from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

the world's best job

This morning: mist rolling back and a nod once again to the sun and blue skies of the last ten days. Outside the window two and then three young tawny owls are parading their new repertoire of owly tune-ups. Above them, close by and ascending, is the loud and plaintive call of a buzzard.

Waking up, I think. Everything's about waking up, staying awake. This is the job of consciousness, increasing consciousness. This is the job of a life. It's what Zen is all about. My friend and fellow poet Fiona Owen, studying poetry with me at the the moment, reminded me that it's the job of poetry, too – waking up, being awake, staying awake.


Speaking of jobs, my sister has the World's Best Job. This is now official, as BBC Spotlight Southwest have just confirmed. What she does – get this – is to walk the Southwest Coastpath, that 630-mile trail (will just check those figures) at the bottom of Britain on the sea-girt dramatic cliffs from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset – surely one of the world's most beautiful long-distance trails. She writes it up, then, for various bodies, in slim books, as circular walks. And gets paid for it. (However, it has to be said that it is also extremely hard work, involving her in huge time-pressure and a lot of travelling to meet deadlines. I think I could cope with that pressure though – especially since my own World's Best Job these days seems mostly to involve computer-based admin without the compensation of even a reasonable living – you don't do the life of a freelance poet for anything other than love and a strange obsessive conviction that it matters in some largely irrational and inarticulable way. Then there is the 'unfit for employment' tag one acquires after 30 years of self-employment in the insecure world of the arts. But 'wolf at the door' doesn't come into it; my wolf lives at my heels, gnawing my shoes.)

The other thing is that, somewhat counter-intuitively, my sister moved to Scotland at around the same time she landed the WBJ down here, hundreds of miles further southwest. I don't think the two things were connected; and she does have the major compensation of looking out over the bay and, from the hill behind her house, something like 62 mountains or islands in view... And she also has rather a large petrol bill (plus there is the carbon footprint, though at least she doesn't fly). And she's exhausted. Sigh... Even paradise has its cost... (


I have a number of new projects kicking off this term, in addition to the courses I organise. I've started with the Prince's Trust job, as I mentioned last week. I'm about to do some writing workshops in Dorset and East Devon for Natural England and the National Trust, on the Jurassic coast. The local AONB is considering whether we might work together (stop press: yes – I'll be leading a Walk with a Poet at Hope Cove in Devon next March).
   And last night I led the first Poetry School session, using the Bloodaxe anthology Staying Alive as our springboard. If you have that book (and it's one of the best poetry anthologies around), we looked at two poems last night: 'History', by Maura Dooley (p75) and 'Snow Melting', by Gertrude Schnackenberg. Interesting to compare the two; there are a number of similarities in theme, imagery (bone, planets) and expression of theme (love and loss; love and death; nearness and farness; aloneness and intimacy), though the poetic style of each is quite different.

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