Places of Poetry: A Night Jar by Jack Underwood

Places of Poetry is a project which aims to use creative writing to prompt reflection about national and cultural identities by inviting contributions to the website, until 4 October. The project is open to all writers. This year Places of Poetry is holding events across England and Wales, each site hosting a poet-in-residence with each poet contributing a poem from their residency to The Clearing. Jack Underwood’s poem A Night Jar emerged from his residency at Sherwood Forest.




A Night Jar


I wanted to look inside the eye of that bird.

I had heard its message, become obsessed.


I came with no particular question, only the rest

of my life. I’m not a superstitious person.


I believe that cracking the ice of a puddle

is an unfundamental act, and only trust


the making of a fact: that you cannot know

the world, only disturb it in a certain way,


by which you might learn the character

of your disturbance. Therefore, time is various


and relative, and liable to slow.

Therefore, the forest was a rumour about me.


And yes, the eyes of the bird when I caught it

were totally black. I had expected that.


But not the feeling I had committed

a grand error, simply by asking to know.


To see no questions coalescing ahead…

trees red in the sky, a harbour filled with snow


…It’s late. I’m sorry. I should leave you

to your reading. I should let the bird go.







Jack Underwood was born in Norwich in 1984. He graduated from Norwich School of Art and Design in 2005 before completing an MA and PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College, where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and Faber & Faber published his debut collection, Happiness, in 2015. He also teaches at the Poetry School, co-edits the anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives, and reviews for Poetry London and Poetry Review.


The illustration is by Benjamin Bowen of Union Studio.


Places of Poetry is led by the poet Paul Farley and the academic Andrew McRae. It is based at the universities of Exeter and Lancaster, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England. It is underpinned by national partnerships with the Ordnance Survey, The Poetry Society, and National Poetry Day.

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