Author's note: This poem refers to an exhibition of paintings by Xu Bing in the Ashmolean Museum. Many of Xu Bing's canvases were black and white landscapes in which, for instance, rivers were drawn using clustered repetitions of the character 'river', mountains were made of the character 'mountain', sky of 'sky', villages of 'village'.
In drifts of sleep I came upon you
Buried to your waist in snow.
You reached your arms out: I came to
Like water in a dream of thaw.
–Seamus Heaney, 'Rescue'
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'In recent months, the ‘W’ word seems to have become increasingly prominent in this country’s public discourse. Concerned educators have used it in reaction to the news of a planned national curriculum review, the Prime Minister used it when explaining his reasons for restricting the flow of information about incoming asylum seekers, and journalists have even used it to describe the current government’s attitude to renewable energies. The word is, of course, war. ' (Introduction)