Firstly: Some praise for issue 6 of EarthLines magazine - Editor and author Sharon Blackie joyfully wrestles a crofting life replete with honeybees, lambs, wayward weather, fruits and polytunnels, into a shape of such generosity that she also, somehow, finds time to craft such a fine magazine - bringing so many vibrant new writers out into the world. That's brave and it's inspiring.
Take Sylvia Lindsteadt's "The Mole-Tunnel and the Mind: Digging for our Underworlds"....
"when we plug our own depths, the parts of ourselves that are wild and fecund, that are mole-tunneled, where snakes sleep and shrews scurry, where starlight peeks down despite the odds, we become only half-alive. Part of us has become sick. The psyche has its own chthonic ecology, rooted in the world...
....i can pinpoint, down to a single sprawling play, the moment in which my true voice started to emerge as as a writer; there was a strange woman in that story, with great-blue heron feet, a spinning wheel threshed with storm, a house made of bones and lined with jars of tongue. When i saw her i knew something had changed. I knew it had begun."
Or Laura Burns "Speaking Bodies, Storied Land" on horses -
"Shades of chestnut, russet, amber, oyster-grey, sorrel and mahogany burn the sunlight back on itself. Heads twitch and rise, frozen still for a second, before looping back down to the wet earth....A frisk of mane. A stamp or a shuffle. Rhiannon, Horse-Queen, Equine-Witch, maybe you would know what they speak of. I am not so sure with their language."
There's just two examples of real full-moon speech, centered in image not just endless abstraction. These women ROCK.
In other issues, Dartmoor's own Tom Hirons sometimes throws troublesome words about:
The wild god reaches into a bag
Made of moles and nightingale skin
he pulls out a two reeded pipe,
Raises an eyebrow
And all the birds begin to sing.
I think Tom is out where the buses don't park. If he offers you wine, take only a sip.
So, look, subscribe today to this great magazine, there's revolution coming from the croft.
Tommorrow i shall be telling this story at the Green Hill arts centre on Dartmoor. It's an old Hebredian/Scots story i call Cinderbiter. Here's a few opening lines from my written version - out soon in Poetry International magazine from San Diego. The oral version tomorrow will pay little attention to this, and go its own way - but there you go.
from the northern folktale: Assipattle and the Muckle Mester Stoor Worm
The grey churn, the salted bruise, the green bridle;
the seal-proud comb around Scotland’s skulled coasts.
Near it there is a farm.
A resolute tump; the gull-shrill wind beats like medicine for a gummed ear.
The family bent sow-low to the ground, praying to the seed-gods,
all arrogance sliced clean with poverty’s cleaver;
the trance of field-work claiming all up to the silvered line of the shore.
All but one.
Years before, the mother of the hut squatted out seven sons -
sprouts, cubs, little hefties suckling on the soured teat;
sullen blonds wrapped dead-tight in the family inhibition.
All but one.
Six sons, dulled by necessity--butchered by weather.
In the frosted dark, six sons line up with father
to yoke themselves to earth-labour,
to kiss the cold of Saturn’s cross.
--Crook-backed, scoured like rounded loaves.
But the seventh sleeps by the fire's embers,
so smeared by ash he seems more magpie than boy,
locks hedgehog thick with ash;
His mind, loosened
by the flame’s incanting.
The boy is underground, adrift
in the poet’s dark roots of silence.
Gilled, adept at the sea’s pressures,
Crab-firm in the indigo black.
Squatting like lumps of coal
darkly-bright in the Viking currents.
The green teeth of the sea flower him with sagas
He befriends the bannocked moon.
He is lifted, giddily over high desert
Three years in the twigged circle of a condor.
His slow heart sends a drum-thump
through the tangled combustions of history.
Rain-dancing through time,
He is a god-torch, flickered on the cave wall, his haunch
rich with prophetic ochre.
And everywhere the snow falls.
Lazy, they say, watching his slow, tidal breathing.
They who crack the earth, day in, day out,
They who snake by in their gritty dedications.
They whose hands know the rough licks of cattle,
Whose eyes know the hills pearled with rain.
They whose arms are blue
under the lambing snow.
There is an egg of hate, fat amongst his wheat-yellow siblings
They long to string him up in the red barn;
to hasten his passage through this life.
They are a rough crowd for the bard.
Every night, he stirs, becomes immense,
looming in front of the land-blasted family.
Stories lurch out beyond the ken of local knowledge
Sun on their backs, desert baked.
Prophetic spurts come rapid
from his travelled jaw.
Tundra snow and jaguar teeth
spill onto the floor
of the fire-flecked hut.
He swears when his time comes
he will rise with the hero-energy.
Father leans forwards with proud fists
and scatters the grandeur.
Says a serpent will lick the underside of the moon
before that happens
All cackle, and relax gladly into the familiar atmosphere of hurt.
The ebony lump drifts off.
There is always a killing to do round the farm.
Copyright Martin Shaw 2013