UNDER THE ROCK
The Poetry of a Place
Publication date: 17 May 2018. Price: £14.99 hardback
Benjamin Myers’ dark, atmospheric novels are deservedly cult classics, widely celebrated by critics and other writers. This work of non-fiction, Under the Rock, is a bold and original exploration of nature and literature that establishes him firmly among the first ranks of Britain’s most exciting writers of landscape and place.
Carved from the valley side above Mytholmroyd in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and flat weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable, to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves would hide out; where the town tip once sat, suicides leapt to their death and the asbestos that claimed so many lives was buried in the soil. Scout Rock is also the subject of Ted Hughes’s 1963 essay ‘The Rock’, in which the poet describes growing up across the valley from “my spiritual midwife…both the curtain and backdrop to existence.”
Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the very meaning of place in modern Britain.
“The writing is perfectly poised and seductive, luminous, an earthy immersion into the granular dark of place. The prose has an intense, porous quality, inhabiting the reader right from the stunning start with the voices of rock, earth, wood and water. This is a truly elemental read from which I emerged subtly changed. The writing has a shamanic quality; Benjamin Myers is a writer of exceptional talent and originality … it has all the makings of a classic.” – Miriam Darlington, author of Otter Country and Owl Sense
“One of the many joys of Under the Rock – this absorbing, compelling, moving book – is its language; it trickles like a rivulet, thunders like a cataract, and sticks to you like mud. It is full of crannies and dips and peaks wherein wonders hide; explore it for a lifetime and you will not exhaust its mysteries. Unafraid of blood-drenched history and the darkest of despair, this is nonetheless a defiantly life-praising book; it accompanied me to bed and bar, train and plane, and each situation was enriched and brightened by its presence…. It is utterly vital.” — Niall Griffiths, author of Grits, Sheepshagger and Stump
“I really, really loved Under the Rock … it truly stands out and confirms Ben as one of the most original and engaging British authors currently writing about landscape. He describes brilliantly the emotions that nature and place trigger in us, and the endless fascination we have with them. It’s a bone-tingling book about both a beautiful location, and about the nature of our engagement with our environment.” – Richard Benson, author of The Valley and The Farm
“What distinguishes ‘Under the Rock’ is Myers’ unshakeable commitment. He writes at all times with rock-solid conviction, fashioning a book which is less a work of simple description than a new contribution to the mythology of Elmet.” – Will Ashon, author of Strange Labyrinth
“Place-writing at its most supple: both deeply considered, and deeply felt” – Melissa Harrison, author of Rain: Four Walks in English Weather
“I have become a Benjamin Myers junkie in the last 12 months … Myers’ place-writing is as good as anything being scrawled in Britain today” – Horatio Clare, author of Down to the Sea in Ships and Orison for a Curlew
Benjamin Myers was born in Durham in 1976. He is a prize-winning author, journalist and poet. His recent novels form a series of works, each of which is set in a different county of northern England, and are heavily inspired by rural landscapes, mythology, marginalised characters, morality, class, nature, dialect and post-industrialisation. They include The Gallows Pole (2017), which received the Roger Deakin Award; Turning Blue (2016); Beastings (2014) which won the Portico Prize For Literature and the Northern Writers’ Award and was longlisted for a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award 2015; Pig Iron (2012), which won the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize and was runner-up in The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize; and Richard (2010), a Sunday Times book of the year.
As a journalist, he has written about music, arts and nature for publications including The Guardian, New Statesman, Mojo, Caught By The River and New Scientist. In 2017 he was selected as writer for the International Literature Showcase. He lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire and is available for interview.