Edward Capern became a postman following the introduction of the Penny Post, writing poems as he walked through North Devon lanes resplendent with flowers and birdsong. Despite being self-educated, in time he was able to include Charles Dickens, the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston and Baroness Burdett-Coutts among his friends and supporters, but he retained a love of simple pleasures and was above all a family man.
The Postman Poet is a novel that draws on historical research and Capern’s own writing to tell the story of Bideford’s Postman Poet from obscurity to national renown, capturing the opportunities and inequalities of the Victorian age.
It was while studying the 600 poems that I realised that some of them were intended to be sung. I showed the songs to Bideford folk musicians Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll who were so impressed with them that they have spent the past year producing a CD which will be launched alongside The Postman Poet. It is a real thrill to hear the songs sung – probably for the first time in 150 years! You can pre-order a copy of the CD from www.englishfiddle.com.
I am also publishing The Poems of Edward Capern, a new selection of his poems, many of them describing local places and people. He loved his job, despite the weather and the long hours, and this love is communicated through his work. In recognition of Capern’s commitment to social justice, £1 will be donated to the Northern Devon Foodbank (charity no. 1162651) for each copy of Poems sold.
You can order the books HERE
You can see the BBC Spotlight film here:
Book and CD Launch
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW SOON!
The launch of the books and the CD will be at 7.30 on Saturday March 25th at Bideford’s Royal Hotel, and will include readings and songs. Signed books and CDs will be available to purchase.
SORRY, THE TICKETS ARE NOW SOLD OUT.
If you would like your name to be added to a waiting list in case of cancellations, please phone Liz on 01237 471165.
You’ll have another chance to see us at the Appledore Book Festival in September.
I will also be giving a talk on The Postman Poet at Walter Henry’s Bookshop on March 30th (booking essential, phone the bookshop on 01237 425727) and at Northam Library on April 6th. These events will not include live music but there will be more time for questions and discussion, and the books and CDs will be available to buy.
You can read an article about The Postman Poet in Exmoor Magazine here.
An extract from The Postman Poet
Edward walked through the turnpike gate on the road to Torrington and set off in good spirits for his first journey to Buckland Brewer. There was a hint of warmth in the light breeze; high in the bright blue April sky a lark poured forth its liquid song where, until a few days ago, an easterly wind had pursued sullen, grey clouds. The most sheltered growth of the elm in the roadside hedge was in tiny leaf, a herald of spring which, together with a chorus of birdsong and the distant drumming of a woodpecker, made his heart sing.
His bag was not too heavy on his shoulder, so he did not feel daunted by the thirteen-mile walk ahead of him and settled into a fast, easy stride along the centre of the road. The broad, smooth water of the River Torridge on his left was skimmed by swallows newly-arrived from Africa; they wheeled away as two barges moved slowly into sight accompanied by the faint measured plash of their oars. Edward called out a greeting and was rewarded with an answering shout and wave from the bargemen.
He had been waiting at the Post Office when the London mail coach arrived at five minutes past eight, ready to sort the mail on the benches set out for the purpose, alongside the other letter carriers. He needed little direction because William Pearce had described the route to him several times. His outward journey would take him on good, sheltered turnpike roads alongside the River Torridge and the River Yeo, then up the long, two-mile hill to Buckland Brewer. His return, once he was again at river level, would branch off to Littleham through deep, damp lanes running up the steep sides of hills and down into narrow valleys.
The thought of the path ahead led him enticingly on into dreams of the places he would see, the people he would meet and the poems he might write.
The Rural Postman (an extract):
O, the postman’s is as happy a life
As any one’s, I trow;
Wand’ring away where dragon-flies play,
And brooks sing soft and slow;
And watching the lark as he soars on high,
To carol in yonder cloud,
“He sings in his labour, and why not I?”
The postman sings aloud.
And many a brace of humble rhymes
His pleasant soul hath made,
Of birds, and flowers, and happy times,
In sunshine and in shade.
By Edward Capern