Stranger than the Rest by Margaret Coupe

Distanced from your parents by literacy
Separated from the girl you loved by class
Patronised in London as your poems were feted
Alienated from villagers on your return
Estranged from the land you loved by enclosure
Exiled from hope and Helpston in your Northborough cottage
Enclosed in the asylum in Northampton
Isolated, unvisited by your family.

Identified with the earth in St Boltoph’s graveyard
Hailed as one of the great English poets
Celebrated by many in your homely cottage.

Margaret Coupe lives in the Peak District.  She taught English in comprehensive schools for nearly forty years.  Before the advent of the National Curriculum, when teachers had more freedom to choose what they taught, she introduced her students to John Clare and they really responded.   This prose-poem was inspired by a long-awaited and most enjoyable visit to John Clare Cottage.  Her husband, Laurence, lectured in English at Manchester Metropolitan University.  He has written extensively about literature and ecology.  If you visit his website, you will find an article ‘The Green World’, which refers to Clare: