Wednesday, 16 November 2011

From the Shore

On the 13th November, In the Voodoo Rooms above the Café Royal in Edinburgh, the Shore Poets celebrated 20 years of existence. Poems and music by the Kitchen Stools, Jim Glen, Minnow, and Brighde Caimbeul with Jim Wilson as compère extraordinaire.

Brighde Caimbeul, Angus Peter Campbell's daughter was the star, for me, playing extraordinarily good bagpipes. It was the first time I heard her father read, and that too, was impressive.

Photo of Brighde courtesy of Fin Wycherley

Photos of all the other readers, musicians, compères and commenters can be seen here.

Ken Cockburn asked all of us current or former Shore Poets to supply a memory of past readings.

A couple of my personal favourites are below [they're anonymous so I can't credit the writers].

Those occasions in the Canon's Gait when a reading seems about to be transformed into a sonata for human voice, telephone and till, plus choral improvisations from the upstairs bar.

At the Fruitmarket Gallery, the curiously endearing sound of trains shaking the postcard stands.

Someone and I can't remember who it was, mentioned being introduced by someone, as being a member of the Shore Porters! I like this very much. It combines the idea of carrying, bearing as in the bearers of a tradition, mingling responsibility with a down to earth quality, a practical bardicness, nothing flighty or off-planet here, but a humble craft-making as well as service to the community, lightly silvered with the misty liminal quality of shore and all that that entails – blurred boundaries, shadowy outlines where the material mixes with something less tangible.

Christine de Luca, Peter Cudmore, Ian McDonough and various others have worked hard to create the CD, From the Shore, to mark the 20th anniversary. The fantastic cover photo is by James Christiethe words and music are good too!

The poems on the CD can be read on the website, by clicking on the names listed on the right. I remember hearing Mark Ogle reading English Rain, about fifteen years ago and being struck by the poem's ability to evoke a powerful nostalgia, even then, even in someone who spends as much time as possible getting away from this climate! It has now become the literary equivalent of an icon, and evokes nostalgia in all of us. Mark died in 1999.

English Rain by Mark Ogle

I want today to close with English Rain
Tapping on my window in the four o’clock gloom.
I want Wellington boots, damp coats in a hallway
And to fight from a warm room against a screaming seawind
To the poached puddled gateways of fields
Where mud flanked cattle wait at winter’s end for hay.
I want trousers soaked to the thighs
From walking in the long grass
In fine misty rain that doesn’t fall
But fastens glistening droplets to my clothes and skin
And to listen to the sucking sounds of meadows as they drain.
I want to come home early from work in the afternoon
Because of the rain and sit with a book by the fire
And hear the words ‘Attention all shipping’,
And glimpse pale blue through broken cloud
And hear brown water running loud
Through the streets of the village
During a lull in a three day gale.

Today on this parched dusty plain
I want rain to start falling and not to stop
Until trees take such deep root, they can only turn green
As they begin to do in England now,
Thanks to the English Rain.

Uttar Pradesh, March 1980

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