Steve Nash: The Calder Valley Codex

With beautiful art work by York-based artist Nicole Sky, The Calder Valley Codex is a kaleidoscope of myth and folklore, crafted into poetry by the expert hand of 2014 Saboteur Award Winner for Best Spoken Word Performer, Steve Nash.

Steve's second full collection, the Codex blends folklore-flavoured fantasias of dragons, elegies, and epics with stories of factory life, canal-boat evangelists, devilish revenants, refugees and doomed Victorian romance.


I dreamed through hollows from a dome
filled with the sound of ravens. Love me.

The colourful spread of years mapped
across the gutters and gulleys
of my once-face. Love me to pieces.

I dreamed dragons, epics, and elegies,
and now carry emptiness, grinning
against midnight. Love me to pieces,
and then jigsaw me a Picasso.

Helen Mort describes the Codex as speaking with "a feral tongue," and bringing to life "a landscape of breathing chimneys, swooning moors and night-sky stories ... desire paths we forge through language as well as through landscape," while Calder Valley Poetry publisher and poet Bob Horne celebrate the "relevant imagery and thoughtful precise language" in which Steve brings to life "Millstone grit and the shadow of industrial earnestness ... the song of the Calder Valley."

When planning the collection, and considering the title he had chosen, Steve and I envisaged a sort of post-Apocalyptic scene in which a lone wanderer comes across the book among the ravaged wastes of the valley centuries in the future, only to open it and discover its forgotten mysteries unravelling. 


Remove your boots.
Let the knoll imprint your soles.
Wipe off the smoke.
Push the city from your lungs.
Press your ear to the page
and hear the song of stone.

The poems, though, somehow took on a life of their own and, while embodying this ghostly theme for much of the collection, also started to develop into contemporary laments and tributes, such as where those fleeing from conflicts are depicted, their sea-port endeavours transposed to a semi-real Yorkshire setting:

Your saga scuffed a trail down the moorside
to its foot, where twin tracks tunnelled into darkness.
The darkness didn’t see you. Darkness didn’t know you.

as well as evoking, in magnificently measured language with a vocabulary and rhythm beautifully fine-tuned for the historical period it describes, the lives and voices of communities and settlers from times past:

Of all the settlers of these cringing stones
     the heaviest migration was the vagrants’.
           We nomads here to escape the main streams,
                 outlaws breaking bread in the bad lands.

Hiding lockboxes for later, in brambles
      dungeoned with gorse, always keeping
              a flintlock cocked because the lexicon
                      shifted and our language was lost.

The Calder Valley Codex - £6.99 inc. p+p, email

About Steve

Born in Ripon, Steve is a self-described "Army Brat" who grew up on a series of military bases around Europe. He attended York St John University, gaining an MA in Literature Studies, and a Ph.D for his work on 19th Century author Hesba Stretton.  Steve moved to the Calder Valley in 2013 and his debut collection Taking the Long Way Home was published by Stairwell Books that same year.  Steve lectures in Literature and Media at Leeds Beckett Univesity, and we often bump into each other on trains while travelling to our respective workplaces.  I ask him about literature, and he always provides me with interesting answers, no matter how early on a morning it is.


Inside, the angels thrilling their wings
to a price tag, twisting – a flag on the wind.
Outside, Vikings clapping their piqued
iron under a kaleidoscope canopy.
Inside, a man drags his shadow across
the stone; hoax-suit buttoned up harsh.
Outside, a half-made cot of leaves
quarrels with a desperate breeze.
Inside, a worm roots a fresh hole through
brickwork, unwhispering a knot of wishes.
Outside, ghosts etch names into bark,
singing a hymn to un-name the dark.

© Steve Nash

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