Wednesday, 23 November 2011

New look web-site

The Burnedthumb website has has a make-over, and as well as the enhanced design -courtesy of Naomi Rimmer it includes a couple of new pages, an updated links page (that's where all the links from here went) and some different poetry. You can access it from the image on the sidebar.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Book is Launched

A picture, taken by my sister Margaret, at the quadruple booklaunch organised by Red Squirrel Press for Wherever We Live Now, along with Anne Connolly's first full collection, Love-in-a-Mist, and pamphlets by Marion Montgomery (Lyart),and Pippa Little (Snow Globe), at Blackwells in Edinburgh on Tuesday. Red Squirrel must be the most dynamic publishing firm on the face of the planet!

It was a great night. With four of us, there were plenty of people there, and the poetry was varied and excellent. I've always liked Anne's poetry since her pamphlet Downside Up was published by Calderwood Press, but Marion's and Pippa's was new to me - though you can find enough of Pippa's work on line to get the flavour. My family was out in force. My husband and children were there, but my nephew, currently at Edinburgh university, came too, but my sister came from Liverpool and my mother-in-law made the long and complicated train journey from Malvern (no mean feat when you are eighty-six and using a crutch to get about). My good friend Norman Bissell came from Luing which was a great honour. Without Norman, who organised the Atlantic Island Festival and introduced me to the HI-Arts Creative Development programme, I don't suppose there would ever have been a book at all.

I read a couple of archaeology poems, a plant poem, an Irish poem and three Orpheus poems. It was good to see them in a book, with an independent life of their own. After all the euphoria and disillusionment of composition, revision, submitting and acceptance, it was fun to read them as if they had been written by someone else entirely. It was a pleasant room and Blackwell's staff were very kind and hospitable.

I'm not sure, however, that the highlight of the evening wasn't later, when we went to the Elephant House for food, and my sister and mother-in-law discovered the JK Rowling connection. It really made the night!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What You Should Know to be a Poet

I pinched this title from Gary Snyders poem What You Should Know to be a Poet
which is a poem I found very inspiring when I came back to poetry (for about the fifth time - I used to describe myself as a recidivist poet). The point Snyder was making was that poetry had to be grounded in a deep understanding of the world around us, firstly the material facts, but also the way other humans feel about it and relate to it. Snyder's poems often read easy, but they are actually very scholarly in an extraverted way that is completely different from the narcissistic complaining or self-satisfaction that tempts those of us who spend a lot of time looking inside our own heads for stuff to work with.

But then we have to think of the kind of "knowing" we are looking for. I've been spending some time with geek poets, mostly bird-watchers. I'm interested in birds but I hate twitchers with their ticks on their life-lists and their macho competing to see some poor creature which is only here because it's lost. Frankly I'm only interested in people who love what they're doing, so the geek poets really give me pleasure even before I read the poems.

David Morley  is an ecologist by background, and it shows. His poems are full of exact species names (not always Latin) and technical terms, and he avoids romantic and anthropomorphic responses to the fish, dragonflies and birds he writes about. Observations are detailed
                        "head-butting the surface to see
at eyelash-level the whiphands of Common Backswimmers surge
and sprint, each footing a tiny dazzle to prism."(Dragonflies)

but delighted (a perfect combination in my book). But it's not all about the creatures. There's a balanced debate about the conservation movement in Proserpina, and a reminder that climate change is not a new thing to the earth, however cataclysmic it feels to us, in The Lucy Poem.

This section of the book "Fresh Water" is only the first; there re two other sections dealing with Romany tales including Hedgehurst which reminds me a lot of Tim Atkins' Folklore, and with poems about the circus. I think I may say more about them when I've got into Morley's earlier books. They deal with alienation and estrangement and take me into territory I'd like to know more about.

Matt Merritt, however, feels to be on very familiar ground. The poems are intensely visual, and his detailed knowledge and love of birds is obvious - Loons, Ringing Redstarts, and Knots, and it's not only birds, there's a lovely one called Hares in December - but most of the poems are about love death, memory and the mutability of human relationships. They are powerful and moving at that level, but there's also something else going on that emerges as you see the book as a whole. There's a lot of stuff written just now about the fallacy of humans seeing themselves as detached or separate from nature and how we need to recognise ourselves as one with it. This doesn't seem to be a problem for Matt Merritt. There seems very little distinction between the act of living and writing  - love is "written" on the sky, lives are drawn in, revised or erased across a landscape, as if humans are poems written by the earth. I like this. His writing is not just understanding but connecting.

Troy Town is an earlier book. Matt Merritt has since published a new collection called hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica,  and you can see some of his more recent work at his blog Polyolbion.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Artists of the Week - Nat Hall and Pat Morrissey

Before I wind up the Lúcháir site altogether, I want to share some of the artists who have made working on it so inspiring.The first is someone who needs no introduction to most of the people who visit here. Nat Hall writes the Nordic Blackbird blog and her sensitivity to the weather and landscape of her home in Shetland and her wonderful photographs are a constant delight.

The second is someone quite new to me.This time last year I took a lot of photos "walking the territory", and put some of them up here - the banner I'm using now is one of them, and I'm still quite pleased with them. But on Saturday I shared a table with  Pat Morrissey at our local Fair Trade and crafts coffee morning. He was selling beautiful cards made from photographs he took in our local gardens and on roadsides. Adds a whole new dimension, don't you think?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Putting the garden to bed

The cuttings are tucked up in the greenhoouse

I planted the garlic. It's very early, because of last year's frost. Imeant to do it towards the end of November, and around the sixteenth the cold started and the ground froze solid until the end of January, and the green shoots are up already.

The patio is swept, the summer bedding is gone and the bulbs are all planted.

And the winter jasmine has begun to flower.

There's a little more to do before the real bad weather starts, but already my mind is moving indoors and I'm thinking about making over the web-sites, the study programme for next year, and new ventures in poetry.

One thing I'm thinking, though, and that is that I'm going to delete the Lúcháir web-site. There will still be a page for it on the burnedthumb site,and here, and the core of the project goes on. The lúcháir way of thinking, living and writing is as important as ever, but the project never quite gelled as I had hoped.

This is because I don't work or write quite the way I had always imagined I would. I love to meet people and explore what they are doing and learn from them, but essentially my creativity comes from solitude. It's not just finding peace and quiet, or escaping from distracting responsibilities - it's the way I process what I learn and turn it into poetry.

Kenneth White has a phrase which resonates with me just now. "Poet, use well, the winter". I plan to.