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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Dorset Rewritten: William Barnes (BBC Radio)

Just heard the end of this BBC Radio 4 programme

Now on BBCiplayer

"Before Thomas Hardy, there was another Dorset poet. His name was William Barnes. Scrape a finger across Hardy's Dorset and you'll find Barnes' underneath. Daljit Nagra goes in search of Hardy's friend, forebear and inspiration.

William Barnes was fascinated by language and the dialect used by the people around him. But today he's been all but forgotten. Barnes inspired Hardy, Larkin, and Hopkins yet Britain has never taken him to its heart. Barnes was fascinated by language, obsessed even. He was a polymath. He believed in Pure English and wanted to distil words to their Anglo -Saxon origins; 'photograph' for instance, becomes, 'sun-print'. Curious then that while his poetry is thick with dialect, Barnes spent most of his life teaching English in its conventional form, as a curate and a school master.

A former Poet Laureate, a young teacher from Barnes' Blackmore Vale, and a dialect poet from the Black Country reflect on the curious verse of 'the other' Dorset poet".

Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

Comments on programme in Dorset Echo letter from Dr Alan Chedzoy
First published Wednesday 26 November 2014

"Last week BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme entitled ‘Dorset Rewritten’ in which a number of local people, includ-ing myself, participated.

The programme was advertised as being about the Dorset dialect poet, William Barnes, and I suspect that some thousands of local people will have listened to it hoping to hear more of Barnes’s poetry.

Imagine my concern then, that apart from two verses of the obligatory ‘Linden Lea’, there was hardly any poetry by Barnes broadcast, just a few lines and there.

Yet they found time for a poem by Hardy, and two whole po-ems, for some reason, by a woman from the Black Country.

There was also an appalling bit of verse, in fake rustic speech, made up by the presenter.

I cannot for the life of me explain this, and so I must enquire whether the compiler had actually read a few poems by Barnes.

It seems to me that when one considers the great resources of the BBC, the subject was not properly addressed.

Certainly it would have come as a great disappointment to many Dorset people.

Why were there no Barnes poems included in full?

There are so many fine ones to choose from and some are quite short so that they would have fitted the format.

Why was the irrelevant Black Country poet given so much time? Was she somebody’s friend? I am baffled and vexed by this. The compiler has a few questions to answer".

Dr Alan Chedzoy, Biographer of Barnes and past chairman, The William Barnes Society

Gallery of photos

Sound clips

"Uncle an' Aunt" read by Brian Caddy

An older BBC item on Barnes

Tom Burton - Hearing is Believing: The Dialect Poems of William Barnes (1801–1886). University of Cambridge.

Andrew Motion reads Linden Lea, Poetry Archive

John Shirley Quirk, Linden Lea

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