A tree shines brightly
near the Allt Glas-Doire,
by the coffin road.
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…
I had a pleasant donder around Monikie Reservoir with my pal Cavan this morning. Lots of interesting birds on the water just now. We spotted some redshank and heard their lonely note calls, but at this time of year it’s the large number of cormorants in from the coast that are most noticeable visitors.
Apparently in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan took the form of a cormorant to disguise himself in order to enter Eden. More tragically, but romantically, Norwegian mythology says that those who are lost at sea can visit their homes in the form of one of these birds.
I don’t know about that, but I suppose the well-stocked quiet waters of Monikie must seem like paradise to a cormorant – at least compared to a chilly winter gale battered coastline. Curiously when they come to Monikie they always roost together on only one of the three islands, the one on the south side of the water. And they really do roost – seeing such large birds perched high in the branches of the trees is a little unexpected.
I wrote a poem inspired by these winter visitors a few years ago. Visiting them again this morning made me make look back for a wee redraft…
[northern hemisphere: 23.4 degrees obliquity, perihelion]
Black stroked full flaps down
over un-cast overcast naval greys,
wingtip taps reflected wingtips
a parallel rhumb line rhythm flight
ruled over inshore mirror water.
Pulling up in a clumsy prehistoric stall,
a drunken marine’s shore-bound landing
pitches the branches of this,
their February Isle.
Around again our orbit wheels
past drear and dreich northern months,
until anglers rewound cast again
from their wooden clinkers.
When longer days’ winds whistle
and fetch and chop and slop the surface.
And, filled with heat and hunger,
the cormorants quit to seek
from deeper waters,
from driven seas.
This one was inspired by an object shown to me many years ago by the very knowledgable Sandy Edwards, who was curator of the Bell Pettigrew Natural History Museum at the time. Since then I have (amongst other things!) spent many years being fortunate enough to do ‘media odd jobs’ for researchers involved in studying the scope and meaning of sounds made by marine mammals. My knowledge of what they do is slight, but I continue to find what they discover remarkable and inspiring.
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.
A wee oddity written in response to a ‘reading in both directions’ prompt. It seemed appropriate to post this week.
R.I.P. Professor Stephen Hawking, 8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018.
sweeteternity makes a fine Dundee cake,andeverything that exists at any momentisone single sampled quantum of fruit
Buddhists say time is an illusion,
althoughwe learn how to tell timetime always tells on usalthough
Buddhists say time is an illusion,
one ticky fruity nugget tastediseverything everywhere nowandeternity makes a fine Dundee cake,precious
ticky: a little piece (Dundonian)