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sisters & sparrows

Poetry. Photography. Life.

Category Archives: places

Oh readers, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  This has been a tough week of churning out essays and poems, going to meetings, organising people, deadlines and so on.  But tomorrow I am going home, for better or for worse (at least as far as the essays are concerned) for my sister’s 30th.  It will be wonderful.  The whole brigade is going to upend itself into a big house on the outskirts of Hay-On-Wye, and, if all goes to plan, I will have done sufficient work to not have to take any with me.  God willing (will it, oh do).

(And by the way, meet Globe Team.  My friend Sonia and I are co-ordinating this motley (lovely) crew for the next three terms.)

I’ll leave you with a poem.  It’s an ‘alternative love poem’ (a recent assignment).  I have to admit to reusing material from an old defunct poem.   It worked somehow.

I’ll be back to normal blogging capacity in a few more days.

 

Hawk

 

the dawn happened with a peachy growl

pavements became real

and each leaf defined itself.

I saw

a dark wing on blessed

unholy sky, a virgin blue.

mist off the river veiled

the all-knowing eye,

a sudden dive –

hark!

rustle of ice-clasped air

fierce, unknown panic,

 

soft implode of scudding blood.

 

in the same way, unexpectedly,

my belly unearthed itself

when I glimpsed you

darkly through a window.

 

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I was away for the weekend, back in the shire for a training weekend with Christian Union mates.  But I’m back and now facing the toughest three weeks of this term.  Two essays to do, and tons of stuff with CU to sort out.  I’m gritting my teeth.

{Photo courtesy of my mate Josh}

IN OTHER NEWS. If you are in the UK, click this LINK.  It is to a brilliant company called Graze.  You will get delicious free food delivered to your door, no snags, and I will get me a nifty discount.  Do, oh do.  Please, oh please.

More on topic, I’ve been mulling over the subject of my fat 5000 word poetry assignment which I have to do soon.  I want to do it on something which is really going to interest me, something I can sink my teeth into, so that those 5000 words aren’t unnecessarily deadly.  So.  I’m going to write it about God, and poetry – the harmonies and conflicts between Christianity and literature.  Religious poetry.  The presence of the divine in contemporary poetry.  Or something of that ilk.  I had a massive meeting with my poetry tutor and she gave me some names… among them, Michael Symmons Roberts.  I think I’m going to buy a few collections because the couple of poems I read were wonderful.  Here’s one.

 

Jairus

So, God takes your child by the hand
and pulls her from her deathbed.
He says: ‘Feed her, she is ravenous.’

You give her fruits with thick hides
– pomegranate, cantaloupe –
food with weight, to keep her here.

You hope that if she eats enough
the light and dust and love
which weave the matrix of her body

will not fray, nor wear so thin
that morning sun breaks through her,
shadowless, complete.

Somehow this reanimation
has cut sharp the fear of death,
the shock of presence. Feed her

roast lamb, egg, unleavened bread:
forget the herbs, she has an aching
fast to break. Sit by her side,

split skins for her so she can gorge,
and notice how the dawn
draws colour to her just-kissed face.

 

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I told you I’d tell you about Ynyslas.  Well, this is the legend {via here}:

This land used to be the Cantre’r Gwaelod, which extended some 20 miles west of the current shoreline into what is now Cardigan Bay, and was ruled as part of the Kingdom of Meirionnydd by Gwyddno Garanhir (Longshanks), born circa 520 AD.

The land was said to be extremely fertile, so much so that it was said that any acre there was worth four acres elsewhere. The catch was that the land depended on a dyke to protect it from the sea. The dyke had sluice gates that were opened at low tide to drain the water from the land, and closed as the tide returned.

Around 600 AD, one night a storm blew up from the south west, driving the spring tide against the sea walls. The appointed watchman, Seithennin, a heavy drinker and friend of the King, was at a party in the King’s palace near Aberystwyth. Some say he fell asleep due to too much wine or that he was too busy having fun to notice the storm and to shut the sluices.

The water gates were left open, and the sea rushed in to flood the land of the Cantref, drowning over 16 villages. The King and some of his court managed to escape by running to safety along Sarn Cynfelin, Gwyddno Garahir and his followers were forced to leave the lowlands and make a poorer living in the hills and valleys of Wales.

Another, more bawdy version, maintains that Seithennin was a visiting local King, who, at the time of the storm, was intent on amorously distracting the fair maiden Mererid, who was in charge of the sluice gates. Successful in his mission, Mererid was therefore unable to shut the gates, and the land was flooded.

Here’re my thoughts on the matter:

Cantre’r Gwaelod

by Francesca Fletcher

 

A dull day, studded with slack clouds.

The sun went like the belly of a fish

Across the sand and the fat mulch

At the edge of the spent waves

Made a damp thweat when we kicked it.

We gleaned scraps of driftwood,

Heart shaped stones, watched worms

Slide in and out of the grit.

We walked quickly and sometimes

Some rain fell from the sky

Or upwards from the sea

With that kind of panting wind

 

That catches you and spins you into euphoria.

The land was on our right shoulder.

It was a lonely arm.  All that was on it

Was the chewed ends of ice-pops

One green adder and miles of fence.

Some dead holiday homes too,

But I ignored those.

 

The tide was dragging back as we went

So that before we reached Ynyslas

The drowned forest was undrowned

Naked under the cold appraisal of the sun

The stumps, now stone, stared

Out of their wallowy green pools

Vined with slime.  They were surrounded

By sinking sand. We got an eyeful

And swapped stories about how it happened

This devouring of the land by the sea.

 

We had to walk five miles back

Against the wind. We left the dead trees like

Dead welsh kings on the cold shore

To be reswallowed.

 

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Jonathan Bate (a legend) gave our John Clare lecture today.  Clare was a peasant poet, very little educated, but with a brilliant talent.  He loved his small patch of countryside in Northamptonshire and rarely ventured outside it, so his poetry has a sense of being strongly rooted in place.  He was really experimental with traditional forms, a lot of his work is really structurally interesting.  He kept publishing until he went mad in the 1890s at which point he was clapped up in an asylum by his publisher and his wife, until his death.  He had some bizarre delusions.  He thought he was Byron.  He thought he had two wives.  He thought he was Nelson as well.

Still, he was a really great poet.

I have finished (maybe) my City poem.

It’s called London.  Not very original.

The city churns into the skyline

Scattering starlings

With its raging towers, its black glass.

Its dark foundations

In the shivering underground

Are unstable,

Stretched tangled under the floodplain

Buried dank and hot under miles of rock.

But —In places the city spools

Coolly into glimpses of silence

Where white buildings harbour philosophies

Against flood and fire.

There, aching bodies snatch

Moments of rest.

Still the roads everywhere

The circuses, gardens, strands and streets

Encircling, throttling, hurtling out and beyond

Lined with roaring traffic

And a great human groan of desperation.

A billion souls litter this place.

Money money money. Some buildings

Scream it, their blank glass pulsing with money

The business men pouring

Into their devouring mouths –

The clicking of their shoes says money.

And some places destitute screaming

A different kind of money – a plea this time

Or new kind of holy,

Sanctified by smoke and crack cocaine.

In crumbling doorways

The righteous young women with five babies.

It is a place of wonder.  This city.

Back to back the howling cabs.

The druggies yowling hunched on benches

And ambitious women sobbing in public bathrooms

The hunched black backs of the commuters

Forming a moving mass, a Roman

Defence against poverty and the elements,

The glittering street performers,

The hippies, punks and peace protesters,

The tattoo parlours

The million types of food

And the dark spires and the river.

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London was very busy! and quite fun.  It’s such a brilliant and thrilling city, I was just gutted I didn’t get to spend a bit more time there.  Still, it does feel like a kind of alternate reality and i’m kind of relieved to get back.  The poem has nowhere near taken form.

millenium bridge

the ice rink at somerset house

my sister, posing obligingly

hundreds of santas on the underground

In other news, EJD and I did find a house on friday.  It’s a minuscule flat – dark and cramped BUT warm and modern and in the best location ever, right off the top of the parade.  Also it has a bath, an epic bonus.  And we have it to ourselves, which is kind of unusual for uni but i think it will be really fun.  No more boys playing fifa on the xbox for a start.  We can listen to Nina Simone and dance around to Michael Bublé to our hearts’ content!

So because it’s a tiny space I’ve been thinking about how we can make it really cool and practical.  Reassured by this post I got all excited about space-saving solutions and already can’t wait for that all-important trip to ikea.

Two weeks on camp in Albania, a week in the lakes with friends, a couple of family weddings, and a trip to the city.