me, each of my angles
and corners measured and matched.
She moves before I move,
knows how I will move before I do,
my feet two bowls brimming with liquid peat