Monthly Archives: November 2011

Starting the day

What’s weird is that having set up the blog I now find myself reluctant to add to it.  Why?  I’m not sure but it’s something to do with the reflection of a public voice I think.  I have kept journals for over fifty years – there are about 70 battered exercise books, notebooks, the occasional lovely binding, sitting on my bookshelves waiting for me to trawl them.  What will I discover there and why is it taking me a long time to do this?  What I find difficult as I read the journals is the disagreement that I feel with the ‘tone’.  Not so much with the words, although they plough their way through all kinds of labyrinths that maybe I’d prefer to lose or ignore – but having hauled them round the world for so long, rescued them from the white ants in my jackwood desk in Sri Lanka and eventually at least put them in date order there is a reluctance to face the person who wrote them I think but also a reluctance to ignore or destroy them. So the same reluctance seems to face me with the blank page to post.  I think about writing by hand then putting on a Word document, then writing on a Word document straight away.  Both approaches seem to be a bit like cheating.  What is the reason for having a blog?  Well something to do with communication and  a sense of giving voice – and , like journal writing, this seems to be closer to stream of consciousness than well articulated and structured writing.  On the other hand who wants to read stuff that is wincingly self-conscious, it always seems self-congratulatory when I read it in others’ writing. But- if I had yet another hand – if I don’t get on with the writing down of things time will run out.  However opsimathic I might feel there won’t be too much time for more learning.  I read Geoffrey Hill’s Mercia Hymns VI and found his lines ‘…..But/ I ran slowly; the landscape flowed away, back to/its source.’ provoked a lot of thinking and writing about early memory.  Not yet worked on but a resource waiting.  Now I’ve started I feel better about writing here – and just hope that the voice that comes out is accessible and true.  Although what that means is a bit dubious too. There is stuff to send off to magazines and competitions (I am hesitant about these but in the current situation for print it seems a legitimate way to try to fund struggling magazines) – Maitreyabandhu wrote excellent  articles, one of which addressed this, in the spring and summer Poetry Review this year.  I increasingly enjoy what he writes and it touches on  delicate chords, on my own Quaker beliefs and on the writing of Joko Beck that I find so important.  This prompts me to add a category now about important books that affect/ed me closely.  So writing this was not such a struggle after all.  Will anyone read it?  I guess this is what all bloggers wonder.  Anyway its enjoyable to write like this, early in the morning as light struggles through a deep grey mist over the orchard;  after I have put away my journal, drunk the coffee and looked forward to the new copies of LRB, Agenda and Granta that arrived in post carried over from England by Kay yesterday.

 

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A bit of W.S.Graham

‘I would like to speak in front
Of myself with all my ears alive
And find out what it is I want.’

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Unreliable Narrations

Unreliable Narrations

There is only the moment and then
     on a slope of yellowed grass
     the bearded elders sit on blankets
     offering nuts and apples.
     One places a special peach,
     carefully, into your open hand.

Happenings fall lopsided into day or night.

That moment
    when you trip over light
   and the wind pulls you
   through into the flower, its
   shining nectar and seed
   is prismatic, and sky suddenly bends.

A moment when you find yourself
    amongst churns
   the smell of milk, apples,
   an old horse standing patient,
   your white dress
   filmy in sun-slant.

Waking to blinds, pale edged,
we cannot tell day from night.
Waking from a dream of apples
and the snapshot of a child, filmy in white,
we cannot tell the truth of it.

The painting of the girls with
red lips and Chinese lanterns,
light pouring through lilies, white dresses,
remembered as how we stood in an orchard
in that early light.

This morning the orchard stoops under mist.
What rustles amongst the fallen leaves
is a multitude of wasp and ant. Transparent
fruits lie, hollowed out, only wan shapes,
of yesterday’s apples and pears.

Listening to the stories that we tell ourselves,
the stopping places on the way to here,
we cannot figure, quite, the truth of it,
the border leaking between day and night.

Who took the snapshot of the child in white?

Brigid Smith: October 2011

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opsimath poet abroad

Welcome to my blog.  I spent the morning trying to remember Keats and eventually found all the verses of ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.  We’ve not quite got ‘a cyder press oozing’ although we have two of the four granite crescents that were part of the original press.  Our orchard is full of spilled apples, every tree with a skirt of red, golden, green.  The butterflies fly from one to the other, the wasps thankfully  all gone but invaded now by les mouches attracted no doubt by the manure heap in the next field that is beside our front gate.  After nearly extinguishing ourselves with fly spray we found old fashioned sticky fly papers – that and a plastic fly swatter do the job.  The summer is gone but still the huge pots of geraniums hold on near the wall, and we can sit out to have our coffee when it’s not actually raining.    The field is brown and ploughed, becoming slowly weed free with just one small plot of leeks and cabbages – Phil has removed about ten huge rolls of barbed wire and the ancient fence posts burn well on the fire.  The enormous garage with its two inspection pits and 15 feet of door has been gutted and now has windows and doors for the kitchen to be built in one half and two windows and a front door space.  Getting down the lintel – 15 foot long and reinforced with about twenty iron rods, was a huge effort – all those regrets – did we really want a kitchen anyway, why had we started, how would we keep the winter out?  Now it’s done the kitchen is again enthusiastically looked forward to. 

It’s been a summer of poetry.  The day after we arrived I went to Katherine Gallagher’s five day course at Le Moulin, driving home, wrong side of the unfamiliar road, late in the night.  It was inspiring and I missed the unpacking of the camion demenagement which had just been hauled out of the middle of the field where it had stuck in the mud as I arrived back from Villebaudon.  In September Penny Shuttle had two Master Class workshops at Le Moulin, an inspiring three weeks – part of the time helping and part writing.  Phil built my book shelves and my workroom,  and me, are functioning.  For the first time I have sent off poems to magazines and competitions and my novel is also out on the rounds.  I have become a proper writer, the day job – at last I have grown up and decided what I want to be.  It is quite different to have time and space for writing and reading – although I am trying to learn to also be a good French housewife in the bits between poems.  People arrive all the time with walnuts and queches, mirrabelles and damsons – basket after basket.  Then our trees are loaded with apples and pears – some are cider varieties (this year no use to take them to the ciderie – there are too many apples).  I have laid them in the barn up on the sagging floor – not alas in rows with moonlight on them – well maybe – I never looked.  We have lovely French neighbours in the only house nearby who bring flowers and enormous pumpkins and all sorts of fruit and I try to reciprocate with walnut cakes, cup cakes and Dorset Apple cake.  ‘Je ne sais pas si it’s OK’ goes the usual dialogue.  I need to learn more French but it does get easier, Phil has extremely expressive Gallic shrugs.  We have a good social life,  and are getting to know people, we have nice English neighbours about a kilometre away up the hill who bring us back golden syrup and custard powder when they go to England for a visit.  It is hard sometimes when there are too many ‘first time’ things to be done – equivalent of MOT for the car, visits to the garage, the shops, telephones – all the things that you take for granted when you do them in England but that here you have to work hard at.  It’s satisfying though and each time it gets easier and there is always someone on the end of the phone to help.  

This blog will be part of my writing activity – with links to poems, stories, ideas and also a way of communicating with people whowant to keep in touch.  If I can manage the technology I will put a short series of photos showing progress at Le Marais  (this we discover is the actual name of our house not Les Madieres as insisted by France Telecom and locals – we found out from the mayor when we took our plans to him).  So many people sent us good wishes and I hope that you will enjoy reading this and keep in touch too.  I will send printouts to people who don’t have email.  We had a few visitors in the summer and look forward to more next year and even some during the winter.  We are nice and warm with our log fire, the two guest bedrooms are functional – it is a great way to experience stars on a clear night and total silence in the day in our truly rural backwater.  We are about 50 minutes drive from Caen and a bit more from Cherbourg.  We will always meet people off the ferry if they come as foot passengers – you know who you are!

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