Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Emily D

Something to savour until I can get a post together:

A single Screw of Flesh
Is all that pins the Soul
That stands for Deity, to Mine,
Upon my side the Veil --

Once witnessed of the Gauze --
Its name is put away
As far from mine, as if no plight
Had printed yesterday,

In tender -- solemn Alphabet,
My eyes just turned to see,
When it was smuggled by my sight
Into Eternity --

More Hands -- to hold -- These are but Two --
One more new-mailed Nerve
Just granted, for the Peril's sake --
Some striding -- Giant -- Love --

So greater than the Gods can show,
They slink before the Clay,
That not for all their Heaven can boast
Will let its Keepsake -- go

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saving the best 'til last

I love September. today a friend and I walk in the Lammermuirs, where we spotted grouse and a bunch of guinea fowl that have gone native. Then we called in at the Pleasance to see the work I'd been involved in there and picked the last of the mulberries, as they were quite literally falling off the trees in front of our eyes.

This is a set of photos from my own garden, where things are really starting to colour up. Not a lot else to report on the Apprentice front, but sometimes it is good to just stop and stare.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


A friend got a call from the library service yesterday, to say she would need to come in to help her son complete his request for a book or language course on Introductory Polish.

My friend was rather taken aback at this, as she had no idea that her ten year old boy had a yen to learn the language. So when he came home from school she asked him what it was all about.

Apparently the school have a buddying/mentor service where older pupils look out for new pupils during their first weeks. And L's boy has been asked to look after a five year old Polish boy, who speaks little or no English. So he thought he had better try and learn some basic Polish to help the wee boy, and had called in at the library on the way home!

L said when he told her she didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

The weather here has been glorious for three days running, so I've been harvesting my crops and taking lovely walks, while it lasts. I've also been putting in some Spring bulbs and wallflowers, to brighten up the front garden in the Spring and digging out some things from the back garden that have got too big for their boots - including a lovely inula that seeds itself around much too freely. And I've also been getting treatment on my neck and shoulder, which are rather stiff and sore, but responding to physio.

PS pond programme airs tonight, see here

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gap in my education

I'm a member of the Scottish Poetry Library and regularly borrow books from their wonderful collection. I recently borrowed Jean Valentine's Door in the Mountain and I must admit to being completely blown away. I have never read any of her work before, but I find her style and use of language astounding and compelling.

Adrienne Rich says of her, "This is poetry of the highest order, because it lets us into spaces and meaning we couldn't approach in any other way. The known and familiar become one with the mysterious and half-wild, at the place where consciousness and the subliminal meet."

I particularly love this poem Inkwell daybreak


The Hawthorn Robin Mends With Thorns, which isn't on line, but begins:

Talking to Mary about 1972:
like a needle
through my 25-years-
older breast my years thinner rib....

If you get the chance read her work, you won't be disappointed. And take a closer look at her site on the link I provided, which includes readings and pdf's of some poems in this collection.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Nice things have been happening to me this last wee while, some which will bear fruit later on.

But one is right here, right now and that is Rachel Fox's kind and considered review of Heart Notes. I'm am really grateful to her for taking the time to write the piece and for her take on my poetry.
I'm just off the phone with a fellow poet who is at the "why bother" stage at present. I was able to tell her what she told me a few months ago, which is that it is a discipline and that there are always times of discouragement and you therefore need to learn to enjoy the occasional upside.
I'm very grateful to Rachel for providing me with this one - I will treasure it, as well as working hard to convert her to a love of roses.

Friday, September 04, 2009


We've had terrible weather, the river was within a gnat's crotchet of bursting its banks last night. I'm so glad I no longer live on the floodplain!

I hope it is a better day tomorrow, as a friend and I are going up to Callander for the Poetry Scotland weekend. If I was a swallow I'd bugger off now......

and here's exhibit A:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Over her shoulder

Recently a woman who had bought a copy of my series poem Peeling Onions came up to me at an event and said she didn't know whether to give it to her friend who was living with breast cancer as, "she just seems to have thrown cancer over her shoulder".

I didn't really know what to say to her, though I did privately wonder if she had actually asked the woman concerned if this is how she truly how felt.

I don't really talk about the disease that much myself these days, except when check ups/anniversaries come around, or to my two cancer buddies N & M, who both know what I'm talking about. But a couple of weeks ago I read an interview with Sarah Gabriel whose book Eating Pomegranates deals with "surviving" BRCA breast cancer (and yes there are several different kinds of the disease).

I want to quote this bit of the full interview, which is available on the clickable link, as it comes close to expressing my own experience with mood while in treatment:

"The volatility of mood that can come with cancer is not really talked about. I don't think I've done a very good job at being honest about that.

I tell her I think the truth is quite to the contrary. I stop short of saying that her caustic rage described in the book led to me dreading our meeting, and unsure about whether to meet her illness with hesitant delicacy or matter-of-fact acceptance.

Both approaches anger her at various points on the page. Sometimes it is a look from another mother on the school run - either real or imagined. Sometimes it is an attempt to chivvy her into optimism: "Be positive!" "Everything will be OK!" There are some shocking comments; for instance, from the woman who says that Gabriel's cancer might have been caused by the stress of deadlines (Gabriel is a freelance journalist) or the Jungian who talks about the "cancer personality". All in all, save for the kindly band of mothers who cooked for her and looked after her children, society as a whole comes across as pretty lacking: "Until going through it myself, I would have belonged to that wounding tribe of people I describe in my book who would have tried to be kind but have actually been in flight," she says (my emphasis). "Why is cancer still so scary, compared with heart disease or a broken leg? Why can we still not ask straightforward questions about it, and handle it, like other illnesses?"

Last night I found this poem, by Marilyn Hacker, in a book lent to me by a poet friend, and it goes out to all those I know who have come through the experience of cancer, even those who appear to have thrown it over the shoulder. Personally the only thing I ever throw over my shoulder is pointless regret and my prosthesis of an evening. (BTW a mastectomy bra is a great place to keep your i-pod, or camera lens cover and filters )


This is for Elsa, also known as Liz,
an ample-bosomed gospel singer: five
discrete malignancies in one full breast.
This is for auburn Jacqueline, who is
celebrating fifty years alive,
one since she finished chemotherapy.
with fireworks on the fifteenth of July.
This is for June, whose words are lean and mean
as she is, elucidating our protest.
This is for Lucille, who shines a wide
beam for us with her dark cadences.
This is for long-limbed Maxine, astride
a horse like conscience. This is for Aline
who taught her lover how to caress the scar.
This is for Eve, who thought of AZT
while hopeful poisons pumped into a vein.
This is for Nanette in the Midwest.
This is for Alicia, shaking back dark hair,
dancing one-breasted with the Sabbath bride.
This is for Judy on a mountainside,
plunging her gloved hands in a glistening hive.
Hilda, Patricia, Gaylord, Emilienne,
Tania, Eunice: this is for everyone
who marks the distance on a calendar
from what's less likely each year to "recur."
Our saved-for-now lives are life sentences
- which we prefer to the alternative.