Wednesday 29 July 2009

Inspiration Wednesday

Cadgwith / Cornish: Porthkaswydh)
near The Lizard in Cornwall / Kernow

(click here to see artist Iain Dilley's watercolour painting from my photograph.
You will need to scroll down a bit once you have clicked the link until you see 'Cadgwith Fleet')

The Weaver of Grass is hosting today's mini blog carnival on the theme of INSPIRATION WEDNESDAY as a tribute to those who have inspired us in some way through their life or art.

I am grateful to many who have been a positive influence in my journey which spans nearly half a century, and my chosen poem for today links me in my mind to a number of them.

Members of my family decided to evacuate to Cornwall during World War II, and enjoyed life in the county so much that they settled there permanently. Consequently some of my earliest holidays were spent near Bude on the north Cornish coast. However, as time went on - and largely thanks to the aforementioned poem - we fell in love with The Lizard peninsula, and with the small lobster fishing village of Cadgwith in particular.

I can now look back on numerous happy holidays; but before I mention a few specific memories, I must turn to the poem. Its title is simply Cadgwith, and you can read the eight line text by Lionel Pigot Johnson (1867-1902) here by scrolling down to number 46. You will also find the poem (number 691 on p.896 of my edition) in The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.

During our Cornish holidays, we would look out through the sash windows on to a fuchsia hedge and a palm bush. My eye would then travel across a potato field to Cadgwith Cove. I remember standing at the landing window, aged about eleven, with an 'I-spy' book in hand, trying to identify the ships that sailed past.

Occasionally we would clamber into the car and drive down to Cadgwith to watch the full moon rippling across the water at midnight. We would look up at the stars beyond the huer's hut (top left in the photo), and think of Johnson's inspiring words. Forty-five years have passed since my first sighting of this remarkable place, but it has captured a corner of my heart. I have made many return visits and will never tire of this small haven of beauty.

Johnson is a self-effacing figure in today's poetry scene. He was well read, and enjoyed the literary company of Plato, Virgil, Augustine and Shakespeare. There is a memorial to him in the cloisters at Winchester College, his old school. Johnson published three books - two books of poetry and 'The Art of Thomas Hardy', another poet with Cornish associations. Johnson also wrote reviews, critical papers and a memoir.

I was browsing in a secondhand bookshop (a favourite holiday pastime) in Dunster near Minehead on one occasion when I came across a copy of 'A Cornish Chorus: a Collection of Prose and Verse' edited by Muriel Hawkey. I flicked through the pages and was delighted to find the title 'Cadgwith' under the Contents entry for Lionel Johnson. I turned to the appropriate page, only to discover that it referred to a second poem named after the fishing cove. I prefer the one mentioned first, but this second poem is not without its merits. This second poem concerns a 'rich autumnal day' rather than an 'autumn night'. It considers the role of humanity on earth and out at sea, in contrast to the first poem which moves between earth and heaven.

Our summer holidays around Cadgwith were filled with happy experiences and activities. I will restrict myself here, and attempt to list ten of these, 'in no particular order':
  • times of fun, refreshment and relaxation with family and friends.
  • the sound and wonder of the sea and the exhilaration of surfing.
  • the beauty of the local churches. Grade Church is up the cliff from Cadgwith in the middle of a field, with fine brasses and no electricity.
  • the joy of the wild flowers. Cornish Heath is very rare and grows on Goonhilly Downs at the northern end of The Lizard.
  • the excitement each time we saw a Great Green Bush Cricket.
  • the thrill of seeing a seal (we also saw a huge leather-backed turtle on one occasion).
  • the colours in the serpentine rocks, especially when the pebbles were in rock pools.
  • the fascinating names of the Cornish saints e.g. St Keverne, St Ruan.
  • the local festivities e.g. Cadgwith Regatta, with its flour and soot race (perhaps not so ecologically friendly these days, but it was a lot of fun).
  • the local delicacies - pasties, lemon sole, Saffron buns, Cornish splits (light bread rolls) and Cornish ice cream.
My thanks to Lionel Johnson for encapsulating thoughts of my faith, family, friends and 'holiday fun' in eight short lines.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Poetic People (19): Aeronwy Thomas-Ellis

The Boathouse, Laugharne
Photo: David Gill

I have just heard the sad news of the death of Dylan's daughter, Aeronwy Thomas-Ellis. She was an inspiring poet and tutor in her own right, and a marvellous advocate for her father's work. I was privileged to attend one of Aeronwy's poetry workshops in Laugharne a year ago: it is a memory that will stay with me for a long time. My thoughts and condolences go out to the family.


Monday 27 July 2009

Creature Feature (9): Dragonfly at WWT, Llanelli

I spotted this dragonfly at the WWT Llanelli a few days ago.
If anyone can identify it for me from this photo, I would be very grateful!

Saturday 25 July 2009

Beautiful Birds (12): Gannets at Bass Rock

Here is a short video of the gannets at Bass Rock off the East Lothian coast of Scotland. The footage was taken by David Gill from Tantallon Castle. You might like to read about my Bass Rock literary links on my Land&Lit (Landscape and Literature) blog here.

The gannets and the puffin in my photograph were taken at Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire last Easter.

Sunday 19 July 2009

Poetic People (18): Richard Bonfield (& 'Born Free')

I have just heard from Richard Bonfield, known to many of us from his poems in Reach Poetry, that his poem, 'The Beautiful Alphabet' is now 'up' on the 'Born Free' website. You can listen to Virginia McKenna reading it here.

Richard has been invited to serve the Born Free Foundation as Poet-in-Residence. Many congratulations!

Friday 17 July 2009



Part of my interview with Peter Thabit Jones has been published on the C&LH webpage (livelink above).

New Networks (1): Delicious

I have just joined Delicious, the network for bookmarking websites that you might like to re-visit. I am new to this, but I am discovering that not only can you bookmark the sites that are of interest to you (& search for them within the programme under keywords of your choice), but you can also liaise with others who have similar interests.

Thursday 16 July 2009

Magazine Moment (3): C&LH (Romania)

Do take a look at the new blog for the Romanian journal, C&LH (Contemporary and Literary Horizon/Contemporan Orizont Literar).

I am very grateful to editor-in-chief, Daniel Dragomirescu, for deciding to publish a few of my poems. I am indebted to Alina-Olimpia Miron for translating these poems for the June edition. You can read the Romanian titles here:
  • 'A Stone Romance' / 'O idilă pietroasă'
  • 'Boat House Cat' / 'Pisica din hangar'
  • 'Manifesto for the Red Kite' / 'Manifest pentru Zmeul Roşu'
  • 'Preseli Blue' / 'Albastru de Preseli'
  • 'Show me the Colour of Pain' / 'Arată-mi culorea durerii'
You can read about 'The Romanian Connection' on Peggy Landsman's Red Room pages.

Buried Treasure: Tenby, 'Thalatta! Thalatta!'

Seth Apter of the Altered Page is hosting his 'Buried Treasure' event for those of us who have been taking part in his DisCo project (Disintegration Collaboration). Seth has asked participants to post a favourite blog entry from a while back. I have chosen one on Tenby, which you can read below. A year has elapsed, and I have now passed my National Open College Network programme in Art ('Arts and Crafts: Developing Basic Design Skills'). I have the certificate to prove it!

You can see two of my experimental card designs above. The red one formed part of my final portfolio: the blue one was fun to do! This is the old post (and my thanks to the Weaver of Grass for reminding me about Buried Treasure - see here, too!) ...

We were in Tenby (South Wales, UK) recently so that I could take photographs for my 'Design' course project. I decided to focus on the theme of 'Thalatta! Thalatta!' ('The sea! The sea!' - Xenophon), since the Tenby Sea Water Bath building has a Greek inscription on it. You can read the translation on the Blue Plaque. You may or may not agree with the sentiment ...

It seems an age ago since I began to learn Classical Greek at Newcastle (1979!).

While we were in Tenby, we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the art of Augustus John, Gwen John and others in the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery

First posted 11 June 20087 at 21.57 UK summer time.

P.S. You might like to see my thalatta poem on Dr Marc Latham's Folding Mirror Poetry site.

Travel (2): Fisherrow, Scotland

start of the John Muir Way, Scotland

One of our first ports of call on our recent Scottish expedition was the little harbour of Fisherrow - with its wonderfully evocative name - on the outskirts of Musselburgh, on the way to Longniddry. Fisherrow marks the western end of the coastal path on the John Muir Way in East Lothian. Fisherrow, on the mouth of the river Esk, is a wonderful place for oystercatchers: we enjoyed listening to their hauntingly beautiful call (mingled with that of the curlew) as we looked out across an atmospheric grey seascape. In days gone by the Fisherrow fishwives were renowned for their blue and white striped dresses and their wicker creels. In 1791 there were 90 of them in this small community. Many of these women were married to fishermen, who would have been away, up and down the east coast, fishing for weeks or months at a time. The women consequently were capable and independent. Some of them played golf, and this is certainly a rich stretch of coast for golf courses.

My reasons for visiting Fisherrow were two-fold. Not only did I want to visit the area where relations of mine played golf many years ago, but I particularly wanted to see the John Muir Way, named after the 'Scottish father' of ecological conservation. The notice board above had another board nailed to it (see off-white board at base of board photo above). I didn't like to post a photograph of it because it contained poems, which are almost certainly in the copyright of the authors. However, it was a brilliant board, decorated with pictures of an oystercatcher (of course), mussels, crab, gulls and herring. The poetry and artwork were created by pupils at Campie Primary School in Musselburgh. I applaud their ingenuity, and particularly liked a short poem called 'On being a Mussel': perish the thought!

Did you know that Muir has a glacier named after him in Alaska? Muir was born in Dunbar, and emigrated with his family to a farm in Winsconsin at the age of eleven. The Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks owe their existence in large part to this far-sighted man. Scotland's John Muir Country Park was set up in 1976.

At some point soon I hope to do a blog post on the Orcadian poet, Edwin Muir.

Thursday 9 July 2009

Travel (1): Scotland

Life at Coastcard has been quiet recently as I have been 'up north', enjoying the landscape, seascape, heritage and literature of southern Scotland and the north-east of England.

I spent a couple of nights in Durham, and visited three very different islands:
  • Bute (west coast of Scotland)
  • Inchmahome (on the Lake of Menteith, Scotland's only lake)
  • Lindisfarne, aka Holy Island (off Northumbria).
One of the highlights of the Scottish part of the holiday was seeing my first Osprey.

We were in a different part of Scotland, but you can read about the Loch Garten Ospreys here on the RSPB blog. You can read about plans for BirdFair 2009 here.

Monday 6 July 2009

Poetic People (17): Andrew Motion

You can read about Andrew Motion at Tennyson's home, Farringford on the Isle of Wight here.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Window on Wildlife (5): RSPB and Tigers

The RSPB is supporting an initiative to save the Sumatran tropical forest home of the tiger. Do take a look at this amazing project - here.