Words for Wednesday

Every once in a while someone blogs or points me in the direction of a new poet. This is a translation from the Irish into English and is so dense it will offer new nuances with each new reading. The poet is long dead, but though he lived in the 19th century, this poem offers a rich reading from our place in the 21st century.

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Tivetshall_St._Mary_church_ruin_2_-_geograph.org.uk_-_741711

The Ruins of Timoleague Abbey

TRANSLATED BY TONY HOAGLAND AND MARTIN SHAW
I am gut sad.
I am flirting
with the green waves,
wandering the sand,
feeding reflection
into the seaweed foam.
That Shaker’s moon
is up.
Crested by corn-colored stars
and traced by those witchy scribblers
who read the bone-smoke.
No wind at all —
no flutter
for foxglove or elm.
There is a church door.
In the time
when the people
of  my hut lived,
there was eating and thinking
dished out to the poor
and the soul-sick in this place.
I am in my remembering.
By the frame of  the door
is a crooked black bench.
It is oily with history
of the rumps of sages,
and the foot-sore
who lingered in the storm.
I am bent with weeping.
This blue dream
chucks the salt
from me.
I remember
the walls god-bright
with the…

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Surprising

what might turn up on the page after flexing our fingers and moving the pens across the page in workshops.

For various reasons (probably mostly the naysayer in my head) I’ve not tried my hand at fiction very often. But Mark Iliss’ workshop yesterday prompted an afternoon producing over 1,000 words of a short story.  When we met for our tutorial he mostly asked, “what happens next?”  Off I went back to the laptop to figure out the destiny of the family of characters that had turned up in my head.

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The biggest problem was moral.  I felt bad about wanting to kill one of them. And worse if any of the others murdered him.

All of this was revelation, the words spooling out from what was quite a sketchy character exercise in the morning, the characters taking life in my head (was this how Zeus felt when he birthed Athena?), the morality of plot decisions (this may be why not many Quakers are counted amongst top fiction writers.) One of the biggest mind blows this week was that I need to  completely reassess how I see myself as a writer.

The poetry workshop with Carola Luther was stimulating without exciting any  of the short fiction moral dilemmas.  My walks around Lumb Bank have me pondering geology, rock and water.  The well stocked library can’t answer these queries.  One thing I will be checking on Google when we get to Manchester wifi land.

One exercise took me rather nostalgically back to my own lane.

Arvon Lumb Bank

Hag’s Chair

You think of me

Not at all

Just another

Piece of limestone

Furniture.

Glacial erratic.

Both true.

Skidding in on ice –

A one off.

Distinct.

Impervious of weather.

Imperious to some.

My view.

My sun. My moon.

My chair.

You know nothing,

Mortal!

For as long or longer

Than these mountains last

Here I’ll sit.

Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts and the Social Inclusion Unit offices.

Landing

is not quite the same as arriving.  Muscles sore from pulling wheely cases and toting laptops finally come to rest at Heptonstall. I unpack. My office for the next week. My business is writing. That is what the Arvon Foundation provides. Space for writers.

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And it is Perfect. Private. Ground floor. Sensitively providing a wetroom for the slightly lame and halt. Arvon’s  Lumb Bank could not be more astute in providing me with made to order writing space.

The train pitches up at Hebden Bridge where we disgorge  and decant our plethora of baggage before exploring the nearest ‘big town’ to Lumb Bank.

Which is a town that seems to be the product of Posy Simmond’s magical thinking. Not only has it a Little Theatre, a Picture House, a Quaker Meeting,enough organic bakeries and cafes to fodder an army of hippies, you can also buy yourself some bamboo or hemp socks and get a recycled cycle. It has buses and trains  with posted schedules. Which appear to run on time! It is like a sustainable living model village with Fairtrade written in its stick DSCN1170of candy rock.  It feels almost Scandinavian.

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It has the Calder River and  the Rochdale Canal. The soot has been blasted off the mellow sandstone facades mostly.  There is some soot about though to authenticate its mill town past.

Not only is it certified hippie haven it’s also dedicated to dog comfort.  We need caffeine, wifi and lunch.  We find a cafe with wifi that also makes muffins for dogs that are gluten, salt and sugar free.  There are dog beds scattered around the cafe as well as water bowls and little tether points where you can hook your leash. Various dogs come in with their owners for lunch and both chow down.  I eat a puy lentil and butternut squash salad and have the best brownie east of the continental US. Not for dogs since chocolate is toxic for them. So The Lamppost likes two leggeds, too.

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I have landed in a place designed by English Eccentrics. But it works.  I buy a pair of socks. And some incense.  I can work this look.

I’m definitely not in Ireland anymore.

Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts Office.