Monday, 30 May 2011

Credo The Day

Something is wrong in the way that I'm writing
what I'm writing about or why.

I asked the poems to be Aztec descriptions of things
in the familiar world and that is all they obediently are.

They have the rhythm of things that are like other things
buckled and braced with similes, turreted clauses.

When you say, it is like, it is like, it is like, you make emphatic
equations: inward-looking things. The true poetry

can't be far off – like parallel universes, you're nearly there –
but not until you shrug off this vector.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Patella – The Dominant Species

Time for an update on the limpet situation. I picked up my latest batch this week and feel like I'm getting somewhere: their form is much blousier, and I'm finally getting the porcelain thin enough for light to shine through. Incredibly exciting, because for me, its translucency is the most mesmerising thing about porcelain. I'm intending to try firing some of these with in a matt, translucent glaze, but in the meantime, I settled the colony in on my windowsill, and peered over the laptop at them as I worked to see how they would behave. As soon as the sun hit the windowsill, they began to glow with a lovely submerged golden light, making me think this species is one of those furnished with photophores: light-emitting cells. Speculate that these may attract prey to within the reach of the hunting limpet.

My feeling about these limpets has been that they should seem subtly animated in some way, but I wasn't quite sure how this would happen. I've had ideas about an installation where they move up and down the walls of a gallery space 'with the tide'; and I noticed that the ones with a single feeding pore gave the impression of having a vestigial face. When I tilted a couple towards each other, they seemed to be communicating or negotiating.

Instead of a single large feeding pore, some have a ring of small holes around the shell (females?) Through these emerge fans of retractable 'hairs' with which they sweep the current in search of their very small beer.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Yesterday I went from the literal to the lovelier littoral, bending, picking, swilling about in the warming shallows. A pair of loons (I think) barked on the water and the eiders and skylarks lightened my mood after the morning's work on the novel, which was grisly and effortful. I gave up after a while to open Bull of the Woods – The Gordon Gibson Story. Gibson grew up making a tough living from lumber and later shipping on the West Coast of B.C. in the 20s and 30s. He can hardly get through a page without a reference to his interest in 'the ladies'. He's continually hopping in and out of windows and letting himself into hotel rooms: 'I crept along the hall and picked a door that seemed about right [...] crawling on my hands and knees over to the bed, I felt about the covers to make my presence known to the young lady.'

The winkles on the rocky bottom here were caked in a Battenberg-pink coral or sponge and I saw more of those animals that are like transparent potatoes. Does anybody know what they are? Broken shells of smislins and spoots, but no sign of siphons. Yearning for a new language for the draining meadows coming firm underfoot, the distended hill, the time of butterwort (penny-girse) and royal blue milkwort; tirricks, geese and shalder. That yearning is the place from which poems have so often started for me but I'm still pretty self-conscious. In the meantime I sorted out some things that have been troubling me about the novel, in my head, at least, which doesn't mean all that much. Guddling in the chiffons of algal bloom: "you're asking too much of the narrative to try and set the action in a space of three winter months; it might not work to relegate so much history to the back-story."

I'm working on too many different things at once, again, I think. In the last two days I've worked at novel, welk-ebb, poetry; then there's been mentoring, plans for woven baskets made from bruck materials, sequinned (I think) with with plastics reclaimed from the sea and hole-punched. I might make Greenlandic/Danish sequins from that shipping ticket, too, or opercula of (poor old) winkles. I'm looking forward to picking up a batch of the bisque-fired porcelain limpets today too. I feel like a prism, splitting the light. But what else can you do with so much light?

Monday, 9 May 2011


I went for a walk in the wind yesterday, roundabout high tide. I wanted to see how all that stuff that piles up behind the geo – heavy yellow wellies, planks, pallets – scales that three or four metres of rock. It must come up on a westerly, though, and this was from the east, pouring over the Clift Hills and smacking into the Voe, plucking at the windbreak round my veg garden. The warm wind wrenched me like a bad tooth and drove me towards the cliffs. My rocket and radish and beet seedlings were burnt to the earth, but the little purple flowers on the cliff were fine, just shaking and bending. I'll call them rubber-wort. What I did find was a plasticised shipping document from the Royal Arctic Line, bilingual, in Greenlandic and Danish. It was lying in a ditch that runs near one of the lochans behind the house. You can look up live ship positions on the Royal Arctic website, and it shows one of their routes running just south of Shetland on its way to the Western Coast of Greenland. Up to this point my favourite piece of flotsam has been a crate of Russian ketchup. Now I'm having a nice lunch-break from the novel, trying to work out which of their ships it fluttered off, using google translate for a crash course in Danish, trying to work out the 'Vejledning' (Instructions) on the reverse:

'Containerens endelig DESTINATION angives tydeligt med stor skrift': 'The container's final destination indicated neatly in big font' (capitals?) Ah dear. For time-wasting, who needs Facebook?