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Boar by Tom Branfoot

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boar sees Tom Branfoot layer our contemporary polycrisis with the events leading up to the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Set in 14th-century Bradford, owned by John of Gaunt, boar illuminates the conditions of working-class existence that have remained fixed - under the guises of feudalism, capitalism, and neoliberalism - for centuries. Branfoot revivifies Middle English language and alliterative verse through the prism of contemporary experimental poetics, in a text where themes of land access, ecology, and class prevail.


Praise for boar:

Sharp as a cutting implement, thoughtful as a woodland pause, Branfoot's assured yet disturbing poems bring history home: its quiet atrocities, its local and poetic languages, its possible organization into forms of hope. I love the flow: from medieval beast lore to critical modern observation; the underground beck, the struggling coffee shop. This writing haunts and needles us, like Alan Garner or Barry MacSweeney.
   — Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo, Like a Tree, Walking


Tom Branfoot’s latest pamphlet roots out the brutal buried histories of the Bradford Boar as a dark mirror of a broken present. In an arresting idiom ventriloquising Middle English, Branfoot stalks the boar’s fateful path through the ages of social oppression and ecological degradation. In this vision, the boar’s unruly energy, once condemned as sinful desire, becomes a revolutionary blazon for our ‘common condition’ where the tongueless boar evokes the alienated voice of the poet. If haunted by how history happens ‘so close to home’, this bold book knows that it is nevertheless ‘impossible to eradicate / wildenes’ and exhorts us ultimately to become ‘more human more boar’.
   — Scott Thurston, Phrases Towards a Kinepoetics


Out of the wandring wood of Bradford’s past emerges Tom Branfoot’s roborant boar: mutilated, deviant, irrepressible, ‘slippery / as heritage’ and often disturbingly, suddenly, human. Tongueless yet articulate, it beats a path through cherished legend, ‘unstable / masculinities’ and generations of state violence. In poems which marshal luminous archival detail, flashes of contemporary despair and the boar’s own ‘ambiguous’ traces into ‘a new constellation’, Branfoot urges us to rage for the devastated commons, to face ‘our common condition now’ and to remember that ‘it is impossible to eradicate / wildenes’.
   — Joseph Minden, Backlogues


In boar, Tom Branfoot furnishes Bradford with the return of the medieval, a scene (or is it sin?) of dispossession that body and mind still confront at every locked gate, every barbed wired interstice and mulched boundary of the city. This is a space that is both painfully specific — in its suicides, riots and neglect — yet riven with the animal desire of the boar-brute-peasant-commoner. It falls to the voice of this wild history to 'constitute a new constellation', to glean forth a poetic heraldry of the dispossessed that is louder, more brutal and more generous than the powers that have tried to repress it. This is Bradford entering the cosmos of its genuine making.
   — Mau Baiocco, The Resting Acrobats


Tom Branfoot’s boar is a work of gorgeous, clear-eyed contradictions. At times it feels like an erasure but with no obvious source text — a palimpsest we can’t be sure is a palimpsest. boar is paradoxical. It conjures all the atmosphere of a literary retelling, but nevertheless persists and revels in its newness. It’s agile, strange, and clever and funny. Glory be to this ‘thirsty…bristly…purple milk thistle brute.
   — Susannah Dickey, Common Decency


ABOUT Tom Branfoot:

Tom Branfoot is a poet and critic from Bradford. He is the writer-in-residence at Manchester Cathedral and a recipient of the New Poets Prize 2022. He organises the poetry reading series More Song at The Record Café in Bradford. This Is Not an Epiphany, Tom’s second pamphlet of poetry, is published by Smith|Doorstop.

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