There hasn’t been much activity here lately because I’ve been so very busy elsewhere, online and IRL. Not long back from co-leading a retreat in the Trossachs, by Loch Voil, at Dhanakosa – a perfect place to step out of the hurtle of the digital and into moment-by-moment presence, with spring unfolding before our eyes. I love spending time up there and it was wonderful to be back after three years’ absence. You can find out more about their retreat programme here, if you’re interested.
As well as work continuing on my Writing the Climate Residency and various groups meeting regularly, I have a new book to celebrate. The Knucklebone Floor is the story of Allen Banks and Susan Davidson, the Victorian widow who helped shape the landscape there with her wilderness walks, a tarn, bridges and summerhouses. This is the sequence of poems I wrote as part of my PhD Women on the Edge of Landscape and it’s very exciting to see it about to spring out into the world. Many thanks to Andy Croft at Smokestack for suggesting he publish it. And much appreciation to Matilda Bevan for the section of her Study of a Stream gracing the cover.
The first reading from The Knucklebone Floor will take place at this year’s Newcastle Poetry Festival on Friday 6th May, at 2.30pm. I’ll be joined by Anne Ryland and Dave Spittle, who’ll also be reading from their new collections (Unruled Journal and Rubbles). The day before I’m chairing a panel on Climate at the Emergency-themed Symposium (NCLA in conjunction with the Poetry Book Society) – with Jason Allen-Paisant, Polly Atkin and Sylvia Legris, whose new books I’ve really enjoyed: Thinking with Trees, Much With Body and Garden Physic, respectively. There’ll be plenty to talk about. You can see the Symposium and Festival programme here – lots of unmissable events, and I’m really looking forward to the chance for us all to gather as a community again.
More Knucklebone Floor events follow this opening splash – at Hexham Library, with Matthew Kelly, launching his book The Women Who Saved the English Countryside, as part of Local History Month, on May 12th, 7pm. Then at Inpress‘s pop-up shop in Ouseburn, Newcastle (8 Riverside Walk, between the Cluny and the Tyne Bar) on May 18th, 7pm, with Paul Summers (reading from his new book billy casper’s tears, also from Smokestack). I’ll also be at Allendale’s Forge in July and Ripon Poetry Festival in September – more of those nearer the time.
In the midst of all this fizz, I’m currently editing another book, to be published in the Autumn, when my Residency winds down, and launched at Durham Book Festival. This one’s called Startling and is an attempt to capture some sense of the vulnerability many of us feel in the face of our climate and ecological emergencies. As Margaret Atwood has said: it’s not Climate Change, it’s Everything Change.
Spring speeds everything up, like a time-lapse film and here we all are trying our best to find our place among it all and a way through, helping each other where we can. A deeply challenging, unpredictable time but I’m with Leonard Cohen, hoping that the cracks will let the light shine through.
…we are always in free fall. It’s not like we will find some moral high ground where we are finally stable and can catch all those falling around us. It’s more like we are all falling above the infinite groundlessness of life, and we learn to become stable in flight, and to support others to become free of the fear that arises from feeling unmoored. The final resting place is not the ground at all but rather the freedom that arises from knowing there will never be a ground, and yet here we are, together, navigating the boundless space of life, not attached, yet intimate.
Roshi Joan Halifax