Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Shaping the Water Path - Prose Poems & Liminal Spaces

Bay near Kassiopi, north Corfu

The last two sections in Shaping the Water Path both have watery associations. In the Prose Poems the water themes embrace a river in the Scottish Highlands, the eponymous beck in the Cumbrian garden of the title, the view from a narrow boat on the Kennett & Avon canal, 

and the sea off the Kent coast.

As to why they are prose poems – well sometimes that's just how they come out. They have rhythms cadences and sometimes even rhymes, but not perhaps that sense of pause that
demands line breaks, grouping certain words together and separating others

For me the difference between prose writing & poetry (which includes prose poems) is that the latter seems to come from a different place. (Not everyone agrees with me on this. I remember talking about this different place of origin when I was giving a reading with another poet, who made it clear that for her, this was not the case at all). But that's how I experience it.  It was years later when I read Sherod Santos book A Poetry of Two Minds - and he seemed to agree with me. I wonder what other writers of both prose and poetry think?

Some call these different 'levels' of the mind the concrete mind and the metaphorical mind. The concrete mind is adept at the everyday tasks, it's the one that gets us from one place to another and that means we can navigate the stations and the ticket vendors, the shops, the bills etc. and it deals in cause and effect. The metaphorical mind on the other hand is at home in associations, whether in poetry or prose, it is more fluid, often working with images and it doesn't need cause and effect or a narrative, though it certainly can work with them too. But it often focuses on descriptions,
perceptions, states of being and consciousness.

The last section
Liminal describes those in-between places, shorelines, harbours, ports, thresholds between one element and another. 

Places or states of being that are not clearly one thing or another, shifting and mercurial, blurring boundaries between elements, terrain, moods and mindsets.

Reflections - Ionian Sea

And the Albanian Mountains
From Liminal:
Edward Lear's House in Corfu

I walk down a flight of steps,
through a narrow passageway,
come out on the waterfront
where the houses look towards the sea.

In the house with yellow walls
Edward Lear lived, painted,
traded insults with his manservant, the Souliote,
made wicked sketches of his neighbours -
learned Greek, wrote rhymes and nonsense,
made up words, wrote funny stories
so his friends would smile,
hid his afflictions, wept in solitude,
wrote about owls and pussycats
and pea green boats -
looking out over a sea of palest green -

Perhaps he too woke  in the night
to hear the squalling cats, the barking dogs,
the seagulls and the nesting herons -

The house beside the waterfront
has lemon yellow, slightly peeling walls,
closed shutters and an empty look -
in the evening the shadow of the little lamp
is thrown against the wall. 

Edward Lear's house, Corfu town

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A New Book - Shaping the Water Path

I've not been very good at promoting my work in the past, so I am trying to remedy this. Watching my publisher out of the corner of my eye, seeing all that she does on her blog, her websites (such as keep poems alive) her own books and writing, her publishing, her editing work (Poetry Scotland) her posts on twitter and facebook, her many readings, I am trying to learn. Sally is a true individual, always energetic, encouraging, hospitable (oh yes, there's the Callander Poetry Weekend which she organises and hosts). She is an Aries, bless them all, where would we be without them?

She has published my latest book of poems Shaping the Water Path (Diehard – Sally Evans and Ian King). I'm particularly pleased that they have brought this out as they published my very first book of poems, back in the last century (Deepwater Terminal) and because they are such fine people.

So I spent a lot of time working on these poems and images for the cover, at the end of last year. I had fun with the photographs, placing one over another.  The cover photos were taken by me and Sally made the final design. The larger backdrop one is the sea off the south coast of Crete, and the overlay one is of the performance room in the Art Book Museum, Lodz, Poland (which features in the prose piece the title is taken from). I played around with other possibilities, some of which are below.

The garden at Casterton with bridge over the beck, whose path was reshaped
The background here is the bay of Triopetra on the south coast of Crete, in black and white

Top photo:statue of the poet Julien Tuwim, the bottom one is the outside of the Art Book Museum, all in Lodz, Poland

Along with George Colkitto, whose book The Year of the Loch Diehard has also published, we gave a reading at the Blend Café in Paisley.

The title Shaping the Water Path comes from one of the prose pieces included in the book, written last year at Casterton. I also posted one of the poems here,  Guardians of Sea and Air.  Sally asked me for some local poems so the first section has poems from Scotland and the second, from England, Wales & Ireland.

But there would have to be a section of poems from elsewhere. Travel is always an inspiration for me, and wherever I am I'll write about the landscape either directly or as part of the environment I find myself in. And then there's the people, the fascinating characters you meet, such as Josip in Zagreb's train station, Georgio in Messolonghi, Amira in Carcassonne. Other places included here are Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, Kosovo and Albania.

George Colkitto reading at the Blend Cafe, Paisley

 Almost all of the poems in the book are recent ones from the past few years. One or two which Sally asked me to include are older, but only recently published – in Every Shade of Blue, which describes my travels with my musician friend John Renbourn. At that time I was immersed in so much wonderful music, it's not surprising that I found some poems coming out like songs. Recently, on a walk by a river I found a tune for one of them Café Impasse and turned it into a song. When I got home I found some chords that – more or less – went with the song, and I sang it at the Blend Café, the first time in many years, since I used to perform with our band Wolf Wind.

This is becoming much too long, so I'll leave a description of the other sections for another post.

And there was more music too from Wullie Purcell, in all a brilliant evening, with the après-reading (talk, wine, music and song) going on long into the night.

Wullie Purcell playing at the Blend cafe. Photo credit: Kathryn Metcalfe

The book is available from Diehard, address here, (or from me, same deal) for £5, (send a cheque) which includes postage. The ethos of this publisher and bookshop is to keep prices low – you can find amazing bargains in their second hand books (and I frequently do).