Lúcháir is Irish for ‘delight’, related to the Scottish Gaelic luachair – the soft rush (juncus effusus)– and the Welsh llwych, ‘a spark’. The pith of this plant was soaked in tallow used to make rushlights and by association this word came also to mean ‘the gleam of light on water’ – a flash of beauty, enlightenment, and in Celtic tradition , a glimpse of the other-world. In early Christian times, churches, and especially graveyards, in Scotland were often sited at the reedy headwaters of lochs – the places where Heaven and earth are closest.
This rush, this moment of delight when earth and Heaven are seen together, seemed to me to be the appropriate image for an attempt to integrate personal faith, love of the earth and its indigenous traditions, and my growing awareness of how all these things are endangered by the perfect storm of careless living in the world, of greed, fear and ignorance of who we are, where we came from, where we live and all the creatures with whom we are privileged to share the world. It became the basis of my poetry practice, and a way of life.
In developing what I’ve called a ‘grounded poetics’ I have drawn from:
- the insights of geo-poetics, in which I found a way of grounding art in an informed and intelligent awareness of the earth. You can find out more at the site of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics.
- the environmental initiatives of the permaculture movement whose principles (which you can see here) have a lot in common with the social teaching of the church in which I was brought up, especially in the emphasis on diversity, inclusivity and subsidiarity.
- the spiritual practices of monastic traditions – particularly that of the Rule of St Benedict. I have studied my own monastic tradition deeply, but I have also learned a lot from friends of many faiths and observances – Wiccan, Quaker, Buddhist, Socialist and many others.
and aim to produce poetry grounded in knowledge of my environment, and a dialogue of simplicity, peace, wonder and respect.
Pope Francis Laudato Si
I wanted to get to know the world around me – the history and geography, the ecology and community. Careful observation of what is here already grounds my thinking about what to do next.
The Walking the Territory Project inspired some of the work in Wherever We Live Now, and almost all of the poems in The Territory of Rain.
I wanted to reflect on the place herbs have in our culture, the way we use them as archetypes, as symbols of resistance, as a way to reconnect with the earth and with aspects of ourselves and those aspects of our society we have let go astray, as a way of dealing with grief, upheaval and hardship. Work on this project informed almost all the work in my third collection, Haggards.
This is a study of pastoral and Eco-poetry, which aims to reclaim the genre from the stereotypes of nostalgia, escapism, lyric romanticism or evangelistic cheer-leading. I want to include perspectives of feminism and radical politics in attitude towards land use and ownership, and a deeper philosophical and psychological insight into notions of inhabiting, ‘home’ and wilderness. It will probably be a long-term project!