The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson

screenshot201310aThe Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson by Kit Fryatt
Published 2013 Knives Forks and Spoons Press
Pages 61

New Words to the Tailor’s Air

Rome, you barely inveigh
when governments settle
traders’ gaming debts
with money stolen
from the sick and children.
Instead you spew sermons
on the evils of condoms
to AIDS victims:
better die holy, Joe Slim
than fill a rubber
with a drachm of sperm.
Rome, your hypocrites
cant their pro-life spiel
(what touching pride
in avoiding homicide!)
but they’ll skewer
any born soul ever.
Life is a fig-leaf
Rome, for your kink:
convincing people
their desires & bodies stink
as bad as your shit
Rome, if I thought
you’d got a tithe
of your due, I’d lay off
you poison pit, werewolf
in faux-lambskin
black widow of a viper
I’d not take your pardon
if it came baked in
all your dough. Go home,
Rome, seek consolation
where the devil knows his own.
Excerpt from New Words to the Tailor’s Air © Kit Fryatt

A loose adaptation of Guilhem Figuera’s ‘D’un sirventes far composed in 1229, during the siege of Toulouse by papal crusaders. Guilhem’s original attacks not just the recent crusade but clerical corruption and the avaricious imperialism of the papacy.


In The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & Kit Fryatt is a musical Ariadne who weaves her learning into her coat. She jauntily engages her reader with her major themes of exile, loss, camaraderie, and she throws in some linguistic cardiovascular workouts for good measure too. The basic structure of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & is conveniently bipartite. The poems are read aloud for the most part, and you can hear some of them performed here.


Here or there in Section I glints a word originating in the Anglo-Saxon. Fryatt eventually and wholeheartedly gives way and devotes the entire of Section II to an exploration of her themes through adaptations of medieval, Early Irish, and Anglo-Saxon poetic forms. Fryatt uses lament, polemic, and subtly provocative pieces on contemporaneous corruption remodelled on 13th century texts, as in New Words to the Tailor’s Air adapted from Guilhem Figuera’sD’un sirventes far‘. I suppose that corrupt practice and its effect has  an unchanging quality.


Fryatt weaves the universal themes of camaraderie and exile into Sections I and II of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell &. Exile is written as a full and complete isolation from a former life, a season in hell. Be the protagonist the wife of The Wife’s Lament (here written as a youth), or even The Wanderer. To lose one’s thane (or lord) who functioned as the hierarchical leader of a group, is to lose one’s very life and the meaning derived therefrom. These themes are borne lightly into our modern consciousness by Fryatt’s subtle approach to her writing, and no academic sense of the era is necessary to the understanding of the general reader.

The Wife’s Lament is a well know text from The Exeter Book. Its author is unidentified , but the exile is likely written from the perspective of the sinning woman. She may or not be speaking from the realms of death, lamenting her earthly loss and her exile. 


from The Wife’s Lament 

While at dawn, alone, I crawl miserably down
Under the oak growing out of my cave.
There I must squat the summer-long day,
There I can water the earth with weeping
For exile and sorrow, for sadness that can never
Find rest from grief nor from the famished
Desires that leap at unquenched life.

by Unidentified


Three From The Exeter Book

(ii) Coneycote

As I was told I stay in this brakebrush holt
bunkered beneath an oak
old earthwork. I am taken up with longing.
Shadow valley unswept moor
bitter pale of briars my houseless home.’

Coneycote is © Kit Fryatt

Fryatt writes coneycote as a boy or youth who is honouring the wishes of his thane. There is a type of equality inherent in Fryatts treatment of the theme which she achieves by reducing the high-tone of the language in the original (Exeter Book) to a more robust vernacular. This poem is a jewel in the book.  It sits well in Section II,  whilst picking up and re-threading the theme of exile  inherent in the language of Section I.

I have excerpted a small section of Three From The Exeter book above, and I  refer the  interested reader to Burton Raffel’s Poems And Prose From The Old English.

Fryatt well knows how to use her symbols,  Vis her reference  to the use of the oak  as symbol of a place of exile or punishment. The tree was associated with death, in the very least it was associated with societal disgrace, and a rabbit hole image refers to the disgrace of adultery. Interestingly the symbol play also ties in with the story of the women in the wall , or to the burial of women alive in regeneration myths such as in Sophocles Antigone or the story of Demeter. One supposes the pain of exile, or indeed the death of the individual to be necessary to their symbolic rejuvenation.

The voice of  lamenting is present in this book , yet one feels a powerful energy in Fryatt’s use  of  words that belie any sense of weakness. The preview section of KFS Press includes an excerpt of the first section of the book.

The eponymous title-poem of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & sets the tone for the entire text, which is playfully vicious. Fryatt doesn’t seem interested in the issue of gendering,  she inhabits a poetic world of boyish and delighted charm along with a unique acerbically infused sweetness.

from, The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson

Swiftly, my chancer, to the temple they danced you
dead leaves in your pocket and a mouthful of vine.
I thought I should slight you, but go where you might you
will come back to green grass, air and sunshine.
Darling, my hazard boy, I thought to have you
your body as straight and keen as a blade,
your mouth soft as eiderdown, stay you or hie you,
you’re bloodsworn to Fortune’s helpless parade.

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