Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s Last March

Kiran Millwood Hargrave was born in London in 1990. Her poetry and short stories have been featured in publications such as The New Writer, Aviary, The Forest Book of Bedtime Stories and Orbis.
The British Shakespeare Association commissioned her first pamphlet, Scavengers. This was an ekphrastic project with Cambridge University’s Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence, Tom de Freston. Scavengers was launched at the Cambridge Shakespeare Conference in September 2011.
Last March (Pindrop Press, 2012) is her first full collection and was produced in collaboration with the Scott Polar Research Institute to mark the centenary of Captain Scott’s final expedition to the South Pole.
“‘They left in a time for heroes,/ To arrive in a place for ghosts’ writes Kiran Millwood Hargrave at the end of one of the poems in this carefully researched and vividly imagined sequence.  Last March combines a familiar narrative with a strong sense of strangeness and alienation, of personal courage in the grip of remorseless polar conditions, realised and refracted through the prism of sharp-edged, animated poems full of arresting detail.”
– John Mole
“This collection examines the well told story of Scott’s last ill fated expedition; however it manages to retell it in a way that gives those events a fresh perspective. The landscape of Antarctica becomes another character in the story; ice and snow is given a timeless voice that echoes throughout the unfolding drama. In many ways Scott, Evans, Wilson, Bowers and Oates move through a poetic tragedy in which Antarctica becomes the Greek chorus. This ‘ice chorus’ speaks of the nature of man’s courage and hubris but also of its own potential slow demise.
These poems by Millwood Hargrave are by turn delicate and muscular, echoing the fragility of human life counter-pointed by the grinding power of the polar ice cap. They do not disappoint in their use of  language and even the unusual use of punctuation at times stage directs the reader into the experience of the long breathlessness of that last march. The story of Captain Scott’s last expedition is told through this collection without recourse to sentimentality. The poems draw the reader into a world where the poignant loss not only of human life but also the potential loss of ice itself ensures you cannot avert your gaze from the harsh realities of the past and maybe our future.”
– Andrea Porter
“In poems of precision and poise, Kiran Millwood Hargrave re-imagines the journey of Scott and his team, from choppy seas to final fateful nights, with a surprising intimacy and an astute eye for historical detail. But these poems do not just give voice to the bravery and excitement of exploration – they speak the rhythms of the land, those ‘desolate, screaming plains’, and warn of how much it has changed in the past one hundred years.”
– Michael McKimm
The Storm
Seems to start from the sea.
The waves ride up to meet the moon
And the sky thrums,
Dissipates into a rolling grey,
Smashes itelf against the water,
Cracks with an egg-shell ease
To spill out a birthing of rain and thunder
That throttles the pumps to a slow ooze.
On deck, the men plunge
As the poop sinks waist-high,
Churn their legs through the sucking deep
And chase the ends of ropes
To lash the coal bags, rescue the ponies
As they wash over,
Necks snapped by their tethers
Or lost to the grappling ocean.
Peace comes slowly.
The sea quells itself to a gentle rock
And the pumps find their bite in the submersion,
Sound out their suction and
Return the water back,
Whilst n the forenoon
The fires are laid and lighted,
The losses noted and counted –
’10 tons of coal,
65 gallons of petrol,
two ponies,
one dog,
and a case of biologist’s spirit’
Future Maps
That day they sketched in miles of new land.
Angled it with theodolites, christened its peaks,
Converted its careless geography with careful hands
Into simple geometry; human-speak.
That night the land conspired
And groaning out its contempt, shifted
With melting duplicity, to better keep the secret
Of its exact, exacting anchorage.
80º S
The day was new when we arose and relearned our fingers.
Gulls skulled the wind over our heads
As we pissed.
I imagine your hands, pale as the ground.
Remembering your warmth is wrong here,
As though you exist somewhere souther still.
In this strange, whirling place,
Intemperate as rock,
I come to realise I knew nothing of loneliness.
It starts with a compass tilt.
The steady drag around the maps
Of the known world, tripping
On a missed island, an invisible coast,
Roads not taken, rivers lost to ghosts
Like a secret moor feeling its way into day
And never quite there, not quite.
Every action is weighed
Against an unmoving point.
A control, our advances stayed
By a hand not our own
With history’s weight
Muscled, broad-backed,
Braced against the weakling tide.
In the dusk we forage,
Mired in the swamps,
Beach-bound by the tempest.
We are like scavengers
Or thieves,
Survivors of each other
And the mess we leave.
from Last March (Pindrop Press, 2012).

Order Last March here.

Visit Kiran’s website.
A launch will take place in Cambridge at the Scott Polar Research Institute on 27 March at 7pm. Tickets can be purchased here.
Kiran is also reading at the Natural History Museum’s late opening on 30 March and at Plymouth Museum on 10 April.

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