Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Time For Renewal

After the winds came snow, and then more wind, then rain, and then frost. This snowman was the first of a family of snow people my husband made for our grand-daughter.

Now we are getting ready for Christmas. We'll be seeing all the children on Christmas Day, and then hopefully, going south for a family party in Chesterfield, and coming back for New Year.

Next year is time for big changes. On a mundane level, this computer, which has served me pretty well for five years, is now showing its age. It coughs and splutters whenever anything updates, and none of the new software is talking to any of the old stuff. It's time to move on. So if there's a bit of a lull over the next three weeks or so, you will know I am wrestling with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010, and wondering just where I backed everything up.

In the garden, there won't be too much upheaval, but I'll be consolidating some of the changes I made last year, getting to understand the greenhouse and veg patch better, and adding some fruit bushes. I'm learning a bit mre about the birds in the garden, too, moving the bird feeders away from the flight path of the sparrowhawk, and creating nest-spaces for wrens - possibly my favourite garden bird. According to the fascinating A-B-Tree project run by Mandy Haggith at Cybercrofter, wrens like to nest in bramble thickets, because of the difficulty predators have in getting through the tangles. I can't imagine I'll get away with planting brambles in the garden, but we do have some very thorny and tangled wild roses, and this

juniper, just about as impenetrable as any small bird could want. You can see all the A-B-Tree posts here.

This year has been a hard one, with some problems coming to a head, some major milestones reached, some big changes made. Some people think that 2012 is going to be a year of major upheaval for the whole world, but apparently the Mayan prophecy is not meant to be about the end of time, but about the renewal of life. I wish all my friends, family and readers of this blog a happy Christmas holiday, and a peaceful time for renewal, refreshment and joy.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hurricane Bawbag

Ok there's no snow. But do you see the greenhouse windows?

Those two lower panes blew out. They went up, over the top of the greenhouse, and landed one here

and one on top of the herbs. And they are completely undamaged. I have no idea how this could be possible. I've stacked them in the gulley between the garden and the house and I hope the wind doesn't get them there.

The Steel Garden by Lorna Waite

I am particularly interested in the links between landscape and languages and communities. It comes up in my work a fair bit - particularly poems like Goes Without Saying and the Eurydice sequence, (it will be all over the Territory of Rain poems too) and I dealt with the topic in my review of Christine de Luca's North End of Eden published in the March issue of Northwords Now, which you can read here.

At first glance you wouldn't think Lorna Waite's poetry had much in common with Christine de Luca's. It is grittily urban, unashamedly acadeemic, and quite possibly the most committed political and philosphical poetry in Scotland since MacDiarmid (whose work it vividly recalls). But what both poets are saying is that the life and heart of a community is in the way it inhabits its own particular hills, mountains, fields, rivers and coasts, the work by which people earn their living, the art they create, the lives they remember and the language they develop to tell their own stories.

Just as Christine de Luca's poetry deals with isolated island communities, but transcends nostalgia and romanticism, Lorna Waite records the devastation of post-industrial urban communities without portraying them as victims. The people of Kilbirnie are not statistics, social studies or pupppets of a callous economic system, they are a vibrant creative community, expressing themselves through steel and sculpture, stories and music. These are poems about strength, not weakness; they are angry at defeat, not mourning a loss.

There is mourning here, however,and there are also more personal poems. If the feminist slogan was 'the personal is political', Lorna Waite demonstrates that the political is most profoundly personal, not to say passionate. She engages with social changes, clearances, migration and the class war through her friendships, family, archaeology and, in a profound and fascinating way, through her relationship with hill, burn, mountain and woodland, and with Gaelic.

I don't think I can do this book justice. This poetry is completely outside my comfort zone, it doesn't have much of what I usually demand of a poem, and I'm only just beginning to get to grips with all that does have. But, like Neruda, Lorna Waite is a poet I can see myself coming back to again and again. Go read it, and tell me what you think. You won't be sorry.

The Steel Garden is published by Word Power Books.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Frost and Fire

still winter evening
seeds and gardeners pause, withdraw,
frost outside, fire within

Thursday, 1 December 2011

High Tide on the Forth

All the rain earlier this week has soaked the ground and caused the river to burst its banks. This isn't the worst it's ever been by a long way, but look how deep the water is around those trees.

Life is fairly complicated right now. When you're one of a large family and you marry into a large family, there's always someone doing something interesting, from art exhibitions and gigs to picketing (we are all pro the Public Workers - and indeed I don't know anyone who isn't) or getting ill or needing help with stuff. But that's why the blog has been quiet. It will probably be quiet again next week while I wrestle with the NHS and the grand-daughter's Christmas shows - two of them, and she's only four. There are some heavy-duty performing genes in this family!

Today, however, the sun is shining, the house is peaceful and the winter jasmine is in full glorious flower. And I may even write some poetry, once the kitchen is clean!