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.

IMG_1524

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.

Advertisements

Three poems up at Stickman Review

Anthony Brown, editor of Stickman Review, has been kind enough to include three of my poems – “Driving around town, 2 a.m.”, “Eddie’s” and “In which you are still leaving” – in Volume 17, Number 1, which has just been released online.

Big thanks to Anthony for finding space for these three amongst some very fine poems indeed. I’d particularly recommend checking out David Lohrey’s “Saturday, the 19th or the 20th”.

 

Last view of the island

Islands

Last view of the island

 

The ferry banks, only five minutes out

beyond the stone corral of harbour wall

and into the channel, the broad crescent

of its wake painting plumes across the

glass of the ocean, engines humming a

rhythmless vibrato. Smoke funnels skywards.

Cars hunch like crated eggs on the lower deck.

Over the tannoy, our cheery captain announces

a bottlenose pod, surfing in the bow-waves.

My eyes lock over the stern, watching as

those grey mountains begin to melt on

the horizon, taking a lifetime to disappear.

 

 

first published in Red River Review, 2018

 

Hinterland

Hinterland

Hinterland

 

They say it doesn’t rain here much, often, but

when it does, canopies of merciless cloud snuff out

 

every last square of the sky, hanging about the fields

like a quarrel, forgotten without ever being resolved,

 

and empty themselves in angled swipes that paste

both barley and nettles to the red earth, bleeding into

 

the leather boots and loafers of commuters on trains,

who steam coolly in their seats all the way into Waverley.

 

 

first published in Southlight Magazine, 2017

The Argument

The Argument


The Argument

 

Sometimes it’s as though we’re cradling it,

nurturing it gently, nomads with a flame,

carrying it with us, between us, wherever we go.

 

How carefully we feed it when necessary:

a dry fist of kindling to make the sore,

red embers burst back into life again;

 

a brooding log to see us through the night;

the quick volleys of our breathing, spat as words,

the oxygen it would perish without.

 

 

first published in Shot Glass Journal, issue #22, 2017

Béchamel Sauce

Bechamel Sauce


Béchamel Sauce

Somewhere within me I rarely choose to visit,
I suspect this is perhaps not going to work, and

she’s insisting it should only ever be made
with all-purpose flour, though I’ve been

coping fine with cornflour, or store-brand
packet mixes for years, and it comes out OK

three, possibly, four times out of seven.
And everything in her kitchen matches like

it was all bought with a flawless shrug
and a customary swipe of the store card.

But then we share uncannily similar tastes
in music – Wagner, Kid Creole – and I like

the way she likes the way I smell, even if
I don’t. I’m rafted to this quaint belief that

if you put the work in, there’s no limit
to the lumps that can’t be smoothed out.

 

first published in Cacti Fur, 2016

The Interpreter’s House

TIH1
This week I received a copy of issue 66 of The Interpreter’s House magazine, which – as well as being a lovely thing – contains a poem of mine entitled “Up at Nancy’s”.

It’s amazing to be in the company of so many stellar poets, and I’m very grateful to the editorial team of TIH for choosing to include my poem. Subscriptions to the magazine – as well as copies of individual issues – can be purchased here.