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I'll Dig With It

Sunday 5 February 2006 21:30-22:15 (Radio 3)

In one of the most famous last lines of modern poetry, Seamus Heaney resolves to use his pen as a spade and excavate. Like many poets, Heaney is drawn to archaeology. Christine Finn, an archaeologist and poet herself, explores the connections between these two crafts. She visits the bogs of Jutland, whose Tollund man inspired Heaney. She talks to U A Fanthorpe about her fascination with Sutton Hoo, and to Jeremy Hooker about shaping the layered, fragmented ground in poetry. At a recent dig, with the poet Mario Petrucci, she tested the links between the poetic and archaeological process. Petrucci's new poem, Terranauts, written as a result, is heard here for the first time.


45 minutes

Poem: 'terranauts' by Mario Petrucci

Mario Petrucci

NOTES . Allusions include...

- Nearby ' Bletchley Park ' and the IIWW Code-busters ;

- The burying of eggs (to preserve them?);

- Gray's Elegy (eg "... the air a solemn stillness holds"; "... the hamlet sleep"; "Where heaves the turf..."; "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen");

I wanted this poem to be something exploratory, tentative, like a first dig.

also: Sound seeking patterns but subject to flux / interpretation. Wanted language & form that reflects 'modernism' of soil! - its ability to deliver things up but mostly as fragments and juxtapositions.

The diggers seemed like explorers hunkering down in a peculiar kind of 'downward space'. Title... I coined 'terranauts' (cf aquanauts & astronauts) - only to find, on Google, I'd been beaten to it by a few weeks. It seems a 'terranaut' is a goldfish-piloted robot bike...


how timely they work
squatting in excess gravity
moved carefully with rehearsed

ease under flared suns of
sodium near-cosmic in
mist where turf h-

eaves history & ro-
man lemons once rolled b-
right auguries in holds of

new forest cargoed with
bronze & copper dowries

too easily un-
locked this terra
sigillata - far too

light that hamlet sleep
dreaming ley lines of hu-
man blood now blind to

milton as economics over-
arches its iron bridges the
way ribs might cage those

bogged chests of peat-
made men or hospitals of
clay be sunk beneath these

feet in land that is all outer
space & star-deep with china
-chip constellations in con-

junction / opposition with
martial tile & pagan cobble or
blush-sudden terracotta

while most only dig to
bury these instead s-
ink horizons &

resurrect trenches
where one nurses a lung-
ful of smoke & another snow-

shoed with gley tilts some
brown half-mug of
steam as each

trowel-hand b-
rushes gently a vow
-el here word there with

hands throat-soft &
trained not to shatter
but only un-scramble or

make hierarchy of
hieroglyph matter: this syll-
able material whose code w-

hose syntax whose one la
-nguage is blood-streaked
yolk of brain

also trained never to point-
lessly shatter i watch
each word of

bone glass iron
eased free & hardly
blaming tools am

placing it sizing it ex
-amining the finish &
faint curvature of

it as if it were jig-
sawn part of original co-
smic egg
ah as late light

fails i watch gray air solemnly
preserve its stillness - till
i too dig - dig this

air to honour frag-
ments - sign up for fitting
words with all cracks showing - as

these do who swim the soil first
to unlock then piece together
some future - & thus am

bound by per-
collating word to
take me to fields at death

of morning - to walk at gentle
pace of earth on ice-
rink time &

bury there under
little tuft with a little
sand one round fresh egg

of sound

3rd draft (Dec 05)

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