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

Friday, 13 January 2017

from the Ragbag, January 13th

I'm not sure I can remember the last time I wrote an actual blogpost. Since November 30th, Remembrance Day for Lost Species, almost all my blogs have consisted of a poem by A N Other that fits the subject; the poems are still arriving in my inbox, and what a varied, moving and talented flock they are. I'm very much trying to resist the notion of an anthology as I know from the past what an enormous amount of work is involved, unpaid, of course. But...

Speaking of anthologies, someone who puts a lot of time to creating and editing them is Deborah Gaye, of Avalanche Books. This, Woven Landscapes, is perhaps the fourth anthology of hers to which she's invited me to contribute. I'm honoured to be one of the six women poets the anthology features (the others are Anne Caldwell, Katrina Porteous, Wendy French, Katherine Gallagher and Kaye Lee). (I have one or two copies for sale; you can also order them from your local bookshop or through that big warehouse in the sky beginning with A.)

Deborah's just drawn my attention to a lovely review of this, including a passage on my work (in a time when I'm writing little poetry it's good to be reminded that sometimes I can):

'And each [woman] truly does have a clear, resoundingly individual voice. Section one, from Roselle Angwin, is a sensual tangle of the intimate and universal, beginning with Apple Tree and a wassail in an orchard that offers up memories of rural customs even as the poet urges us to rest “your palm to the trunk, tell you how to open/ the eyes and ears of your hand” to experience the “journey between earth and star.” It’s a powerfully enticing beginning. Each poem conjures the same magic, elevating the ordinary details of life while contemplating big issues – politics, mortality, pilgrimage and migration, all elegantly laid out in vivid verse.'

Thank you, Judy Darley, and your lovely blog (worth visiting for her other posts too):

Here's my first poem, mentioned above:

Apple Tree
Wassail night has passed and winter’s
blue flames have retreated for now.

In the orchard, a thrush stabs the last
soft apple, and another calls from the tallest

tree. If you were to come by here, come
and stand by me here, I would hold

your palm to the trunk, tell you how to open
the eyes and ears of your hand so you

could feel how again the xylem and phloem
are waking, making their long slow

streaming journey between earth and star,
if you were to come here, to come by here again.

© Roselle Angwin

Wassail night is 17th January, when we go out to waken the trees with song and noise and a libation of a slice of toast soaked in apple juice or cider from the previous year's crop to tuck into a fork of the tree, giving thanks for each harvest and requesting another.

In a time of such global disorder and despair, the fact that the apple trees keep on blossoming and fruiting, and that here at least there are bees to pollinate them is something worth celebrating.

As is the fact that the UK's population of red squirrels is growing again, slowly, with help.

You want more good news? Positive News ( tells me that 'At £38bn, the UK's ethical goods market is now worth twice that of tobacco, new research suggests.'

Did you know about the existence of Positive News? I can promise you that a read of that will make you feel much more optimistic about the world and our future than the more usual newspapers ever could.

But back to poetry, for a moment: my friend and colleague Sharon Black has now taken over editorship of Pindrop Press. Sharon, who is very much a hands-on editor, is open to submissions. She's looking for strong and distinctive voices. She only publishes four collections a year, and you will be expected to be familiar with the contemporary poetry scene. As with most poetry publishing houses, if you have not had poems published in the small press, or placed in competitions, you are unlikely to find a home with Pindrop – though it's not impossible.

The first two collections of this year, Mark Russell's Spearmint and Rescue, and Elisabeth Sennitt Clough's Sightings, are both now available from the Pindrop website, or order from your local bookshop.

And this is enough for the moment, I think, but I'm very excited to have led the first day, in Cornwall this week, of my new year-long group 'The Wellkeepers'. I've been writing about the well maidens from the Grail stories of the C12th and the symbolism of their rape and its connection with the wasteland that we are both inheriting and creating since my first book was commissioned in 1993. It seems increasingly urgent that we heed the warnings in those ancient tales before we truly destroy our own habitat along with that of the other species, and my course takes an, I believe, unique angle on this. 

photo B Grundbacher
For decades now I've been promising this course, having offered shorter versions of it as workshops in various places. This time, it's being offered to a private group of women, who will be writing their life-story alongside the unfolding journey we're taking together. Next year, I shall offer an open course, and hopefully follow that with an online course. You can read a brief outline of it here

Oh, speaking of writing your life story: you have just over two weeks to submit 'a piece of your life' to the Fish Short Memoir competition: 

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