Friday, 1 December 2017

"Writers on the Shore", poems and photos from the workshop I ran South Walney Nature Reserve June 25th 2017

photo of Piel Island Reflections by Geraldine Green (copyright)

(with thanks to The Doors, 'Riders on the Storm')

photo by Jane Byle (copyright)

Walney First Draft, Jane Byle

Wander along Walney's coastal path, inhale the sea, taste its salty air -
refresh your creative soul.
Forage for this island's heart beating with the waves - its circulation replenished by the tides...
pulsating with colour even on this grey day.
Peer into grasses, peppered with scarlet pimpernel, yellow horned poppy, red clover, viola...
Turn to see cattle quietly grazing, calves lying amongst blue blur of viper's bugloss.
Gulls noisy overhead, circling.
Grey seals' noses bob above the waves.
Heavy necklace of eider ducks fringe the water's edge.
Hills confident on the horizon melt into cloudy skies. Turbines hesitant, waiting for wind as it gently stirs the marram grass and nudges sailing boats further out to sea.
This island will enter your heart and draw you back for more.

photo by Jane Byle (copyright)

On Walney Island

Salt, sharp on the tongue and a wind more March than June

flowers a living mosaic beneath our feet:
Sea Century, Scarlet Pimpernel,
Almeria Maritime, Sea Thrift’s Latin name
Dovesfoot Cranes Bill
Storks Bill- though I hear Snarks Bill
Sea Campion translates as Silene Maritime.
These names are told to us by our guide.

Seals, heads sea–soaked, glistening
bob out of the water
watching us, watching them, watching us
have you seen seals dancing?
sea thrift does, jives among pebbles in lichen coats
an oyster catcher scoots along the shingle
beak and feet beautifully colour co-ordinated

And the sea; an ever present symphony of greys and greens

Maggie Scott

photo by Jane Byle (copyright)

Walney Island

I didn’t see the wind blowing between land and sea;
I didn’t see the piping of oystercatchers
Nor what disturbed them;
I didn’t see the barnacles forming reefs under the wind farm
Nor where the meadow pipit landed with the worm in its beak.

I saw the round of Fairfield
Reflected in the hip bone, hook bone, of a cow;
I saw the square of castle, shipworks and discarded blocks of concrete
And how the blocks were the broken spine of a dinosaur
With vipers bugloss growing in them;
I saw maps of imaginary continents in bright orange lichen on dark rocks.

© Sue Venfield June 2017

photo by Jane Byle (copyright)

Walney revisited
My emotions ebb and flow along Walney’s paths,
skirted by a calming sea. I taste the salted air;
nourishing my soul, setting free my cares.

This island’s heart beats with the waves; its
circulation replenished by loyal tides.
Land pulses colour, even on grey days.

Grasses, peppered with scarlet pimpernel, mingle
with yellow horned poppy, red clover, viola… 
pyramidal orchids and six-spot burnet moth.

Cattle quietly graze. Calves lie amid blue blaze
of viper’s bugloss, vibrant with bees
and butterflies feasting on flowers.

Gulls circle, screeching overhead, whilst
oystercatchers elegantly stalk the sands,
seeking mollusc treasure amongst empty shells.

Heavy necklace of eider ducks fringe the water’s edge.
‘Ooh, ooh!’ they cry - exclamations in
heated conversation, as I wander by.

Grey seals’ noses bob above waves like synchronised
swimmers floating on their backs, then disappear.
I wait, eager for more aquatic antics.

Hills, confident on the horizon, melt into
cloudy skies and shadows of a shipyard. Turbines
hesitant, wait for wind’s power to drive them on.

Gentle breeze stirs marram grass and nudges
sailing boats further out to sea. Lone lighthouse,
maintaining its duty, no longer needs a keeper.

Walney beams hidden light, lifts my mood, clutching
me to its core. Senses enriched, I’m drawn back
on a rip-tide of memories to its unique shores.

©Jane Byle June 2017

Two of the poems we explored, while at Cumbria Wildlife Trust's South Walney Nature Reserve, and two of the writing prompts:

Seals at High Island by Richard Murphy

The calamity of seals begins with jaws.
Born in caverns that reverberate
With endless malice of the sea’s tongue
Clacking on shingle, they learn to bark back
In fear and sadness and celebration.
The ocean’s mouth opens forty feet wide
And closes on a morsel of their rock.

Swayed by the thrust and backfall of the tide,
A dappled grey bull and a brindled cow
Copulate in the green water of a cove.
I watch from a cliff-top, trying not to move.
Sometimes they sink and merge into black shoals;
Then rise for air, his muzzle on her neck,
Their winged feet intertwined as a fishtail.

She opens her fierce mouth like a scarlet flower
Full of white seeds; she holds it open long
At the sunburst in the music of their loving;
And cries a little. But I must remember
How far their feelings are from mine marooned.
If there are tears at this holy ceremony
Theirs are caused by brine and mine by breeze.

When the great bull withdraws his rod, it glows
Like a carnelian candle set in jade.
The cow ripples ashore to feed her calf;
While an old rival, eyeing the deed with hate,
Swims to attack the tired triumphant god.
They rear their heads above the boiling surf,
Their terrible jaws open, jetting blood.

At nightfall they haul out, and mourn the drowned,
Playing to the sea sadly their last quartet,
An improvised requiem that ravishes
Reason, while ripping scale up like a net:
Brings pity trembling down the rocky spine
Of headlands, till the bitter ocean’s tongue
Swells in their cove, and smothers their sweet song.

Reprinted from Richard Murphy: Collected Poems with permission of Wake Forest University Press. Copyright © 2001 Richard Murphy. All rights reserved.

Writing Prompt: Select 5-6 images/phrases/words and create a word necklace using them. Please acknowledge poet and poem if you keep them in your finished poem. Thanks. Geraldine Green 4.6.2017

Piel Castle, photo by Geraldine Green (copyright)

An extract from Dunstanburgh
Katrina Porteous

There is a castle by the sea
That no road leads to any more -
On the height of a cliff, the farthest edge
of land, a wind-rucked field;a wall
And gatehouse, ruled across the sky;
A city, seen from miles away;
A promise, pledged in tall stone towers
That, more than battle, passing years,
Winter on winter of wind and rain,
Have battered down to a great ruin;

There's a secret as old
As the stones to unlock:
There's a riddle, a mystery
Trapped in the rock,

In the rock,
In the rock,
In the rock,
In the rock,
In the rock.

And nobody visiting listens or stays
Long enough to tell that the noise
Of the sea on the cliff-face does not cease,
Or to say when the swallows and gulls that roost
In its loud, rocky hollows are suddenly gone
To the tug of winter; and nobody sees
How, in its hours of solitude,
The ruin is endlessly reclaimed:

Rift of rock,
Buckle. Twist.
Black scar,
Wrench, ruck.
Cold stone
Crust, crack:
Rift of rock,
Buckle. Twist.
Black scar,
Wrench, ruck.

Cold stone

Grey-green lichen,
Brittle, prickly,
Boils and blisters,
Crusty, crackly

Pale and warty,
Witches fingers,
Scabbed and scaly.
Grey-green lichen,
Brittle, prickly,
Boils and blisters,
Crusty, crackly
Pale and warty,
Witches fingers,
Scabbed and scaly.

Writing Prompt: View to Piel Island:  Read ‘An Extract from Dunstanburgh by Katrina Porteous. Prompt: Try writing your notes in a similar form to Katrina Porteous. Use repetition, use the whole white space of the page, have some fun playing with that space! And also the SOUNDS of the word…. What does a mussel shell sound like? What does a rock sound like? What colour is the sound of the wind? What does it feel like to walk into the sea?

photo by Geraldine Green (copyright)


And the seals and the seals and heart's ease and forests of viper's bugloss and always the sea running through our veins and the eider ducks awwww calls of surprising gossip in the marketplace and meadow pipits' song trailing down in a fluteful melody from sky 
friends of common mouse-ear, dove's foot cranesbill, sea centaury, sea campion/silene maritima, thrifts/armarium maritima,, pink rest harrow to rest on and wild thyme to dream on ... and the sound of the sea racing back from the bay...

by Geraldine Green (copyright) South Walney 25.6.2017

Irish Sea, Walney, photo by Geraldine Green (copyright)

Many thanks for your kind comment, Jane (Byle)

This was a most enjoyable workshop. Thank you Geraldine. 
It was great uncovering some of the hidden gems on South Walney Nature Reserve - an inspiring and peaceful place. 
Thanks too, to our knowledgeable guide who identified the flora and fauna on the Island.
A great day.
J. Byle

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