Saltmarsh thoughts #2

IMG_1493Niggling away amongst the thoughts and notes I collected recently up at the Solway estuary – in addition to those about careful observation, and where poetry comes from – have been some insights into what I choose to write about. And what I’ve realised is that no matter where I am, whatever I’m looking at, the thing I’m interested in is people.

This might seem like an obvious conclusion to reach, but wouldn’t always have been. I can recall a time – back when I first began writing “seriously” – when I was more interested in reflecting on what I would’ve considered “nature”, meaning land- and seascape where human beings were either absent, ignored or unwanted. I was always trying to look beyond people and lose myself in these places, or feel inspired by them with my ego at arm’s length, if possible (reliably not).

I find people and what we do far too fascinating now. I’m one of those irritating creatures you see in art galleries who – after about twenty minutes of wandering around – occupies the most advantageous seat in the biggest room and spends their time looking at what everyone else is doing. It’s not that I don’t like art. It’s just that I find our interactions with art and public spaces more intriguing. Admittedly, art is a human business anyway, but the ways people interact with and imprint themselves into landscape is of equal interest to me.

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I live in a relatively crowded country, where it’s pretty much impossible to find yourself in a landscape that hasn’t been engineered to some degree by humans. The Solway estuary is a beautiful place, but people have been living here for thousands of years – farming, fishing, mining, extracting whatever we need – and helping to shape it, for better or for worse. These days I’m far more likely to be drawn by traces and consequences of these activities, and find inspiration for writing there.

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The Martian view of Earth

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The Martian view of Earth

 

No lines are drawn in their way of perceiving things
between seeing, hearing, and everything else, so

we appear as short bursts of frantic energy, obsessed
with purpose and radiation of certain wavelengths.

To them, the Earth is not, of course, ‘The Earth’,
any more than Mars is ‘Mars’. Words; just another

endearing quirk we get so excited about. They are
puzzled by our fixation with the idea of the nation state,

and its attendant border security, flags and anthems,
but also by lawnmowers, and by the peculiar concept

of fish fingers, there being neither fish nor even fingers
as such on their planet, the one we think of as ‘red’.

 

first published in The High Window, issue 7, 2017