from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 8 January 2011


There's a fingernail moon and after all the recent rain the earliest stars (and planets – Venus, the evening/morning star, she of the Hesperides) 'are flickering out', as Yeats said in his shamanic poem 'The Song of Wandering Aengus'.

Today is the first meeting of my Two Rivers poetry group; both of the new year and since the arrival of our debut poetry anthology Confluence.

Two Rivers anthology; image © Mary Gillett

This group of poets who meet with me once a month has played a significant part in my life for more years than I can keep track of. We started – I think – at the Wharf Arts Centre in Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor, in Devon, back in the early ’90s, and migrated eventually to my cottage overlooking the confluence of the Tavy and the Tamar, hence our name. (Since then I’ve moved, and technically we should add the Dart to our list of rivers, but ‘Three Rivers’ hasn’t stuck as our name.) Some of those original poets still form the nucleus of Two Rivers, and new poets have occasionally joined us. One or two have left, but their presence continues in some way as a dynamic in the group.
There are a number of things that hold us together. Most of us take at least some influence from the Devon land- and seascapes. Also, although we don’t work within any one poetic tradition, I suppose we all draw on lyric poetry. 
   In addition, when you work over many years with the same group of people in the context of poetry something alchemical happens, and what is shared in the group is often deeply intimate stuff for which there may be no other room anywhere in the busy outer world. We may not know everything about each other’s daily lives, but we do now know each other in some important ways; poetry requires this opening. So another significant aspect of the work we do together is something to do with deepening; by which I mean deepening our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and (hard – and necessary – to say in an age of commodification) with soul; as well of course as with language. I think we all recognise that our monthly days are much more than ‘simply’ poetry days.
Since our beginning, several of the group have brought out individual collections of poetry (or a novel or play). Here, for the first time, though, we are all collected together between two covers. Hearing these poems read out around the room in the dying light, lifted by the glow of the woodburner, in my simple study/studio, I'm so moved by these people who've entrusted the sharing of their lives and their dreams with me and each other over so many years now.
How grateful I am today
            for these people who
give themselves to this
                        over and over –
listening for one true word.

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