Peninsula Magazine

Last week, Peninsula Magazine was published – a product of my postgraduate Writing course which is now winding down and coming to its close.  My coursemates and I spent over six months working on Peninsula – from conceiving its theme, contacting our favourite writers to ask for contributions, liaising with copyeditors and designers to get it just how we wanted, and then getting it out there – in UK bookshops and as a downloadable PDF online.

The process made me fall a little in love with litmags, and realise how invaluable they are to the spread of good writing, and new writing too – something that I’m hungry for, more than ever.  For my part, I interviewed Jay Griffiths, one of my favourite writers, about Wild, one of my favourite books.  I was also fortunate to get other great writers involved, whose work and sentence craft continue to inspire me: Robert Macfarlane, David Lawrence, Matthew Oates, Kathleen Jamie, Jeremy Mynott, Mel Challenger…all of these writers, some whose work I read prior to making the decision to pursue writing more seriously, some who I stumbled across whilst completing dissertations for my course, all have given their words to Peninsula with generosity, and have made it eclectic, diverse and very, very readable, covering themes as wide ranging as footpaths, Antarctica, butterflies, London, birds, the paranormal, Glastonbury, road trips, Hawaii and Cornish policing.  I also contributed some of my own writing, on pages 68 – 70, about returning to my childhood home.

There are very few print copies left (which, by the way, are free – we post them out to whoever wants them), but the PDF is available here.

I think you should click on that link.

Advertisements

Silent Retreat

It’s Monday afternoon, and the world feels a slightly different place.

I’ve just returned from a week long silent retreat at Gaia House, where the focus was on mindfulness, and how it can lead to equanimity in life.

I’d never gone on a silent retreat before; never even considered that this might be something for me.  I’d recently been introduced to meditation by a friend of mine, but the enquiry ended there. The week was tough, with a few home truths to swallow, but I can honestly say that, yes, my world has now changed a little.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into the details.  In fact, mindfulness and meditation made me think quite hard about how best to write about the experience of retreating from the world for a week – no verbal communication, no reading, no mobile phones, no email.

In the end, I felt that the only way to best sum it all up was through poetry.  I wrote this whilst out walking in the stillness of the Devonshire countryside; whilst sitting on the cushion instead of focusing on my breath (I couldn’t help it), and whilst sitting on a bench, with a cup of tea, looking at the huge trees in the grounds. One of them, a great sycamore that had felt more time pass than I could ever dream of, had a trunk shaped like a twisting torso, arms held out to its sides supporting the weight of its own life.

The poem began from this tree.

 

Gaia House

Deep in the limbs of vast trees

That the eye has to roll in its socket to see

Began the wind; from the brush

Of countless leaf with countless leaf

Drew up an endless breath.

 

The sun left the hills again.

Lawn lights pricked awake at the edges

Of grass, grass that human shuffles had swept

Not so long before.  The two rabbits,

That bared without fear their flanks to the house,

Saw what the rabbits saw.

 

Did the Meditation Hall hear the wind?

Fifty souls, fifty shifting selves,

Lids shut tight on their infinities,

All felt different things.

 

Silence had sealed them in deep.

 

And when one mind strayed to the

Scent of handsoap when another

Shifted his seat and made to twist,

She curled her thought, again, to the refrain:

‘How is this breath?  And this one?  And this?’

 

Poems about the air

This past week, on two occasions. I’ve been struck by the air.  Summer has been quite a letdown in Cornwall – it’s been a letdown across the whole UK.  I’ve always associated July with being summer fully ripened – heat, humidity, vegetation everywhere, air conditioning everywhere.  A bit of heavy rain and thunder, sure.  Barbecues and outdoor furniture on discount at the supermarkets, long evenings.

A receptionist said to me on Thursday, “Apparently, it’s going to be September.  That’s when the summer’s coming.”

Some can’t wait that long, down here.  People are beginning to get a little depressed.  I’m just happy to be by the sea, It’s still a novelty for me, so the gloom hasn’t filtered through just yet.  I’ve got no holiday planned, and no leave from a job to spend wisely anymore.  I’ve been living here in Falmouth for ten months.  I’ve been a student with a fairly unstructured daily routine for ten months.

Perhaps that’s why these poems came out this week.

 

 

Whilst waiting for the branch line at St Ives

In the shallow, honeyed song of hidden high birds

In the outbreaths of Porthminster’s shore

And in how my fringe slurs its forehead lick

In lethargy, I feel

The air of a town

Remote to so many

Yet baring itself, unobject, unsubject, to me.

 

Whilst running through Falmouth In July

As I ran, I played scientist.

Each breath in became a sample,

Each sample a question:

Could it be this scent, or this taste,

that makes me think of Wales?

 

On I pressed,

Cornish pavement to Pembrokeshire track,

English Channel salt crashing with the Atlantic

On black Aberfalin stone.

It hung on me like old love,

Tender to taste, fresh to breathe,

And as I looped Falmouth streets,

I knew:

 

Two barometer needles, was all,

Tapped by a finger on glass, huddled close to.

It was an overlap.  Memories on two sheets of acetate,

on an overhead projector, that I watched

Cross-legged

On a chair

In an air-conditioned room

In an office on an industrial estate –

 

So now there’s Rotherham, too,

And I ran around there, once, kicked through

July growth on a rare footpath,

a stump of two miles between

wheat fields and corrugate,

The sea an imagining I threaded

And left there, like a dropped spanner,

Between the two.