Poetry seems to have taken a back seat lately while I have been building the Lúcháir web-site and dealing with some complicated family shenanigans. But I have been reading more – Eavan Boland, Gillian Clarke, Kathleen Jamie, Christine de Luca, and getting into Macdiarmid. A bit of a theme going on here – land, language, memory. Beyond that, I have a new respect for theory and criticism, not only because I have come across some interesting and intelligent critics – Alan Riach, Meghan McAvoy, Michael Gardiner- but because I have found a sort of criticism that is not just dissection and analysis, but which links the writing and reading of poetry to the experience of living, and, instead of slowing you up, making you cynically aware of tricks and techniques to practice or inhibits creativity, sparks off new ideas, new connections, new poems.
All of this is very exciting, and usually the effect of being excited is that I buy lots of books, read lots of first chapters and finish up in an exhausted heap of poetry fragments that result in three poems five years later. Not so much this time – the theory is like a good conversation which keeps me focussed and grounded, and I now have two different but related projects taking shape.
One is the ‘saracen’ outlaw woman who has haunted me for at least the past ten years – the Polly Oliver,the girl who dresses as a boy in order to become a soldier, the selkie shape-shifting between human and seal, Baba Yaga a cannibalistic ‘bad mother’ or wise woman, depending on who you are, the Black Madonna (why does it matter to Spanish or Austrian communities that she is black?), Hestia (who is she and why does she matter so very much?)and the Sheila n-a gig a thoroughly irreverent fertility goddess,apparently. One of the ‘saracen’ poems “The Bower” will appear in Poetry Scotland shortly.
The other is ‘hohokam’ – the name of a native American city that was abandoned just before Europeans showed up. Apparently the name its survivors gave it means ‘all used up’. I’m thinking a lot about erosion, fossils,decay, abandonment and survival/regeneration.