Monday, 31 January 2011

River of Stones 31

And the last one -

Nine swans in a line
flying north from orchard to river
in a fanfare of white wings

River of Stones 30

Missed two, what with birthday shenanigans and all, but here goes for the last two:

After each frost the winter jasmine
puts out new candles of yellow flower.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

happy birthday



Lovely grand-daughter came over yesterday dressed as Snow-White, to help me open my birthday cards. I was immensely proud to see she had signed hersherself - it included a Peppa Pig badge, which I will be wearing!

Then she said "You need a cake. You can't make your own birthday cake, I have to make it for you" And she did (with help). Pink icing and all the sprinkles in the kitchen.

Best birthday ever!

Friday, 28 January 2011



This is the view out over the Carse from the castle. I was trying to get our abbey in, but I don't think you can make it out. I think it was new year when I took this picture, but not much has changed since then, although the snow has gone from all but the most sheltered corries on the Ochils. There is still ice on the pond and the garden ground is too hard for gardening, though I may be able to clean the greenhouse and the cold frame over the weekend. And then I can tink about sowing the very first half-hardy annuals, and the year will begin.

The River of Stones project is coming to an end, and it will run again in July. It has been very good for making me write down the things I'm noticing on the garden and along the river; I'll be keeping it up, at least in my notebooks, and now the light is getting better there should be more photos to go with them. I am stacking up new books to mention, too - Defragmenting Sappho by Kevin Cadwallender, a new departure for him, and Slokt by Sea by Nalini Paul, which I hope to review next week.

And meanwhile, the MS of Wherever We Live Now has been sent off and I'm beginning to look beyond it for new poems. Lots of ice poems so far, and a fair bit of mortality and mythology, and music too I hope. It's going to be a busy year.

River of Stones 27

Pink orchid flowers
tethered to a bare dry stem.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

River of Stones 26

Crocus stems between
autumn's leaves still lying

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

River of Stones 25

A guitar that sings like a sax
a voice that plays like a cello.

Richard Thompson rocks, frankly!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

River of Stones 24

Against a brightening sky
a grimy thumb-print of cloud
smudged along the top of the hill.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

River of Stones 23

First day after the frost.
The gardeners are out already.

River of Stones 22

Starlings hang out
on high branches of the beech tree
talking of moving on
feeling the tug of north.

Friday, 21 January 2011

River of Stones 21

This is one I didn't see, but was told about. I couldn't resist it!

Immaculate in white,
her three-quarter-length trousers
and neon pink high heels
are perfectly chosen to set off
the tag on her ankle.

River of Stones 20

A moss hedgehog
unfurls frost-bristles.

Time is catching up with me - this is a day late!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Wrecking Light


I've just finished The Wrecking Light by Robin Robertson, and it's been a very odd experience.

First off, there is no doubt that this is seriously good poetry. It is distinctive, incisive, haunting, individual. It is also seriously beautiful, and Signs on a White Field is the most memorable and loveliest poem I've come across in ages. I've been writing a lot about ice and snow lately (well, who hasn't?) and this leaves me with very little left to say on the subject.

But it's also seriously creepy. Robin Robertson introduces us to a world of madness, poison, mutilation, obsession and death, with very little to redeem it. Which raises a few questions in my mind.

There's more to poetry, of course, than lyrical loveliness, and I think even Keats would have disowned those lines from Sleep and Poetry
They shall be accounted poet-kings
Who simply tell the most heart-easing things

if he'd lived a bit longer. Poetry is not about feel-good.

I'm a great believer in Colette's advice to 'look long at what gives you pleasure, and longer at what gives you pain.' The world is, of course, full of love, joy, beauty and wonder, but we have to admit that it is also full of brutality, treachery, squalor and madness. You don't make good poetry out of a sentimental or fearful refusal to see things as they are. And I don't want to get into the realms of morality or psychology. Poetry doesn't necessarily have the duty to conform to external standards of what's moral or even what's normal.

So what duty does it have? When push comes to shove, it must be to tell the truth - though every poem must be seen as experimental rather than definitive, a personal take on a vision, rather than a dogma/slogan/mantra. This matters more than technique or skill or artistic excellence. If it doesn't attempt to wrestle with the obdurate, cross-grained, persistent truth the way it is, then no matter how cunning and well-crafted it is, it's a dead end. The Wrecking Light is brilliant, it really is, but it's also monstrous.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

River of Stones

Abbey Crags purple-gold
catching the last of the sun

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

River of Stones 18

The air is cold and bright
a whole half hour more of daylight

River of Stones 17

There are shining silver catkins
on the tips of those willow stems
three feet above the railway cables

Sunday, 16 January 2011

River of Stones 16

Dry bare stems on the tarragon
but at the base, new green shoots

Flood alert

Warm temperatures, heavy rain and snow melt have led to this.



This is the view I often take. See how high the water has come up the west bank, and how much mud has come down.



But on our side, where the bank is higher, there is still space.



In the pond there are now two inches of meltwater on top of a layer of ice so thick I can't break through it.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Look what I found

The very last fragments of snow are melting though the ground is mostly still hard underfoot and there is standing water in the hollows. But after the snow, look:

hartstongue fern - it honestly looks as green and bright as this!



snowdrops just showing through



and new growth on this seedling wild rose



On the other hand, there is still thick ice on the pond.

River of Stones 14

Wood pigeons on the telegraph wire
call, incessant, desperate -
"i need you, I need you, I need you!"

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

River of Stones 12

The sky is full of birds.
Five skeins of barnaacle geese
take their noisy bustle eastward.
Starlings are raucous in the cypress tree
and four mute swans sail stately
between the river and the hill.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

New Starts



It's been a busy few weeks! First of all we had ten days without water as the pipes coming in to our house froze solid. Fortunately we have lovely neighbours who let us carry buckets of water and use their shower, but it was a great moment when the taps started trickling again! This covered all of Christmas, but we disn't let it stop us enjoying the holiday, and for the first time our newest youngest child put the baby Jesus in the crib.

Now it's back to 'green time' - hence the change in the background. Most of us are back to work (one, thankfully, after a long enforced break), and I have just begun drafting a full-length poem, though perversely, or perhaps wishfully it is set at Beltane. It's a bit like patchwork as I'm putting together fragments and haikus that I wrote last summer so as to think about transitions and endings and new possibilities.

I'm also, as you can see from the sidebar, joining in the River of Stones project. It's a great thing for making sure you record and think about your observations every day, and I hope the habit will last even when the project ends. And I'm just about to update the Burnedthumb site. I'm not going to change the look or the structure, though, as the original design came in for a lot of compliments. Watch this space!

River of Stones 11

Green in the frost,
ripe seed pods of gladdon reveal
cobs of scarlet berries

Monday, 10 January 2011

River of Stones 10

All the bare shelves
white space and red tickets
Christmas got sold out

Sunday, 9 January 2011

River of Stones 9

Five blackbird vigilantes.
Pigeons lined up on the roof
watch and wait.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

River of Stones 8

On the street outside the tenement,
shovelled ice-blocks, cigarette ends.
and a broken can of McEwans.

Friday, 7 January 2011

River of Stones 7

Snow sculpted Trossachs
sharp white against the blue

River of Stones 6

Clear frosty night.
Sirius reflected
a soft blue blur in the river.

Wish I could have taken a picture of that!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

River of Stones 4

Grey lag geese calling in the dark before dawn

River of Stones 3



Expecting a Stranger

a flake of soot
clings to the chimney wall
a banner in the smoke draught.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

River of Stones

Cold bright winter sun.
In the high sycamore tops
robins duel in song.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

River of Stones



The Garden Pond

On the ice
two inches of melt-water.
On the water
a brittle film of ice.

A very happy New Year, everyone!