Monday, March 31, 2008

Shore Poets

I really enjoyed last night. I was first up, which was terrifying and good in equal measure.

Colin Will was there, as well as Alan Gay, Mike Davenport and Mary Johnstone from my Tyne and Esk poety group. And there were a few faces from the SPL School of Poets group too.

I think I read as well as I could have, and I got a lot of kind and complimentary comments afterwards. So another experience under my belt, and good practice for the National Galleries event in mid April.

I sometimes wonder why I do these things to myself, but secretly I know that challenging yourself is the best way to still feel like you are alive and engaged with life.

Though I must admit that at times I despair of this world, Tibet, Dafur, the Middle East, Zimbabwe...

But this morning there is glimmer of hope for Zimbanwe. Let's hope its long trial is about to end. The average life expectancy for a woman there has fallen from 67 to 34! Its people deserve so much more than that. It is a rich land in many ways - may today be the start of better things.

Photo is of St Mary's Pleasance, Haddington at the height of the summer. We're on our way back!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Posted Missing

Sorry I've not been around. I had my son and his girlfriend staying for Easter, so access to the 'puter has been limited. And if I'm honest I've not really felt much like posting.

It was my birthday this week, something I don't complain about any more and my good friend June sent me a really cheeky birthday card, the gist of which was that only the good die young - but old bitches last forever, so I should be safe for good while yet! I must admit it gave me a good laugh.

I bought some more plants for the garden with my birthday cash, a swanky new dahlia that has gorgeous marbled flowers, a new form to me of echinacea, which has yellow flowers, and some unusual salad crops, peas and S American edible tubers called ulluco . (Click the link to read a great piece on them by Daughter of the Soil at her wonderful veg gardening blog.)I look forward to receiving and planting them.

Colin and I have finished editing the Heart Notes pamphlet and he's taking it to the printers on Monday. He's put information about it up on the Calder Wood Press site, including Judi Benson's review. See here for details and look under new and recent publications -there's even a photo of me!.

I hope to read three poems from it at the Shore Poets open mike night tomorrow, assuming all has gone well with my name being added to the list!

I rehearsed them with Colin last week, and I've been working on my reading technique a lot since seeing and hearing all the wonderful readers at Stanza.

I can't believe March is all but over, although I do welcome the longer light that today brings. I must say the older I get the tougher the long dark winters get. I hope that once my husband retires we will be able to can split our time between two locations, Scotland spring/summer and somewhere light and sunny autumn/winter. I yearn to be a snow bird!

The photo is of sheep feeding on a field of turnips.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Lady Catherine had these lovely hellebores on display in a bowl of water. I thought I'd share them with you. You really get to see their beauty like this.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Just a quick post to say I'm the land of the living. I had a lovely week last week.
Cambo was great. N and I helped sort snowdrops in the green to go out to meet orders from all around the world. N said it was like taking part in the tobacco factory scene in Carmen.

Stanza was good. So much to relate, but I feel like I've eaten a large meal that I need time to digest. The Penelope Shuttle masterclass was very good, Annie Freud and a few other notable poets sat in on it in the audience, which was great.
And Janice Galloway on the poet Lear was a highlight, her knowledge, level of research and performance were all amazing.

Also really enjoyed the Tess Gallagher on Raymond Carver session. Her reading of Last Fragment, Carver's last poem, to close the session moved me to tears. She said she had four years of treatment for breast cancer herself, and that she used to give out this poem as a kind of balm to patients and nurses alike.

My friend Joanne is now in hospital and very close to death and it seems such a perfect way to think of her:

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

August Kleinzahler’s reading was the real tour de force of the whole festival.
He reads brilliantly, his stance at the mike reminded me of a boxer. Get a flavour of his prose writing here

I came home to find I've got a Special Merit place in the unpublished section of the Scottish National Galleries poetry competition, you had to write a poem based on a piece of art in the national collection. I did mine on a Scottish painting from the 1860s called The Hind's Daughter, which was painted locally by one of the Glasgow Boys. I've added it at the top of this post. It attracts me because it raises more questions than it answers, and the poem is about that. They're putting all the poems on the competition website, so I'll add the link when that happens.
Rob and Alan Gay are both runners up in the published poets section - for more info click on Rob's name and read his entry for yesterday.

I'm nursing a cold, no doubt picked up in Fife, and contending with a field mouse in the kitchen. I keep roaring "Thomas!" but as I don't have a cat, just a daft scaredy-cat dog, nothing happens, other than me jumping up on the nearest chair! My husband caught it in a humane trap when I was away, but it's come right on home. We may need to revert to a real mouse trap......

Friday, March 07, 2008

Feeling Better

Thankfully my headache has finally lifted, I had a sinus infection, and I can bear to look at the computer screen again!

Now getting ready for my volunteer days at Cambo and attending Stanza. Turns out my friend from Skye will also be at Cambo, so that will be great fun, as we normally only meet to garden at Drum, in Aberdeenshire.

I can't wait for the Raymond Carver session at Stanza. Prior to the headache I re-read A New Path to the Waterfall and loved it as much as ever, and found new things to take from it. It will be a personal highlight of the week for me.

I've finally finished weeding all the paths in my garden. They are now clear, if rather muddy, but the clean lines do set of the borders much better, and I managed to clear loads of a really pesky weed - the water aven, related to cultivated geum, but not as pretty.

And the Imperial Fritillaries are through, and they are providing foxy notes below the sweet scent of the daphne.

Their smell always reminds me of the time my brother and I spent on a Dutch bulb farm when we were teenagers. The sheds had all sorts of machinery to grade the different sizes of bulbs, but the underlying smell was always of Imperial Fritillaries. (We went there as a Dutch family used to come to Ayrshire to buy stock snowdrops from all the estates round us to improve the genetic mix of their stock plants and they stayed at my parents hotel. The two families got friendly and they invited us over for a few weeks one summer.)

This is a photo of an orange one from my garden.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Thirty Words Post/Taking a leaf out of Lucy's book.

Brain feels scattered and in need of a defrag! Moved by Joanne gracious acceptance of her situation. Feel the need to gather myself and sort out what's important once again!.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

For all mothers on Mother's Day

This is lifted from Karine Polwart's myspace blog With thanks to Karine for the pleasure of reading this and then hearing these women sing. I hope she doesn't mind the cut and paste job.

" as nothing as we are

Why tell our story?

because we have nothing else to leave:
ours is the legacy of women who have fought and cried
worked and suffered
laughed and sung
and always have lived for things that today seem
obvious, granted

Why tell our story?

for our children and other people's children
for music and song to be true to their meaning
and for the words not to get lost in the wind

Why tell our story?

for humbleness, self-sacrifice
for faith in a different world never to leave us
for the conquest of one's own space
for one's own essence not to get lost in the short lived lights of a stage,
an album

Why tell our story?

for the love in our memories to become a reason to fight for the dignity of men
for their ideals
for the sense of justice that we must tend as one would tend a young rice plant

Why tell this story?

because we too,
as small as we are,
as nothing as we are,
are a root of the story of those who will come after us

and we like to think we have not been useless ...

So began one of the most moving musical performances I've ever seen in my life: the Scottish debut, at Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, of the remarkable Coro delle Mondini di Novi di Modena - The Rice Weeders Choir of Modena. Formed originally around a group of women who lived and toiled together on the rural rice fields of northern Italy during the second world war, they sound, even still, many of them into their eighties, like they're singing for their lives, because there was a time when they truly were.

The songs they sing are not only songs of love and longing for the homes from which so many of them were forcibly separated, or swaggering songs of obvious cheek, but also partisan songs, songs of freedom, for many of the women risked their lives in those rice fields in active opposition to the fascism which consumed Italy during the 1940s. And the bonds of friendship they formed with each other in the fields transformed into some of the strongest bonds of the burgeoning Italian labour movement of the day.

Nowadays, the half a dozen or so original choir members are joined on stage by their daughters, the youngest of whom is nearly fifty years old, and they're all dressed up in shorts, shirts, shifts and sunhats, as if to go right out into the fields to weed, but for the shiny pink lycra leggings that hint at the craic they'll be having later on that night at the festival club with a great deal of whisky ...

Even without a word of Italian, none of the joy, sorrow, passion or anger of those songs was lost on the Glasgow audience."

See them sing here.