‘One of the key works of 21st-century English-language landscape art/writing’. (Justin Hopper)
In 2009, Richard Skelton published his first book, Landings, a deeply personal and unique response to the moorland landscape of Anglezarke, near his birthplace in south-west Lancashire, UK. Written over the course of half a decade, the book is assembled from a diverse array of materials: texts excised from his own notebooks and diaries are combined with excerpts from census and parish records, maps and historical treatises. The result is what Skelton terms ‘mosaic sequences [of] reclaimed fragments’ - discrete but connected strands forming an oblique and poignant testimony to personal grief, a meditation on memory and forgetting, a conjuring of the ghosts and voices of a landscape, and an exposition of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on rural lives.
‘A pained record-keeping of the Anglezarke moor – a textual summoning-back of its lost and forgotten … litanies spoken against loss’. (Robert Macfarlane)
Between 2009 and 2011, Skelton significantly expanded Landings from 96 to 292 pages, writing about the landscape in absentia, whilst living in rural Ireland. Tellingly, the book included over 70 pages of appendices, gathering together the bulk of his research about Anglezarke itself: dialect glossaries, cartographic records and lists of names, dates and places drawn from various sources are carefully catalogued and indexed. In retrospect, it seems as if he was attempting to assemble his own private archive, rather than write a conventional book. As Robert Macfarlane describes, it is ‘a pained record-keeping of the Anglezarke moor - a textual summoning-back of its lost and forgotten ... litanies spoken against loss’.
‘A sustained reflection on the nature of land and biography. … An idiosyncratic archiving of local topographies and the secrets they hold.’ (Martyn Hudson)
Since 2011, Skelton has continued to extend Landings in new and unexpected ways. In 2012 he published Moor Glisk - a sequence of poetic appendices which uses Landings, amongst other texts, as source material for a retelling of the landscape history of the county of Lancashire during the Industrial Revolution. This was followed in 2013 by Evidence of Capillary Beauty Dismantled, a poem pamphlet which again used Landings as its source
In preparation since 2015, this tenth anniversary edition of Landings contains expanded notes and commentary by the author, along with two new essays and six poems that, among other things, reflect on things lost now found, and the supra-lingual power of the photographic image.
Accompanying the texts of Landings, gathered in this Xylem Books 10th Anniversary Edition, are a series of musical compositions recorded by Skelton over a period of years at sites of resonance across Anglezarke and the surrounding hills, woods and fields. The process and purpose of these recordings are perhaps best described by a passage from the book itself:
‘In some oblique fashion this music has come to work its way into the moor itself. Played over and over again at various times and places, it mediates my experience of this landscape. Conjures it. Summons it. Suffuses it.’
‘Bowed, plucked and chafed steel strings. The sound of stones gently rubbed together. Soft soil sprinkled on resonant wooden bodies. Grasses and leaves intertwined around neck and fretboard. Bone and wood plectra. Sound folded on sound. A collusion of place and instrument.’
Three albums were recorded, the first in 2006, the second in 2009, and the third in 2011. There are fourteen compositions in total, all of which are available as a single digital dowload album, The Complete Landings, to accompany the book.
THE COMPLETE LANDINGS
by Richard Skelton
1. Stolen Ground
2. Noon Hill Wood
3. Scar Tissue
4. Threads Across the River
5. Green Withins Brook
6. Of the Last Generation
8. Voice of the Book
11. River Song
13. The Shape Leaves
14. Rapture (Reprise)
Total Running Time: 138:08
Note: the music is accessible via a download card that accompanies the book.