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

Monday, 3 November 2014

samhain, late, & a triolet

The riptide off the Devon coast yesterday was fierce – sandy kelpy turbulence stretching quite a way out to where green and grey met and clashed in broken rollers. It was also quite a good metaphor for how life has felt here the last couple of weeks, which is by way of an apology for a paucity of blogs. (I'm also gearing up for the forthcoming first day, 'Tongues in Trees', of my new yearlong ecosoul course which, in addition to my putting together next year's programme, is taking up my imagination.)

Another samhain, and TM's birthday, hence breakfast in the Beach House shack and the beach-walk, followed by a longer walk along the beechy banks of the peaty swirling River Avon ('avon' comes from the old Brythonic word for river, 'afon').  

I was tempted to post my favourite samhain poem here that undoubtedly I've posted more than once over the years, but I've spared you.

Instead, I'm going to post a triolet for this time – the midpoint between equinox and solstice, a time when the veils between this world and the other, spirit and matter, are thin, and the ancestors and those we have lost are nearer for a little while. I put candles in all the windows, as a welcome.

It's also a time, as I see it, when the solar gods, the masculine principle, are handing over to the goddesses, the feminine principle, of moon and earth, during this early part of the descent into the dark. The nine in the poem refers to the nine goddesses, or the triple aspects of the Triple Goddess of Celtic pagan tradition. It is at this time, samhain, though, that down in the darkness new life is being conceived, ready for birth at the midwinter solstice.

Walker Between the Worlds

I am the god who fills the head with fire.
My blood is ancient as the blood of stone.
I walk the threshold between day and night.
I am the god who fills the head with fire.
My tongue’s the language given by the nine.
I speak the wild waters, the song of bone.
I am the god. Who fills the head with fire?
My blood is ancient; is the blood of stone.

© Roselle Angwin, in All the Missing Names of Love

For you poets, here's the lowdown on the triolet form, should you wish a poetic challenge (see also Carol Rumens' 'Jarrow' poem):
Triolet: AbaAabAB

This is a 13th century French form that emphasises rhyme and repetition. It's in 8 lines, with only two rhyme schemes, notated as A and B. 

NB: where the letters are capitalised, above, this is a repetition of the entire line. Where they’re lower case, you are repeating the end-rhyme but using a different line.
The 'refrain' needs to be a strong enough line to bear repetition (rather like in a villanelle), as it is repeated in its entirety three times. However, the twist is that you need to find a way to very slightly alter it, usually by altering the punctuation, to change its meaning, however marginally, in its final repeat in the penultimate line.

In mine, above, I’ve also altered the last line, which is also repeated in its entirety.


  1. From Miriam in Keswick:
    Roselle – I very much like the way you alter the refrain in its last appearance, making a question of it and the last line punctuated differently. Very subtle but startling.
    Candles resonate with us, both as a memorial to dead loved-ones (a Jewish custom; and, I think, a Catholic one? but please correct me if I'm wrong) and a wonderful way – learned from winter visits to Denmark – to carry us through the dark months. I find myself looking forward to dusk just so that I can light candles; an improvement on the days when I dreaded the long dark nights.

    We both did Triolets with our last writing-tutor/facilitator, Marge Clouts, and reading yours inspires me to try i again. Lots of 'Moments' in my diary this week, so TWR on hold, but still churning around head as much of it's inspired by Keswick. Back to work on the 9th.

    (Great to be here in Keswick, weather not at all bad and a clear-eyed bite to the air, but although we can receive emails we can't send. Tried to respond to yours last Fri, but no luck. Shall send when we're back next Sat/Sun.)

    With love from both (J is smiling)
    Miriam xx

  2. Miriam, thank you as always for the conversation. Remember that ANY writing feeds into a writing project - it's not an absence of work on TWR but a lateral approach to honouring the imagination!

    Yes, candles are important in the Catholic Church too. I feel so strongly that we all need a break from the grid and electric light at times, and candles usher in a completely different dynamic, don't they - a kind of soft-light bath for the psyche.

    Love to you both and enjoy the rest of your time up north. Rx


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