It makes a space I can step into
where there is room for me.
It is a journey which holds me,
like the arms of trees.
They bend, they shift slightly,
with the weight, they rock
a little, to accommodate
the fingertips, pressing space
to mould the shapes of words.
When I heard your voice
I knew it was a boat
I could step into; there was
space for me to stretch
my limbs and words; not sink,
but float, on this slow
and gentle barge.
(included in the collection The Way Words Travel)
|Illustration to Water Barge by Meg Watson (1950 - 2002)|
Years ago a group of us exhibited during the Edinburgh Festival, in a small space called the Blue Dolphin Gallery, with whitewashed walls, which we decorated with various wall hangings. Paintings, textiles and poems hung on the walls, sculptures lurked in corners and were displayed in the window. We called it Venus Rising and had a private view at 8.30 am (because that’s when the planet Venus was rising over the Ascendent, or horizon). We offered people coffee and croissants and a surprising number of people, considering the early hour, turned up, lured no doubt by the promise of free croissants. In the evenings we persuaded our musician friends to come and perform so there was live music with some poetry thrown in. It was a lot of fun and though some pictures and books were sold, that was a bonus. The main purpose was to exhibit and perform our work, and get together with our friends. Forest Dream Weaver was one of the group, as was Meg, who sadly is no longer with us. She designed this illustration for the poem Water Barge and I felt she captured the spirit of the words just perfectly.
I was thinking about illustrations this evening, as I’m designing and printing cards with short poems (quintas) and accompanying photographs, for the Callander Poetry Festival this weekend. How extraordinary it can feel, when an artist takes your words and translates them into their own vision, their own interpretation.
The train wound through the bare brown mountains,
the carriage icy cold; he ate salty cheese, flat bread,
stepped out into freezing fog. He headed south.
His tent was ripped apart, his papers lost,
possessions gone - except the book of poetry -
a little creased and stained, but still there.
Later – the heat, the flies, the fever.
Back in winter, he breaks the film of ice
over water in a brass pot,
on a rooftop in Baluchistan.
When the dust storm covers mountains, rooftop,
he covers his mouth, to breathe air, not grit -
in a bare room with no lamp,
the book breathes for him
the lines become the breath.
|Illustration to The Traveller by Katerine Loineau|
I felt very lucky too, that Katerine Loineau chose to illustrate The Traveller, both words and image included in La Traductière30, published earlier this year in Paris. The theme for this year’s issue of the magazine, which is bi-lingual, so English contributions are translated into French, and vice versa, was the Poetry Reader. I wrote the poem in the third person but it was my own experience I was describing. From travelling in the east, a long time ago. So we turn our experience of the past into stories which emerge in the present, which then feed other memories. Past and present and no doubt future too, all seem to be interweaving in a continual dynamic activity.