MEETUPS : January
PROJECT :Now in Ravenstonedale (working title): to develop a sequence which might become a pamphlet, but would certainly explore a particular theme.
QUOTE: ‘In my room, the world is beyond my understanding
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.’
Wallace Stevens, Of the Surface of Things
The idea stems from a short sequence of poems begun last summer in Ravenstonedale. I mean to expand this, and explore the meaning, feeling and content of ‘now’, which is akin to what Virginia Woolf, in Mrs. Dalloway, called ‘this very moment’. But: this is not about epiphanies and ‘visionary gleams’ – though I don’t rule them out – but more the news ‘between the acts’ (Woolf again).
In August last year Ravenstonedale was included in the extension to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks but the area remains the least populous in England. We have a cottage on the edge of the village; long ago it was the blacksmith’s, attached to his smithy next door, which still has the wide arched doorway that once admitted his tall customers. Just up the road is the King’s Head, the one-time coaching inn. We live here (part time) on a road between two bridges over two becks, Steps Beck and the Scandal, which meet 100 yards further down to become Smardale beck. Most mornings, weather permitting, will find us with a mug of tea leaning on a bridge wall to inspect a beck, which can change from trickle to torrent in just a day.
I returned there last June after a long spell away. Winter and spring, I’d been preoccupied with the launch in Bath of my new book, A Touch on the Remote (http://www.worplepress.com/a-touch-on-the-remote/). Distances, in space and time, and how they may be crossed – or touched across – are its central themes; at the outset, in the first poem, I raise binoculars.
I arrived in Ravenstonedale this summer with a sense of relief, lightening, open to the immediate delights of seeding grasses, birdsong, becksong… close focussed on ‘this very moment’, windless or wild, sunny, unpredictable, lowering or wet. In such a spot, you feel more exposed, more susceptible to the moods and changes of weather, season and the natural world.
The ‘close-up’ poems that followed felt like a holiday and a way of loosening my pen just for the pleasure of it.
To develop a Project from here may well take me beyond Ravenstonedale, even back to Bath (for here I am), though I’ve kept a ‘Cott Log’ over 25 years, recording every day spent there, every walk. The Log runs to seven foolscap volumes, so might well reawaken countless moments, but I do want to write, out of an immediate and sensual presence. However, the ‘Log years’ emphasise for me the fundamental importance of the natural world, and our engagement with it, to our human and, yes, spiritual well-being.
QUOTE: ‘…the natural world is our natural home, it is the natural resting place for our psyches.’ Michael McCarthy, The Moth Snowstorm (Read this book!)