Like his two previous books, Asylum was written live on-site; in this case deep within the caves, mines, quarries, geological and archaeological horizons of the Mendip Hills in Somerset. The poems stage modes of exile in the darkness of earth, enacting solidarity with those others who have made their journey into the underworld – Dante, Orpheus, blinded Oedipus, Euripides. These are semi-dramatic voicings, staged across the thirty-mile theatre of the Mendip subterranean: each an act of recovery, of rescue. Traversing the broken, collapsed, eroded stones, looking for voices that express the damaged and the damned, Asylum pays homage to the darkness of the human cave: its memories and ancient histories, and to its more contemporary signals – internationally owned quarries, abandoned coal mines, decommissioned Cold War bunkers.
As with Bee Journal and Human Work, these poems take on the nature of the experience recorded. Written blind, as it were, the diction here becomes mineral, deeply tactile – hard and granular, alert to sound in its own blackness. Descending underground with the poet is to enter a theatre of heightened senses, and these extraordinary poems feel both unearthed and unearthly.