I am very conscious of gifts at the moment. It is being anchored in the house so that the gift of the flowers, blossom, sun on the wooden bench become intense points of pleasure and relief. Friends and neighbours and family surround me with love and care. Also I have been given a wonderful gift – it is a late wedding present – sometimes being dilatory and unable to choose between coffee machines or other things results in something quite special. I am instructed by my friend Isobel to choose a poetry book each month for a year. It is proving to be a gift for everyday – it takes about a month to become well acquainted with a book of new poetry – fast read, slow read, read from the back to the front, read individual poems. The first gift was brought by Isobel and was ‘Muscovy’ by Matthew Francis. I then chose February Maitreyabandhu’s ‘The Crumb Road’ and March John Burnside’s ‘All our Breath’. April’s gift arrived a few days ago and was ‘Later’ by Philip Gross.
All of these books have given such pleasure, taught me so much, allowed ribbons of language to flow through my head, I feel ‘gifted’.
It was interesting to read Philip Gross’s ‘White Night’ which is about the all day, all night light of the far North. This is the final stanza
‘in the wide, widening circle
we could melt into the distance
and distance itself
sits in among us, guest
we can’t count,
wolf in from the horizon
all forgiven now, or soon.’
I recently got a highly commended from Philip Gross in the Magma Poetry competition – my first effort, early in the morning, after coming home from hospital was to get my entry off to Magma. One of the verses in Eilean Leodhais reads:
… It was the season of the dancers
when shafts of green twist across the midnight sky.
Further North than we can go just now,
a place of solitude, corncrake beside the loch
calling in the deep of night.
Summer we read outside in the insect-heavy night…..
His poem reminds me so much of those long summer nights and the metaphor of the North, the white light and the strange insomnia that it engendered, (it’s there in Burnside too), and is a recurring image in my own poems.
Just now I am trying to put together poems in groups, themes. Trying to make sense of the huge amount of writing that there is and to order it in some way. I was so pleased with the response to Eilean Leodhais because it is part of a different way of writing that I seem to be caught up in just now. As if the photographs had been laid out and one is suddenly lifted with an exclamation – ‘Well fancy that!’ It is of course all about memory – why Maitreyabandhu’s book was also so significant, ‘The Crumb Road’ being his image for ‘the unreliability of memory’.
So I have been ‘gifted’ during these last few weeks. Starting to write again has been the greatest gift. Isobel also offers me other gifts – we have been communicating in both visual and written form about meaning and being – through the image of ‘Red Cat Walking’. I hope that this will become an exploration in written form eventually, a dialogue about language and creativity. I read some very interesting articles in Poetry Review, Poem, PN Review and other magazines and I enjoyed submitting to the Cafe Writers pamphlet competition which required also a piece of prose about how one would develop the poems submitted. I liked the reflection that this demanded on work that is now both substantial – and unpublished! I was unsuccessful but the exercise was very useful.