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Welcome to the website of Elizabeth Rimmer

neil's pic1
A poet, gardener and river-watcher, I’m Catholic, radical, feminist and green, born in England of Irish origins, and now living in Scotland. My work is inspired by weather, birds and plants, by landscape and tradition, by the work of craftsmen, conservationists and musicians, by language, legends and archaeology.  My first collection of poems, Wherever We Live Now. was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2011, and my second The Territory of Rain, will appear in September 2015.

 

Burned Thumb

The holy grail, distilled wisdom
of all the world, slips sideways
through the fingers of authority.
Never mind the years of waiting,
the great fish caught and gutted,
the dragon trapped in the pit,
the long simmered broth of herbs,
it always goes astray. The poet
is always that chance apprentice
sucking his clumsy thumb,
scarred, accidental, listening.

In the kingdom of Lochlainn, in the far north, is a magic well, overhung by the hazel tree of knowledge. Its nuts fall into the pool where they are eaten by the salmon of wisdom.One such salmon was caught by the Irish poet Finegas, who lived on the banks of the Boyne.The young Finn MacCool had taken refuge with him and Finegas asked him to cook the salmon for him. While Finn was doing this, he pressed the salmon with his thumb to see if it was cooked. He burned his thumb and sucked it to ease the pain. At that moment, he gained all the wisdom of the salmon, and became able to understand all the languages of every living creature.

The image of the burned thumb occurs in several myths, most famously the Irish legend of Finn, but also that of the Welsh boy Gwion who was splashed by the broth in Ceridwen’s cauldron, and Sigurd the Volsung, cooking the heart of the dragon Fafnir for the evil dwarf Regin. It’s an image that means a lot to me, and it influences the many different dimensions of my writing life.