This is an extract from a much longer poem called Dart, by Alice Oswald. Oswald is a Devon-based poet who writes a lot about Devon's landscape. Alice Oswald's book-long poem, Dart, won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2002. The poem tracks the river from its source to the sea. It was built over three years of recorded conversations with people who live and work on the River Dart.

Our air crew often encounter such terrain when they attend incidents. It's easy to imagine these words providing the narrative to one of their missions.

Dart (an extract)

Dartmeet - a mob of waters
where East Dart smashes into West Dart

two wills gnarling and recoiling
and finally knuckling into balance

in that brawl of mudwaves
the East Dart speaks Whiteslade and Babeny

the West Dart speaks a wonderful dark fall
from Cut Hill through Wystman's Wood

put your ear to it, you can hear water
cooped up in moss and moving

slowly uphill through lean-to trees
where every day the sun gets twisted and shut

with the weak sound of the wind
rubbing one indolent twig upon another

and the West Dart speaks roots in a pinch of clitters
the East Dart speaks coppice and standards

the East Dart speaks the Gawler Brook and the Wallabrook
the West dart speaks the Blackabrook that runs by the prison

at loggerheads, lying next to one another on the riverbed
wrangling away into this valley of oaks

Language questions

  1. Can you identify an example of personification? What is the effect of this language choice?
  2. Can you list 3 dynamic verbs? Why do you think Oswald has chosen these verbs to describe the river?
  3. Why do you think there are so many proper nouns? There are 10 (excluding repetitions), see if you can identify them all.
  4. Find and example of alliteration and discuss the effect of that language choice.

Extension questions

  1. Can you identify a 'semantic field'? (Words that are linked together by shared meaning). What is the theme that connects some of the words in the field you identified?
  2. What is the feeling that these lines generate in you? Describe in no more than 100 words and use short examples to back up your points.

Creative task

Devon Air Ambulance paramedics serve communities, rural and urban, across the whole of Devon and beyond. They meet a lot of people and cover a lot of landscape.

Use some of Oswald's techniques that you have identified to write some lines of verse about the place where you live.