I’m going to be joining fellow Wyvern poets for a Franken-poetical event on Wednesday November 21st at 17.30 in The Global Room at Dundee University. As part of this year’s Being Human festival, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary year of the publication of Frankenstein with readings of new poems ruminating on Frankenstein, technology and identity, and Mary Shelly’s own early association with Dundee.
Tickets are available free from eventbrite.
Very pleased to have ‘Struck’ published at the Poetry Shed.
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.
This is one of a sequence of poems I’ve been working on
about feelings connected to physical gestures.
(This one is centred to avoid a spin.)
arms waving off big
a balanced bending in
arms wide again
symmetry of breath
my body retains
this programmed movement
for over thirty years
to quit the air
good and gentle
a highly specific
whole body awake yawn
beyond any other gesture
the most firm
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.
“It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions of the airy flights of my imagination , were born and fostered.”
So wrote the Mary Shelley reflecting on her time spent at in “The Cottage” on Dundee’s Broughty Ferry Road.
She thought differently of the place in later years, however, “…my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy.”
“The Cottage” is long gone but today, on a substantial buttress wall (dated 1899) in Dundee’s South Baffin Street, a plaque marks the spot. I was nearby this morning, and as the Wyvern Poets are currently working on a ‘Frankenstein’ project, I thought I’d pay a visit.
Curiously, I couldn’t help thinking that Mary’s later thoughts might have been even more gothic if fed from the place as it is today. A fine location for a scary movie…
This month’s prompt from Wyvern Poets was ‘a found poem’. I’d been looking at tweets by Martin O’Leary with images from HiRISE, an incredibly high resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter.
The pictures are amazing. Some of them make me think of colour field paintings by Rothko, some of lush folds of the richest silks. The titles of the images interested me too. They seem to make an accidental blend of succinct description and (at least to my ears) sensuously exotic place names.
I decided to make a piece that brought these titles and images together with some found words by another famous traveler to strange lands – Marco Polo.
The result was this found poem/video.
With special thanks to NASA/JPL/University of Arizona for the use of their fabulous images, and to Martin O’Leary for @HiRISEBot.
Of the Marvels
Best viewed with sound ON, and better yet, some nice cosy headphones…