On this day 80 years ago, Virginia Woolf took her own life – 28th March 1941. The words she left us with were a great gift – such masterful inventive prose and some wonderful insightful advice for writers.
Both sad, and uplifting, – I have this quote pinned above my desk:-
“I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down” – (part of Virginia Woolf’s final diary entry.)
With her words in mind I’ve been sorting out some of my Ramsgate Seadog poems – trying to gather them for a collection. And this one does have haddock in it (and, I’m grateful to say, written in a Room of My Own.) Thank you Virginia.
As well as the sestinas, there have been several other poems and poem-sequences to have come out of the Sit-Stop Sestinas project. I’ve been editing, and tweaking, as well as going back to the spaces. The Montefiore Woodland has always been a favoured Ramsgate spot of mine, and I’ve been back there several times since the festival – its wonderful sense and feel now seeming to hum all the more strongly with poetry since those September performances of mine. And when the sun comes out after rain the effect is one of such enrichment, such blessing …
The ‘Sit-Stop Sestinas’ (or Thanetia’s Ramsgate Odyssey) is a set of 4 sets of poetry that I’ll be performing in four different locations in my lovely home town of Ramsgate.
Thrilled to be a part of Ramsgate’s Festival of Sound Sonic Trail, I want to draw people to some beautiful spaces in our town, places to stop and hear the evocative, the atmospheric. Places to sit or stand and stop to think through place & time, comings & goings, creations & re-creations – history, myth, journeys and reflection.
And I wanted a challenge. (I’ve got one!) So, at some point during ‘lockdown’ I decided I’d write a sestina. And then (before I’d even tried one) I decided that I’d write four (!) – one for each special place. And so I have. Each sestina forms a part of a 20 minute-or-so set of poetry, (i.e. four different sets) in my hope to showcase the rhythms and the cadence of technically-crafted written verse, page poetry read/performed aloud, lyric poetry alive in its space.
So please do join me and experience these four outdoor spaces resounding to the sound of poetry – just a Poet and a voice in a unique celebration of place and crafted verse.
Ramsgate’s Royal Victoria Pavilion was opened to great pomp and ceremony on 29th June 1904. It’s recent restoration makes it a focal point once more beside our harbour. Thinking of our ‘Pav’ and its opening 116 years ago, I am reminded of this poem that I wrote and performed for POW! Thanet in 2018, where I told the story of Jane Pugin and her place in Ramsgate’s history.
Whilst we hunker in lockdown, blossom blossoms. Hawthorn bursts upon the air as it has done for however long it has done, and does again. This smell and sight of England’s May – smelled and seen and wondered at by whoever has, and will.
MayThe blossom thick,this blossom strong -so full of here and richly-sprungto sing the woodthrough all the herby flushthis rush of breeze-swept notesto fling the hedgerows roundso pulsed with life and rot,this scent to spell the witchsome waywith blossom-thickall strung with witto shake a witchand still hold forth,the wake of every dappled trunkto dance each story pureof who they were, from where -the witches true to strew the bedso wise of thorn and weave,a wordless burst to blossom-allso long begun, anon.
My two loves – Football, and Poetry – combine today, on International Women’s Day. So I am sharing an old poem before I head off out into the world for a Sports Relief charity match with my wonderful lady footy team-mates, the Thanet LEG-ends. To be able to play in a local ladies football team at my age, such a huge pleasure. And that I am writing poetry now for performance and publication – sometimes some dreams do come true. So here’s to us all – everyone – this life is for the living … every minute given to us to enjoy is a blessing indeed.
The recent sad news re: the death of a sperm whale stranded in the nearby Swale brought back memories of the magnificent creature I saw in March 2011 washed up onto Pegwell Bay.
Such beachings and strandings have always attracted attention, as well as sadness.
It is when we see such wonderful creatures so out of their element that the mysteries of our sea are brought sharply into focus.
The Whale on the Beach at Pegwell
I often walk this bay; but not for this, the whale upturned all keel-to-cloud, a tiny unblink eye to pin the glaze this out-of-kilter day of jigsaw beach and fallen tide.
Seeing that nobled hulk so hugely still I recall the De Profundis – a snatch of somewhere psalm beneath this pale of sky, kicking at driftwood beneath the turnstone flash wondering the beat of that wrong turn as – somewhere – a patient Oystercatcher cries beyond this stare of humbled tide.
(*For local history enthusiasts a visit to the beer garden of the Seaview pub at Birchington will afford a view of two giant rib-bones taken from a whale that was beached at Birchington in 1919).
Two hundred years ago this month saw Keats pen the perfect ‘To Autumn.’
Thinking of all things autumnal, I took a walk yesterday from Sandwich towards Deal, where another anniversary hung in the air. Twenty years ago, on the 22nd September, 11 young Royal Marine bandsmen murdered by the IRA at Deal barracks. As politics once again threatens borders we must take care.
The past in the present, as always. Youth, and promise cut short.
I’ve been working on variations and edits of the poem below for several months. This morning I realised it was exactly two years to the day – almost to the very hour – that I had driven away from Blackburn hospice on a sunny morning, having hugged and thanked and said goodbye to someone important. “Safe journey” I said, as I left. “You too”, she said.
And so, with that recollection, no more editing. I’ll be leaving this one now, as it is.