As well as being a Research Fellow at the Department of Education, Oxford University, I studied for both my PGCE and DPhil there. I have particularly fond memories over the years of its garden, which was designed in the 1960s by Dame Sylvia Crowe. All the ecological principles she espoused and illustrated in her book Garden Design (first published in 1958) are intimately enacted in this courtyard-like space: unity, scale, space, time, light and shade, tone and texture. You can download a copy here.
The second poem – a kind of meditation on the college crest – was commissioned to mark the opening of the dining hall at Kellogg College, Oxford. The building previously housed part of the Pitt-Rivers ethnological collection.
For what you are about to receive is something broken
that needs no mending: the daily loaves of give and take,
the elementary etiquette of harvest and its common wealth.
For what you are about to walk through is a portal
that needs no password, a door you found already open,
an arch joined at the fingertips or your face lit by a rainbow.
For what you are about to learn by heart is a library
that needs no deciphering, its leaves shining with questions
like a great feast laid out for you on the high table of summer.
Yet in some future winter carved of wood and stone and sky,
in the quiet refectory of its evening, every windowpane a wall
of dark and the garden still as glass, you may find yourself
toasting the old hunter-gatherers, how once they were encased
bone by bone here: praise-singers, full of strangeness, grace.
© Lesley Saunders 2009