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

Thursday, 16 June 2011

cornwall, shark, blue scabious and poetry

With the warming global waters you expect to see more marine life coming into inshore waters off Britain, and Cornwall has long been a spot for basking shark, killer whales, porpoise and dolphins, with regular sightings in the far West. It seems there've been fewer sightings of these creatures this year, although no one quite seems to know why. However the Western Morning News reports sightings of a serious predator a mile off St Ives: the whitetip shark, apparently one of the most vicious sharks in the world. There are frequent hoax shark sightings, but this was reported by two separate trawler crews (thank you R for this info). That'll panic us, then... The Wild always does.

Let's get this into perspective. I took a group of Swiss students into the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth one year for an environmental writing session. I learned that a shark is killed I believe every three seconds, day and night, somewhere in the world, whereas humans killed by shark each year only amount to a dozen, and many of these killings are apparently either in self-defence (struggling on the floor of a fishing boat having been landed) or by accident – mistaking a human for a seal (they usually let go once they realise). And I was touched (hard to imagine, isn't it, being engaged by a shark with anything other than trepidation or fear, or at most curiosity) by young Enzo – a little shark (can't remember what type) who was so 'scared' of the dark that if they switched the tank lights off at night he invariably threw himself out of the water into the 'deck'.

At Gwythian, above, I spent a truly blissful afternoon. A little flock of (I think) sanderling was scurrying as one, as they do, back and forth at the tideline, and two seals were lazing parallel to the beach in the shallows, just metres away from me, clearly visible.

One of the things I love on the coasts of the Cornish landscape is the miniaturisation of everything. The thorn trees are small and windskewed. The blue scabious is just a few cms tall. Wild thyme is tiny; the milkworts almost so small you barely see them.

And the micro-worlds on rocks and stone-walls are magical (as you can see I've replaced my bottomest-of-range mobile with one with a camera).

J and I spent much of our time walking the cliffs. Yesterday evening we were above Rinsey cove, between Penzance and Porthleven, where the landscape is dotted with carefully-rebuilt tin mines, and a few little human-made recent cairns.

J's lithe greyhound-type lurcher, she of the Egyptian face and pale amber eyes, who can be quite manic out watching for rabbits, kept apparently throwing herself off the cliff-face, to our heartlurches, before reappearing. My own She-who-wears-her-grey-matter-on-the-outside is much more sedate; but she took herself off to a high rock over a precipitous drop right on the edge of the cliffs, and stood looking elegantly iconic and deerhoundy nosing the wind. (I was too slow to get out and work the camera.) Uncharacteristically and for no reason we could discern she set up a little whiny whimper.
'Existential angst and melancholia at the landscape,' said J.
'Speech bubble?'
'Is this it?' 
'To jump or not to jump?'
'What's it all about?'
'Is there a God? And if so is there a God for dogs?'
'And if not is it worth carrying on?'
Then I tried to work out how I could photoshop all that, before remembering that I had no photo to -shop.


Two nice things in the post when I got back: two new pamphlets from the Word Hoard and Keith Jafrate, who contributed to my Writing the Bright Moment. I'll speak more of those in a few days.

The other was Being Human, a present from S, the third anthology in Neil Astley's series for his publishing house, Bloodaxe. If you want to buy just one anthology of good poetry in English (many poems are here in translation),  go for any one of these, maybe starting with the first, Staying Alive. I don't know how he keeps doing it with the follow-ups, but they all contain an eclectic range of poems from the last century or so (mainly contemporary), and almost without exception the poems fit the criteria I like: they move my heart, resonate in my body, engage my intelligence and offer depth of field behind the words. He groups the poems thematically in each anthology.

I find in here, marked by S's postcard, a poem by Thomas A Clark which I know and like but don't (didn't) have: 'In Praise of Walking'. Given all that I speak of about journeys, here are a couple of lines:

'Walking is a mobile form of waiting.'

'A journey implies a destination, so many miles to be consumed, while a walk is its own measure, complete at every point along the way.'

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