‘The Singing Ringing Tree‘ (Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) was a strange East German fairy-tale film shown by the BBC in the 1960s. It is also the title of a sound sculpture in Lancashire on a hill called Crown Point above Burnley.
It’s not just the simple rhyme of the title that sticks in the imagination, especially for those who saw the uncanny film as small children, something about its odd atmosphere seemed to resonate. Apparently in a 2004 Radio Times poll it was voted “20th spookiest show ever”, even though it was a story for children.
This visual poem is about an encounter with a kind of life after death. The title is a small homage to the strangeness of that children’s film.
the singing ringing pole
Breaking the mould
In the box-van back a mirror cabinet
trembles leafy outer worlds under
a roller-back gate of steel, half open,
like the cloth-bound shell of my father’s desk,
a sticking portal to cryptic drawers, tiny shelves,
to faint unsmoked tobaccos of before.
Ahead, and through my windscreen,
outside inside, green shimmers framed
by the mover strapped hardwood mouldings,
whisper hints of a remote Narnian spring.
Breaking the Mould grins in lean sans-serif,
strap-line wry beneath the tailgate logo.
I pray granny’s paper-lined display case
will pass Dens Road’s potholes un-cracked,
that still somewhere seven more years’ luck,
or even fair Cair Paravel, might be found intact.
Back in December I posted about The Curlew publishing one of my poems called ‘Horizoned’. Recently the editor got in touch with me to ask about using the poem for some teaching she is planning, and if I could record something about my motivation in making this kind of poem. I was delighted to do this of course, but I thought it might be fun to try to show something about what goes into some of my ‘wandering’ poems.
Really I wanted to take people on a wee walk, because there is something about being there (and getting there!) that is essentially important. An aspect of embodied poetry perhaps.
There’s a long tradition of walking poets – the Wordsworths and Bashō prominent among them. When I googled about the topic I found some fantastic work by Mike Collier of the University of Sunderland which is well worth a look.
Here is my wee piece, with a reading at the end. I tried to cover the questions of what and why seriously, but answering using images, sound and physical effort(!) as well as words. I hope the result is entertaining as well as informative…
More posts about walking.
the shortest night
Nearly eleven p.m., dry and mild,
bright enough for reading outdoors.
Warm intimations of honeysuckle,
lemon balm, tiger lily’s sharper bite.
Sleepless through three thin hours undarkened,
fortified tea brewing dusk spun verses,
I fidget dust my tiny cabinet of
keepsakes found and curiosities kept,
rearranging these unsure talismans,
certain enough what each is, less clear why.
I find and re-read some childhood chapters,
and discover though changed they move me still.
Until, like a birthday dawn, bird sung dews
condense fresh light from thin and unslept airs.
Fafernie is a rounded top
astray amid other places.
Southeast a shank to the Knapps,
slow strewn stone rumpled ancient beds.
Northwest Callater glens a way
to distant Cairngorm stories,
if these are unobscured by clouds
looming grey with rain lofted into snow
as ambiguous as now.
At the small cairn a throw from the top
I meet ptarmigan partners.
Sighting me they take stations:
he stands porcelain on the topstone,
eyeing me with red khol caution.
A step past, she sits well grounded,
dissolving spring speckle into
lichen and wind rounded stones
as still as earlier ice.
Bending slowly, I rediscover
her against the uncertain sky.
Firmly static, from above she flickers
lost and found and lost again.
Stalking an unready camera,
I exist too much, and they burst
in flurry croaked alarms of flight,
just far enough to horizon me
as vanished as myth.
boundary lines surrendered
sculpture on the way