It’s the year’s midpoint; midsummer’s day. In Cumbria the longest day seems to be marking the end of a small but impressive heatwave: the storm arrived around the solstice hour itself. Today has been a mixture of warm rain and steaming sun.
Avoiding even touching on the state of the nation(s), it’s been an interesting few months.
One of the highlights of this Spring for me was reading with Emily Blewitt, Siobhan Campbell and Rhiannon Hooson at the Seren Poetry Gala at Hay Festival.
At home in Grasmere, we celebrated the launch of Basic Nest Architecture, with featured poets Mark Ward and Megan Beech, and a magnificent performance from Jenn Grant and her band. This still seems like a particularly unlikely dream.
Last week I travelled down to Cambridge for the Rialto Nature and Place Prize reading, which was a warm and inspiring event, championing the capacity for poetry to forge connections between humans and the non-human world.
From August onwards, I’m going freelance. I’m really looking forward to it, though not to the return of financial insecurity: it is a truth universally acknowledged that you can have time, or money, but not both. I’m hoping to use some of my time taking the book to exciting places, as well as working on various new writing projects. The rest of 2017 is already dotted with events near and far, including:
- Guest Poet reading at The Garsdale Retreat, on ‘Writing The Land: Crafting Poems from Inspired Communion’ with Helen Moore, Sedbergh, Wednesday August 23rd 2017.
- Reading for Caught by The River at The Good Life Experience, Hawarden Estate, Flintshire, Saturday September 16th, 2017.
- Durham Book Festival ‘Northern Poets’ event, Saturday October 14th. Details tbc.
- Reading at Kendal Mountain Festival. Details tbc.
- Throughout the autumn and winter I’m also going to running a monthly Poetry Reading Group in Dove Cottage for The Wordsworth Trust. It will be on the first Thursday of the month, October – March, 7.30-9pm (except January, when the cottage is closed). The poems will be picked to reflect the seasons, taking us from Autumn, through Midwinter and back out into Spring. No prior poetry reading experience necessary!
Here is a flashback to an earlier Summer Solstice, with less appropriate weather, and some things that may or may not have happened outside the poem.
from Basic Nest Architecture
We are drawn by a map of sweet ash winding
through the twilit streets. There should be three fires:
one of clean bones, one wood, one both.
We have only split logs and white wax to offer
and a tithe of furred moths, and a swan’s egg washed
to the shore in a flood, two days earlier.
We pass the sloshing oval from palm
to palm, cold as stone, full
of things that will not happen. We float
wreaths from the candle-lit jetty to the dark
fretful heart of deepest water;
bunches of foxgloves and elderflowers;
give ourselves to the lake to slake
the calamitous storms of the future; muttering
moonshine, mid-mid, most inclined,
axial tilt. We drink. We burn
the sickly half-year, leap the flames
solemn, hallooing. Our voices spin
round the dish of the vale, which is also a crater,
which is also a wheel. We want to sing
through the centre but the night is too light here, cloud
confusing the jagged horizon. We try
to feel it. 23.09. Maximum
cant. The exactness anachronistic.
Mid-mid most-inclined we chant
like a hymn or something older.
We will wash our faces with cold grey dew.
We will sleep with flowers pressed under our pillows.
We will run the streets naked at three in the morning,
the sun almost starting to rise.