Saltmarsh thoughts

IMG_1487It’s been a week or so since I journeyed up to the Solway coast to take part in a creative writing day organised by Cumbria Wildlife Trust at RSPB Campfield Marsh. As you might be able to tell from these images (easier with the colour one, admittedly), it was a glorious late-spring/early-summer day of high pressure weather, sunshine and stillness. A real blessing. With the tide wholly out, exposing the saltmarsh and mudflats to their fullest extent, the sense of openness and space was remarkable, and the beginnings of the Galloway hills across the border loomed almost reachable on the horizon.

Writer and blogger Ann Lingard, who was running the event, encouraged us to spend plenty of time out in the estuary amongst the mud and the marsh, exploring, observing and making notes, before gathering us again to compare findings and take part in a couple of writing exercises. She also took the time to share her extensive knowledge of both the microfauna that calls the place home, and the history of the immediate area. I doubt I could identify again (or even find) any of the critters we were introduced to, but at least I have no excuses anymore.

I’ve found myself regularly revisiting and reprocessing the experience in my head ever since. It would be untrue to say that I’ve used the notes I made to create anything of substance – poetry, fiction, whatever. It’s still just a jumble of notes. Had I expected it to be otherwise? I can’t honestly say. But I do know that something far more valuable has occurred to me in the meantime.

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I’m fascinated by the creative process – by what it is about us that makes us creative and makes us create (or else allows us to think we aren’t and stop ourselves). And how the germination of ideas takes place. What I’ve realised is how rarely I grant myself the gift of spending time simply looking at things, at what’s really there. Not only looking, but also using every other sense in a deliberate, conscious way. It’s an incredibly precious gift, but for me, it has to come without any hint of agenda. There must be no pressure, no compulsion to write about the observations – the sensations – as a result.

I either write or think about writing every single day (the latter occurs much more often!), but I almost never see or experience something and then sit down to try and write coherently about it straight away. Instead, whatever seeds have been sown usually have to sit there and fester first – for years, even – before a thing I might think of as ‘poetry’ happens.

But I have to gather those seeds, raw materials. I’ve never known precisely where poems and their ideas originate (I have a clue…) but I know that in order for the whole process to keep rolling, I need to continue to be as open and receptive to the world as I can. So I’ve made a promise that I’m going to give myself the gift of taking a look around much more often.

 

 

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Featured Poet in Northampton Poetry Review, Issue 2

NPR2It’s a real honour to be part of the second issue of the Northampton Poetry Review, and in particular to have been chosen as Featured Poet for this issue.

I’m very grateful to editors Tom and Philippa Harding for finding space to include five of my poems – Winter Fire, October, Sunshine, Holly and Putting back the clocks.

This issue is a fine collection of work from a very talented group of writers, and I’m sure  NPR will become a well-established and admired publication over the next few years.

In the moment

In the moment

In the moment

The kids are in love, and so sweetly
you can see it melting out of them,
see gravity getting smashed into
a million pieces beneath their feet
as they bounce along, occasionally
touching down because they can.

In their free hands, the ones not
holding the other’s, they clutch balloons
painted in colours we can no longer see,
inflated with their restless thoughts of
an unmapped future, raw materials
yet to be processed into anxieties.

Don’t you remember the first days of our
being? The damage we caused to gravity?
Our balloons? How the brilliant shock
of it interrupted time itself, and made
the future evaporate, while we failed to
notice ourselves not breathing properly?

 

first published in Tales from the Forest, Issue 5, 2017

“Getting on” published at After the Pause

After the PauseThe Fall 2017 issue of After the Pause is now live, and features one of my poems, “Getting on”. You’ll have to scroll through to page uu (otherwise known as 47 – you’ll understand when you get there!) to find it, although there’s plenty of great poetry, flash fiction and artwork to grab your interest both on the way and beyond.

My thanks go out to After the Pause editor Michael Prihoda for choosing to include the poem.