The Age of Iron – Steve Ely at Wortley Top Forge



It’s been a busy week, with a writing workshop run by Mark Doyle on Tuesday, and then on Thursday supporting the fabulous James Caruth who was reading from his new pamphlet Narrow Water (Poetry Salzberg) as part of Penistone Arts Week.
To round it off, I’ve spent this afternoon on ‘a poetic wander’ around the historic site of Wortley Top Forge near Thurgoland, Sheffield, led by Steve Ely. This was part of the Hear My Voice festival (Barnsley).
Steve has a subtle and complex way of meshing together the historical and the contemporary in his poems. His vocabulary is astonishing, full of quirks and surprises and drawing on a range of registers that span time and often make us reflect on our own culture. He shared a range of thought-provoking texts with us as part of the tour round the site, which influenced our sense of place I think. I’ve visited the forge a number of times, and looking back over my notes from today I have jotted down things as diverse as ‘the refrigerated semen of the white rhino’ and ‘goldcrests in the ivy’!
I hope the photographs give a sense of the atmosphere at the forge, and that the quotations I’ve chosen (all from Steve’s generous handout) illuminate it as they did for us this afternoon.
Thanks, Steve, for a brilliant walk!


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‘In the age of iron men never rest from their labours. They sorrow by day and perish by night; and the gods lay sore trouble upon them … Strength will be right, and reverence will cease to be … Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil the men of the iron age are wretched one and all.’
(adapted from Hesiod, Works and Days).


‘He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread.
With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:
‘See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,
Show Iron – Cold Iron – to be master of men all.’

(from Cold Iron by Rudyard Kipling, Rewards and Fairies).



Steve Ely with local poet Sue Riley


to Attercliffe, Dresden-derelict,
a crushed brick wasteland where buddleia
and willowherb blow. Cyclops, Aetna and Vulcan
no more, the drop-hammers silenced
and coke ovens grey; Vickers and Cammel,
Lonhro’s East Hecla, given up to the wreckers
and salvage yard, their bankrupt capital
fled to The City, to Jersey and to Man.’

(from ‘Moorthorpe to Sheffield, 1983’, Steve Ely, Englaland)



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