ONE of the most important elements in writing is creating a strong sense of place. Writing without an understanding of location leaves it feeling floating or ungrounded. Writing which captures its setting has roots.

Over the years, Salisbury has been blessed with plenty of novelists who understand this – anyone who has been on one of the literary walks at the Literary Festival will know how writers from Anthony Trollope to Charles Dickens, William Golding to Barney Norris, have captured our city on the page.

When it comes to verse, while I know we have been blessed with the likes of George Herbert and Thomas Hardy, I’m less aware (though happy to be educated!) of the city’s poetic lineage. Which is why I was pleased to come across Home Farm, the latest collection by Janet Sutherland, and was lucky enough to speak to her earlier in the week.

Home Farm is Janet Sutherland’s fourth collection and focuses on the farm of the same name where she grew up as a child, nestled down by the water meadows between Alderbury and Downton. In many ways, it was an idyllic spot to grow up: the children would take their turns fetching the cows in and feeding the calves, helping with the haymaking and playing in the woods. In the summer, the heifers would live on the water meadows, and Janet would be charged with wandering over to count that they were all still there.

Farming, though, is a difficult profession at the best of times, and Janet explained how she wanted to capture the sense that a life living on the land can be both immensely hard and immensely rewarding.

So while there are many poems that effortlessly and lyrically capture the particular landscape and the nature that lived on the land, others too are embedded with the practicalities of farm life: one poem, Mum’s Accounts, charts both the births of various calves, and the ones who didn’t survive; another, Dilapidations 2, catalogues the costs of being a farmer.

This is a collection rich in the history of the land as well: one poem, The Drowner, describes the job of the same name, of those employed to flood the water meadows; another, Standlynch Mill, the gardener’s girl, tells the tragic case of sixty-year-old Dora Beesely, who died there in 1903, falling in while collecting icicles.

What Janet Sutherland’s work reminds is how place is made up of a particular combination of the landscape, the history and the people who lived there.

Speaking of which, I’m off to explore a few different landscapes myself over the next fortnight, so am leaving you in the more than capable hands of Anna Tuckett in my absence. Happy holidays!