Then spree

poetry & diary by Nia Davies

Tag: sea

Poetry from Shingle Street

Shingle Street coastguard cottages

Shingle Street coastguard cottages

Tomorrow I will be in London at the launch of the Poetry School’s Spring term. Myself and Amy Key will be reading and discussing poetry made at our residency at Shingle Street in Suffolk. Thanks to the Poetry School we spent a week there in November 2013 in one of the tiny coastguard cottages which are right out on the shingle beach in a remote but extremely atmospheric spot. The week was very creatively invigorating with lots of time to edit existing poems, write new work and also to discuss and think through ideas, techniques and poetics. We started with cut-up text exercises and moved on to discussing feeling, the problem with poetry of place, teen noir, friendship, childhood memory and more.

You can read our blogs which present drafts of poems and discuss their process on the Poetry School blog Campus. Firstly there is a Q&A, then there is my blog about ‘Feelings’ (with a poem draft and brief discussion of Clarice Lispector’s novel Near to the Wild Heart) and the poem draft and reflection ‘people on the beach’ which considers the shifting sense of place,  ‘nation’ and the militarised nature of the landscape. These poem drafts are very much works in process rather than finished articles, designed to open up the process for people to see inside it. Amy’s blogs include a reflection on writing poems in response to scent How I did it: Violet-among-the-harpsichord and a short interview about the residency which includes tips for poets who want to go on their own residencies.

And finally you can even listen to the music of our residency on this playlist! (Though unfortunately it lacks a vital contributor: Joanna Newsom, whose back catalogue we sang along to in the car on our various excursions around the Suffolk countryside).

The event takes place at the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall from 7pm.

Shingle Street residency

View from the coastguard’s cottage at Shingle Street

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Then Spree featured on Peony Moon

Periphylla Periphylla

Periphylla Periphylla

My pamphlet Then Spree has recently been featured on the Peony Moon blog. The feature includes two poems from the pamphlet: Periphylla Periphylla and I Want To Do Everything. Go to the Peony Moon website to read more. (The photo above is of the deep sea Jellyfish Periphylla Periphylla which the poem is named after. Credit: David Wrobel).

Kekova, August

Kekova sunken ruin

Before the tiled blocks of red and marble beige, Roman stripes, crumbled into the sea like Lancashire cheese, there was some arch, the crown of the ancient shipyard. Now you can swim up to the graffitied slabs and half-sunk steps.

But on the village side, the ruin is half in half out of the bright Aegean. We strain over the glass bottom boat, petrol reeking in the pristine blue. “Don’t stand on someone else’s beach towel!” Anchors are forbidden so we chug as slow as the cruiser can allow. Passing over the ruin we cluster over the imperfect portholes. “Look for the poetries on the sea bed,” the guide says. And yes, through the bubbles on the glass and the misted murk, we glimpse that submerged elderly surface: vessel wrecks, urn handles and the bellycurves of pots left to weed, forbidden from touch for millennia. The rubbish of rubbled homes. Happens that the Romans didn’t have plastic bags, only elegant pots, poetries that survived a sinking shuddering quake, a catastophe that left the isle half toppled into the sea. They never returned.

Istanbul diary – late May

Rubbish collectors, Karaköy

Vertiginous place of twists. The vertigo in walking, loosing the way. Giant swifts cruise from the pipes.  Strait of worlds. Worlds of moving folk. For-dreamed, for-Babelled.

In Beyoğlu, under the squawk and racket of the forked-tailed birds, the human hum: parading youths, Palestinian rubbish collectors, melancholy fiddlers, beggar children armed with kazus, the neck-craned tourists. Boho meets business meets cats and geese in the bar.

That famous dilapidated colour: the overgrown greens and pinks in the rubble of ottoman chic. On the bridges tiny pieces of silver – migrating sprats – are pulled thrice a minute. Men wash before kneeling. Sonorous air, full of the calls to prayer echoing back and forth over the big blue strait.

The gardeners in Yildiz park are too sunned and skinny. Furiously planting marigolds in rapid-spreading rashes of orange, the beds freshly coloured. Too fresh. They sling their crates in the back of the van and speed off to the next star-shaped border. A sweating glasshouse; shambled and overgrown with bird of paradise plants. Through the dim cypress and pine the Bosphorus’s live blue. Peace is maintained by the police guard at the entrance.

Beneath Yildiz, Istanbul Modern is also policed. No art ushers, only G4S security guards. Guarding art, keeping out the chaos of live cultures: bodies, enzymes, fumes of food and motors, the noisy hum and lap of boat-driven waves.

Beyoglu

Finland from the air

Cycling on snow in Jyväskylä

March 30th, 2011

Pleated, becheckered and monochrome, it’s possible to see the managed pine and the white ground between trees, galvanised in the light. Palette lakes: smooth pulped and pressed flat. You can see the ripped, trimmed and scored woods, the growths left to bloom in rings like boreal fairy glens. Summer house are still submerged. From here it’s a stickle-backed land, seeming far more cottaged and tended than from the ground. You see the farm ponds and where black heated tarmac crosses the crispy white ski tracks.

The vanguard of sea ice hugs the far coast:  a barrage against liquid. The edges of the Baltic are still frozen – they hold a viscous edge that peels and retreats on warm days, crusts and extends on cold. In the  shallow seas around the coast snow furs over the islets that are hugged close and made part of the land only to be released into the sea again come spring. Some of the archipelagos are linked together by stringy bridges.

Over Turku the ice loosens.  There are beaches of snow in the bays, ringed islands that could almost be Greek with their white sands in bright blue. Over Sweden I watch the land start to brown, the lakes crack. There are long white scores cut out of the trees that stretch in very straight lines across miles of field, wood, frozen sea and island – presumably they are old imperial sledgeways?

Over Denmark the clouds come and I try to make out parts of the royal wedding magazine the Finnish woman next to me is reading: ‘Diana vs Kate’ – why are they so interested?

From the land of Finns to the land of Angles – we are both fished fine angles and filled lands, finished on an ask, an Ang, a Fin. The plane has taken me from winter back to spring. On the ground the foggy air smells warmly wet – long released from ice. The willows and thorns are leafing. I have gone from zero ice to liquid pools, the muds of the new year. We are quick to forget an English winter. But the Finnish winter I am fresh from will be harder to let go of. In the leech-grey wood one tree has come into green. As the train creeps into London the land warms another degree, and the sparse trees and track-side buddleia start to show it, begrudgingly.

Skye, November

Camasunary and the Black Cuillin

Skye. For me it’s Katy Morag land. With Granny Mainland and Granny Island. Skippers steering through the mid afternoon dusk. Sunsets as rum-red as the island’s Cuillin red ale.

By the time we reached Camasunary – a beachy crook in the Cuillin’s deep pockets – it was too late to climb the last leg to Loch Curuisk. The bothy, where we ate our sarnies, had been bagsied by three excited demobbed marines. Having abandoned their open-roofed jeep on the rocky road, they were now stumbling down the hill carrying their weight in Stella.

Several times I think: don’t even try to take photos, they come out too flat, the colours dimmed. And how to describe now the light in dark without resorting to grey? Do we leave the gradation of colours to the Romantics? To Elgol-visitors Turner and Scot? In paintings the ‘warped’ perspective of multi-angled wrap-around  viewpoints seems appropriate here, more living. We made a steady crunch of onwards before dark.

In Elgol you can find what is possibly the world’s most picturesque primary school, looking out over the Black Cuillins and the shifty sea and that Lofoten-like crashing of mountain into Atlantic. A big red cow chews seaweed off beached pontoons. As soon as we reached our car, parked in the village’s small harbour,  a huge curtain of squall was rolling over the mountains we had just left.  As if we knew too much of a secret thing and now it was being withdrawn. The marines would have to light their fires early and bunk down against the battering storm.me on a log

Driving back the snow began.  A white shred of shroud slid up the dark sides of Bla Bheinn; a strange backlit mist hugging the black rock. On the other side of the peninsula the skies were still clear.

Weather races here. Be careful, they say. The glows in the crofter cottage windows came on through the dark. Many houses stayed unlit; holiday homes. It was the off-season, and didn’t we know it.Elgol Primary and sea-cow

Penbryn, Llangranog. May

carreg y ty

I’m in Penbryn, Cardigan Bay and all the animals are at it: midges, ponies, birds that come in pairs, even the slugs. Swallows are back from their adventures. I came here once before, ‘tippled and toppled down the hill to the beach’ according to my mum. But it’s another discovery for me now.  It’s a new pocket where the rocks are black – heaped and shattered in waves and strata that curl up to make dark looming cliffs. Where squalls have hurled themselves in briny tempests and broken up the windy shore line.  And the forests are bright green and humming with the bees nosying in to  the wildflowers. Kestrels hover as if hung by string above their prey.  My caravan is parked in a grassy place ‘where you can lie on your back and look at the stars if you want to! No light pollution here.’  The cows are heavy with udder and calf and the hedgerows are singing. The birds even do jazz with drum wing-beats and trumpet-voices.

“Wales is a small coat made of deep pockets.” Horatio Clare

Diary – Dyfi

There’s sweet haze over the sand behind Borth. The light over the beach looks dusty but it’s really full of moisture, marking where the Irish sea is thrown up in the sundown.

The train snakes past Ceredigion’s green dragon hump with their spiny fences and blackened marks on the undulating horizon. For a long time now, I have thought of these hills as a perfect combination – soft but exposed – mossy green tufts with odd, crooked edges.

From the estuary we follow the Dyfi inland. Pink strips of sun-cloud reflected on the river’s surface make a glistening strip that coils bright through the dark soaked grass. Green eve turning blue.

I’m thinking of rivers, thick and furious in places, swollen but calm in others. Rain here, in the words of my taxi driver in Aber, is ‘like a dishcloth – always needs to be wrung out’. It’s a place of literary cabbies and a land ripe for kayakers. In Cumbria there are ‘extreme care teams’ – canoeing rescuers paddling around checking that the stranded sheep have got plenty of bales to chew on. I imagine these flooded fields hide sheep corpses – there are no paddling saviours here. Oh well, they must make do.

The Dyfi’s watershed is an ever-damp net that is always catching the Atlantic’s squalls in its lush skirts.  And Aberdyfi’s sea-front’s glints white, ever bewitching. The unavailability shines at me across the water. I have never ventured that far, making the place practically exotic.

Meanwhile, London’s giant grey pull is hauling me back after a few frenetic days in Aberystwyth. The cities have undergone a brief role reversal.

But now I’m thinking rivers: the one I was floating down in my dreams recently. The kind of summery luxury only dreamt of in December. I was drifting downstream, past the buzz of water-skaters and the trees spilling in on both sides. Roger Deakin passed by and I greeted them lazily.

Watery imagination is elliptical. And now I come round to it – perhaps I am sailing past some sort of psychic conference – where my Elysium future on earth is cupped in the hands of certain powerful people currently in conversation in Copenhagen.

© Nia Davies, 2009