Been far too long since I blogged: life’s been busy and I’ve been concentrating on fitting in poetry writing when I can – mostly inspired by Jo Bell’s ongoing 52 project. 52 has kicked my poetry up a gear (well, I think so, and that’s what matters) and I’m not sure I could have written the poem I mention next without its impetus:
Absolutely delighted to have a poem, Cwmmy Crab, in the first poems to go live on Ledbury Poetry Festival’s Poetry Orchard blog project, mentored by Paul Henry. An honour to be in the company of Sharon Larkin, John Edwards, Simon Barraclough, Jane Spray, Brenda Read-Brown, Paul Adrian, Christine Stibbards, Jonathan Mayman and Paul Henry himself. The first workshop’s brief was to personify a Herefordshire apple variety – to write as if that name were a person – in a similar way to that in which The Spoon River Anthology, 1915, by Edgar Lee Masters used fictional characters’ grave stone epitaphs to recreate a community in poetry. The Ledbury project brief has been widened to using one of apple’s names as the title for a poem, a springboard to something based on the area and/or apples/orchards.
Cwmmy Crab was a poem I struggled to write so I’m particularly glad it’s found its home on the project site. I tend to gather connections, basic facts, other notes for a poem idea before a line or an image drops into my mind and the poem itself sparks into life. With Cwmmy Crab I had a feeling for the character and atmosphere I wanted, an idea that it would be across the seasons, but no concrete image nor line came to mind for several weeks. I ended up with twelve pages of assorted notes (including a four page print-out of Wikipedia’s list of Herefordshire place names; how prosaic!) before, up early on a visit to old friends in rural Devon, the chorus repeat arrived. By breakfast I had the bones of a poem, suitably earthy; it then took a great deal of shaping and polishing and a little help from friends (thanks to Jen McGowan, in particular) to get to its submitted version as a dance.
Here are the first two verses (if you want to read the other two verses, and all the other poems, see the LPF Poetry Orchard blog):
A stitchwort shift, a bluebell shawl,
I’ll cast aside in dancing;
hart’s tongue moist, fox gloves tall,
blossom frail, confetti fall,
I’m eager for the asking.
For I can call the fat cuckoo
from Broomy Hill to Dol-y-Cannau;
smooth frogspawn for my lover’s pillow
down in Dinedor’s dells.
Eels easy slip damp meadows soft;
barn owls ghost, unseen;
badgers dig for brooding wasps,
scatter paper, fluster moths,
to feast upon a queen.
For I can see fey gloworms beckon
along faint tracks from Leinthall Starkes,
sisters beyond coiled adders’ bracken
down in Llangarron’s valley.
This week the bluebells are almost out up here on the Hills. Old Hollow is dusted with a blue haze and Black Hill will soon be a mass of flowers.
Here’s a Cwmmy Crab-ish picture of stitchwort and bluebells:
Here’s Old Hollow recently, steaming in the morning sunshine: