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Poetry Corner: Branfoot’s Tongueless Brute

‘o tongueless brute / thirsty brute   bristly brute / purple milk thistle brute’


The wild boar has effortlessly managed to capture my imagination, especially since I spent some time in the Forest of Dean and a local repeatedly warned me to ‘watch out for them wild boars, they’ll tear you apart’. Whilst I never came across anything more than a roaming band of sheep, the idea anyone could release a few humble pigs into a woodland and they’d turn into such beasts, such brutes, made me reconsider my relationship with the animal. Likewise, imagine living in a time where you could come across these things on a day-to-day basis, or at least be living with the very real threat of it. What if there were a particularly nasty boar intent on terrorizing the local community? This was the case for Bradford in the days of John of Gaunt, and this is the basis of Branfoot’s stunning collection. This collection is called boar, which I think you’ll agree is rather apt.


‘impressively merges old and new English’


Courtesy of the Royal Mail, this collection arrived with a cigarette burn-like mark singed onto the cover. I sat looking at it for some days, occasionally picking it up and leafing through the pages, mainly to appreciate the waxy red cover which is satisfying to the touch. With my work life an absolute shitshow at the time, I had to pencil in an evening to read it, which I did in one sitting.


It is highly unlikely I will come across a collection of poetry like this again. To read boar is an exercise in poetic exploration, an exercise seldom available to us in a world that feels increasingly saturated with trite propaganda masquerading as verse. To say this was a refreshing read would be to say too little.


Branfoot impressively merges old and new English to create a text that – with seemingly no effort – discusses contemporary and historical issues almost simultaneously. The work itself seems to suggest, or highlight, that we may have not come very far since the Norman invasion. Set in Bradford, the heart of the story takes hold of one of its founding myths and creates something new, exciting, and devilishly interesting. Of all Branfoot’s work so far, this is a real flex of his poetic muscle and intellectual prowess.


‘on the eve of the peasant’s revolt’


Like a mirror or mystic pool, Branfoot takes this story of a fanaticized boar hunt and whips it into a mixture of contemporary concerns and issues. In a time when the majority of the population was in abject poverty, the idea of a lord offering an estate for the killer of a boar is an insulting (albeit exciting) distraction on the eve of the peasant’s revolt. It is a story of how our leaders use sensationalism and fear to manipulate the population, as well as bravery, treachery, and mutilation.


If one were to visit Bradford, one would find symbols of the tongueless boar everywhere. Similar to the worker bee in Manchester, the boar is representative of the spiritual and historical connections that tie the locals to their city.


By using language in such an impressive and creative way, by merging old and new, Branfoot has curated a text that will endure. It doesn’t take long to get hooked by his use of English, and understanding it is surprisingly easy.


Who is Tom Branfoot?


Tom is a writer whose career I have been following very closely. Not only because I studied with him at Manchester Metropolitan University, but because he is a rare and dedicated talent. Since graduating, he has released three pamphlets in the last three years and was a winner of the Poetry Business award. Tom is the Manchester Cathedral Writer in Residence and also runs More Song in Bradford, a monthly poetry night out of the Record Café.


A Note on the Publisher


In recent years, Broken Sleep Books has become one of the UK's most notable indie publishers. Their explorative and unconventional take on poetry has generated interest in readers as well as new and established writers alike. Left-leaning and socially conscious, this publisher has an arsenal of awards behind them and their writers. Other notable publications include Masculinity: An Anthology of Modern Voices, End Ceremonies, and their Legitimate Snack series.

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