Caught By The River / Book of the Month

Mill ponds, poetry and pike as deep as England: an extract from our new Book of the Month – Benjamin Myers Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place – published later this month by Elliott & Thompson. 


It is June, the month that Pablo Neruda describes as trembling like a butterfly, and the Yorkshire valley is in wild bloom. Whispering fields wave hello, and the river banks are lost beneath blankets of barbed nettles and balsam.

The cottage sits down a narrow lane in an ancient hamlet. It is a stout weaver’s cottage, built from study rain-blackened stone in 1640, as old as any building in America. The water is supplied by a spring up the hill.

When one of the removal men stops to roll a cigarette I ask him about the silted pond down the lane.

“That’s Stubb Dam, is that,” he says, gesturing towards the hawthorn-lined lane that appears to disappear into a tunnel. “We’d swim in it as kids, and you could fish it too. Plenty of different fish down there. Some nice trout at one point, and giant pike that had been down there years. A lovely place. But then some feller bought the land and fenced it off. Put up barbed wire and ‘Private: No Entry’ signs, and what have you. So obviously we weren’t having that.”

He pauses and slowly exhales smoke, bull-like through his nostrils.

“So what happened?” I ask.

“Me and some of the boys loaded an old digger with a sack of something nasty and rolled it down the hill and into the pond. Poisoned it.”

“Poisoned it?”

“Aye, chemicals. The fish were floating belly-up by the morning. Here, I bet you think we’re a right bunch of hillbillies.”

As he says this his phone vibrates. The ring-tone is ‘Duelling Banjos’. The theme from Deliverance.


Read on for an extract from the book here.


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