Today's reading was about A H Baker who wrote The Peregrine about the ten years he spent following and watching - and entwining his life and senses - with passage peregrine falcons in the south east of England in the 1960s. An incredible piece of writing that compressed the decade of observation and obsession into a poetic narrative set within one winter's turning.
Of the process behind researching and writing the book, Macfarlane writes: '...Baker resigned from his job at the Automobile Association in order to commit to the falcons and to work on the book he was starting to compress out of his field journals. By day he watched and by night he wrote. It was a frugal, focused life. He and Doreen [his wife] lived off savings, a meagre pension and national assistance. The house had no telephone and he seems to have communicated little with friends. These were the circumstances he needed to convert the sprawling journals into a crystaline prose poem. The style he created up in his Chelmsford spare room was as sudden and swift as the bird to which it was devoted.'
I first read The Peregrine in the alien world of a hospital ward and it provided the promise of a natural world outside to return to as quickly as possible. At the same time its brave, harsh poetry had an even greater force and effect read through a cocktail of drugs and as an antidote to pain.
For the coming weeks you can hear the Radio 4 piece here:
The Peregrine, by J A Baker (NYRB Classics, introduction by Robert Macfarlane) is available in paperback. Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton) is a recent hardback publication. (Do try and buy from an independent bookshop before resorting to the internet).