Clare Holtham, who died in February 2010, was a notable poet, photographer, linguist and explorer to whom nothing was alien. She ran film festivals; she was a successful systems analyst; she married an Uzbek chieftain in Afghanistan; she studied genetics and homoeopathy; she spoke Persian . . But a brief description does not prepare the reader for this unusual collection.
From the back cover:
The Road From Herat presents many of the poems and a few of the photographs by a remarkable woman of who it can truly be said that 'the wind touched her feet'. Homeless on the streets of London at fourteen, Clare Holtham developed a fierce independence and travelled throughout Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan as a young woman, even entering into a temporary marriage with an Uzbek chieftan. She pursued an equally independent path as a student at Newnham College, Cambridge, working part-time as the Arts Cinema in defiance of University regulations, and finding a life partner in Eddie Block, the cinema manager. Together they founded the Cambridge Film Festival and the Animation Festival before moving to Sussex to turn the Duke of York Cinema from a fleapit to an art house cinema. Clare later retrained as a computer systems analyst and travelled the world again as an IT troubleshooter, working in the Far East and Eastern Europe. She had written poetry as a girl and returned to it after Eddie's death, joining 'Second Light' and becoming a valued member of the Poetry Masterclass that meets at Madingley Hall, The University of Cambridge's Institute of Continuing Education. She came second to Philip Gross in Scintilla's Long Poem Competition in 2009 and appeared among Second Light's monthly winners in ARTEMISpoetry. More important than these individual successes is the overall quality of her work, born of a deep determination to draw together threads that had been severed more than once and to find peace in their patterning. It is this that makes The Road From Herat such a moving and memorable book.