Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Simon Armitage’s The Stone Trail Project (photo; Guardian, Uk)

Just as the 2012 London Olympics is having its share of controversies, the Cultural Olympiad has a bit of controversy astir.  It involves the poet, Simon Armitage’s The Stanza Trail project.  The controversy is not over the poet or his poems, but in the poems’ presentation.  In collaboration with the artist, Pip Hall and the The IIkley Literature Festival, six of his poems have been carved into a series of rock formations scattered around the West Yorkshire uplands. See The Guardian article here.

Some of the rock climbing enthusiasts view these formations as sacred and neither appreciate nor are pleased with these poems marring the climbing surfaces.

Alas, it seems more attention is being focused on the controversy rather than the poems themselves. Regardless of whether it is carved in stone or not, any thing of true worth should somehow be able to find immortality. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65 may help all of us keep things in perspective:

                                                  SONNET 65
                                            William Shakespeare
                   Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
                   But sad mortality o’ersways their power,
                   How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
                   Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
                   O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
                   Against the wrackful siege of battering days,
                   When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
                   Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
                   O, fearful meditation! Where, alack,
                   Shall Times’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?
                   Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
                   Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
                            O, none, unless this miracle have might,
                            That in black ink my love may still shine bright.


About poeticmeditations

A 19th-century romantic poet living in the 21st-century. The Romantic poets, nib pens, candlelight, waistcoats, and pocket watches are a few of my favorite things.
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4 Responses to Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  1. johncoyote says:

    I would like to see this one day. Thank you for the photo and the poetry.

  2. I’ve got mixed views on this particular art project. I can appreciate the artistic value and think that many great works of art have been created in natural landscapes and using natural features or materials. However, these carvings lead a permanent mark on the landscape that was probably quite beautiful without the carvings. It’s also important to understand why climbers in the UK are so anti markings and modifications to rock faces. The UK is a small country and the amount of rock that can be climbed is considerably smaller than many countries in Europe and certainly smaller than in North America. This means our crags and mountains get comparatively heavy usage and any changes to them have a greater impact on the landscape and people’s ability to enjoy it. There is also the tricky issue of who decides what is a legitimate and what is an illegitimate change to an area of rock. This is why a strong ethic has developed in UK climbing to minimise the changes to climbing venues and it is probably why some people may have objected to this art. I think you make some interests points about this project and I think it throws up some interesting questions.

    • Appreciate your insightful and informed comment ( and all from the perspective of a climber ). I think it pretty much sums up what the controversy is all about. Preservation should always be a top concern. Thankfully, Beatrix Potter played an active role in the preservation of the Lake District of which Wordsworth described “as a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and an interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.” Let me mention here the name of the poet Simon Armitage to help perserve his name and poetry as well.

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