I read about this book on Laurie Duggan’s Graveny Marsh blog so I’m more than happy to admit that I hadn’t heard of R.F. Langley or his work before. And, it was Duggan’s comparison of Langley to one of my favourite books, Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne that piqued my interest. Duggan writes:
On Saturday afternoon the Swedenborg Hall hosted a memorial reading for Roger Langley who died in January. I had the pleasure of hearing him read a couple of years back with Peter Riley at Dulwich College. His slim Collected Poems came out with Carcanet in 2000, and a further volume, The Face of It, appeared from the same publisher in 2007. Shearsman published a selection from his Journals in 2006. These in themselves are extraordinary and apparently only a fraction of the whole. The writing is as good as Gilbert White’s. The reading was evidence enough of the regard in which Langley’s work is held.
So, I ordered it and it duly arrived and I’ve enjoyed the bit that I’ve read so far. I like the idea of a journal, and especially a journal that is focused on the natural world and alive and alert to the local and the weather and the rain and the birds. Langley’s journal is like that. I also like the way it leads to poetry, and that Langley is a poet. I bought a copy of some of his poems, The Face of It too.
I also like that Langley was a high school teacher all his life and his journals and his writing life don’t shirk from that. His December 1 1970 entry begins:
An hour earlier today, thanks to a two period afternoon. Children in the garden at Ivy Cottage, hidden behind hedges, talking, the rank smoke from the chimney smelling like it did last night, fanning, turning down into the road, puffing through chinks below the chimney coping…
and from 11 December 1970:
Friday. Detention duty. Late back. All the walk in the dark …
See, it says. You can be a teacher all your life and have an inner life too. That one doesn’t preclude the other. That the world is still out there, after detention duty.