Towards the end of 2013, Adam Horovitz, poet son of poet parents, was invited by the chair of the Pasture-fed Livestock Association to consider a project. Would he like to write about pasture farming, and visit some of the farms that follow this practice?
A life-long vegetarian, he might have dismissed the idea, but he chose to engage. Knowing little of man’s relationship with landscape and animals he threw himself into his learning. And so, through four seasons and four farms, expanding to six farms with the second edition, he lodged with willing farmers, and got his hands and boots dirty. It must at times have seemed an odd way to be a poet in residence.
In Yorkshire during the winter
counting distant cattle
by stripe after stripe
as clouds shift into sheep
& back to cloud
a distant peregrine pricks
And in Kent during the summer
Crickets and bees drown out the rush of cars
as we wade through a Van Gogh sunset canvas
There’s a little sadness here, but humour too, struggle and a deep appreciation of the people, animals and land in all their variety. If you have ever been involved with farming you will likely meet a part of yourself here, even though this is a very particular, hands off way of caring for the land. If you have ever simply walked across grassland, or idly watched a field of animals you will learn more here, and you may, next time you see grazing animals, look at what they are eating. Listen for the noise they make, tearing or nibbling at the grass. If they are lucky, they will be consuming a huge variety of flowers and herbs.
This is a lyrical, humane collection of poetry, as sparkling as an upland stream and as far reaching as the branches of a great oak. Out in all weathers, seeing the beginning and end of life, feeling the rhythm of the seasons with their joys and challenges, this poet has created something quite wonderful. He wears his learning with both humility and enthusiasm, a difficult trick to pull off.
It may well be that soon there will be fewer animals being raised as food, for our health’s sake, and for the sake of our world. What few remain will, perhaps most likely, be kept in this way, treading the earth lightly. Maybe this is one reason why I return again and again to the title poem, The Soil Never Sleeps, for as Horovitz says,
The soil never sleeps.
Never slips into ideology or nostalgia.
It is place and purpose,
The perfection of decay.
A story that shifts
From mouth to mouth.
A crucible for rebirth.
A rooftop on another world.”