Timesong: searching for Doggerland

Just treated myself to a copy of Julia Blackburn’s latest book, Timesong, Searching for Doggerland.

In the introduction she says,

I wonder if it makes sense to imagine infinity going backwards in time rather than forwards. When you look at it that way round, you no longer have the vague dread of what the future holds, instead there is the intimation of the enormity of everything that has gone before: a solemn procession of life in all its myriad forms moving steadily towards this present moment. You can almost hear the songs they are singing.

There is something else. My husband died a few years ago. He has vanished and yet he remains close, beneath the surface as it were, so perhaps I am also trying to catch a glimpse of him within the great jumble of everything else that has been lost from our sight.’

As an epigraph she quotes the last few lines of a poem by Charles Causley, called Eden Rock. I thought it was worth sharing the whole:

They are waiting for me somewhere beyond Eden Rock:
My father, twenty-five, in the same suit
Of Genuine Irish Tweed, his terrier Jack
Still two years old and trembling at his feet.

My mother, twenty-three, in a sprigged dress
Drawn at the waist, ribbon in her straw hat,
Has spread the stiff white cloth over the grass.
Her hair, the colour of wheat, takes on the light.

She pours tea from a Thermos, the milk straight
From an old H.P. sauce-bottle, a screw
Of paper for a cork; slowly sets out
The same three plates, the tin cups painted blue.

The sky whitens as if lit by three suns.
My mother shades her eyes and looks my way
Over the drifted stream. My father spins
A stone along the water. Leisurely,

They beckon to me from the other bank.
I hear them call, ‘See where the stream-path is!
Crossing is not as hard as you might think.’

I had not thought that it would be like this.
Charles Causley

Timesong: searching for Doggerland

Derek Walcott RIP

Back in 1971 my sister – 11 years old – bought me a book of poetry with a title that would now, I guess, be considered offensive.

It had been published first in 1964 and reprinted in 1969. It cost 4/-. A lot of pocket money in those days. I loved it and still have it on my shelves.

The collection of poems  include modern and traditional African verse, some American poets and this – rich, vivid, alert, conscious of both past and present – from Derek Walcott, who has died today:

scan 7

Derek Walcott RIP

Murmurations

When we visited Snape late last year I came across this book – one long poem – by Julia Blackburn.

murmurations

It begins:

I am busy with death
And the fact of it
Because my husband died
Three months ago
Almost to the day,
The landscape of my altered world
Divided
Between before and after.

The verses are woven around some beautiful photographs of starlings in formations, flying. Murmurations.

The poet describes the connection between the movement of the birds and her grief:

The way they pull between a celebration of living
And an intimation of things unseen…..

Starlings make me able to believe
That everything will be alright
In its own way
And that is good to know
-If it is knowing –
Perhaps it is more to do with trust.

It’s intimate, poignant and very moving. You can read a little more about it here. You can buy it here.

Murmurations