Tuesday, 23 December 2008

a manifestation of excess

Like many people, the lights are my favourite element of this time of year, especially the lights in the trees. Maybe because they are so needed right now. I can't quite believe how much I've been sleeping these past weeks. Fortunately I've finally thrown in the towel and accepted the long nights. I think part of it is due to the tremendous year I've had. After all, it's not every year I get to fulfil a 15 year old dream (buying the boat).

I was aware during the process of research, search and purchase of the boat of feeling overwhelmed by what I was embarking on. So overwhelmed I pretty much stopped writing anything. Which got me thinking about the nature of my creative output. It seems to me that I have to be feeling pretty big, overflowing somehow, to have the imperative to make something. It's like I cannot contain myself; I need to be manifest beyond my own physical boundaries. And this feeling comes when I have a sense of awe or love or illumination over something/one/place. And so I write a poem, cook food, take photos or whatever seems most appropriate given the situation.

But the boat was (still is) far bigger than me. It required vast knowledge I didn't have: maintenance (for god's sake, there's an engine!), gauging tidal heights for anchoring, sail trimming, skippering other people. So I had to learn. Although I soon realised that I did have some of this knowledge, I needed refreshing. I needed confidence. Still do. And so I wasn't (and still am not) overflowing my boundaries, but feel rather small in the shadow of its sails.

I think this is okay. A healthy respect for the boat and where it'll take me - the last wilderness of the sea - has got to be a good thing. Although I do wonder when the balance of our sizes will balance out and we'll sail in an equilibrium.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

a murmuration

a murmuration

I was out at Leighton Moss (a RSPB reserve near Lancaster) at dusk last night and saw maybe a thousandmaybe more, starlings circle in to roost. There is something totally mesmerising about their unified flight and swoop. The ability to move in such close formation, catching the light so one minute they there, the next gone, and then back again, is so alien to us humans contained by roads and walls. Watching them, I envied that grace, intuition and inherent knowledge that comes with a flock mentality.

A couple of years ago I wrote a libretto for Steve Lewis for an improvised opera, Flocking. And improvisation is the closest I've come to experiencing that movement I witnessed last night - the listening and timing that comes from singing with other people without a prescribed score. The sense of uplift from others, the creation of something that can only be whole with others, the acute belonging, the swell and shrinkage of voices - channels (or is that funnels?) me into a larger mass. I suspect I'm not making myself particularly clear, but it occurs to me that our voice provides an opportunity for redefining ourselves, recreating our place in relations to others. Through it we escape our physical limitations, we can become "A magnetic mob of airborne phosphorescence". For that reason alone, I'll keep on trilling

Thursday, 4 December 2008

spreading that glow

So, we're coming to the end of another year and doing what you do when there's snow on the ground and minus minus in the air ... contemplate what's gone on and who's done what. So in advance of the rest of the year's round up I wanted to woo hoo some of the writers who have appeared in Flax publications over the year (or so):

Emma McGordon's new collection, Those Who Jump, is out from tall-lighthouse
Josephine Dickinson's Night Journey comes from flambard

And looking to next year -

Ian Seed's first complete collection Anonymous Intruder will be published by Shearsman
Maya Chowdhry's pamphlet (as yet untitled) is coming from Commonword

It's such a boost to be working with writers who are committed to their poetry and continue to find outlets and audiences for their writing. Also,
a) it makes us feel like we are really part of a wide and rich community of literature
b) it affirms our choices - yes, Flax might actually be publishing some of the best new writing from the north west (phew)
c) we love that these people are a roll
and d) there's that lovely warm feeling that we must be picking up from them that their work is being recognised as worth an audience - hmmmm, that is something we just lurve.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

why the soaps are to blame

Ahh, that eternal love/hate conundrum has spilled itself into my sailing life. I should have known inanimate objects are never inanimate when we humans come into contact with them. But then knowing and feeling are two very different experiences.
And so, I went down to help bring the boat back from Milford Haven, gales having scuppered the schedule and Richard was out of crew. Love / hate: gales / calm. Yeah, once the force 8s blew themselves out we were left with no wind and so motored the 26+hour passage from Milford Haven to Holyhead.

I don't mind motoring so much - not as fun as sailing, but you get into a zone of moving and on and off shifts and do what needs to be done (even if I'm not eating cos I'm seasick). R isn't so philosophical about it. He hates it and is bored by it and convinces himself he can't sleep because of it.

Here we have him: angry, bored and tired; and me: hungry, disconsolate and tired. We both acknowledged the mission is totally dependent on us to get the boat home, I also admitted I didn't know why the hell I was there and couldn't quite imagine every gaily setting foot on the good ship Sunshine again.

This proved the unification of us: R agreed and we got a laugh out of putting ourselves into a ridiculous situation before facing the black of 3am off Cardigan Bay early November.

If we were in a soap (obviously on some digital channel at 7am) we would have arrived in Glasson (two days later) jumped off the boat and merrily got on with our lives, planning the next trip in the new year.

We're not and even three weeks later I'm not feeling particularly merry. The boat was meant to be a joyous addition to my life, a non-art collaboration, a fifteen year old dream. Right now it's mutated into a film by Guillermo del Toro