Image: Hayley Madden
Our 2022 artist residency is well underway! We are thrilled to have an update from Anthony Vahni Capildeo about their experience so far staying at Cyprus Well in Launceston.
After an eleven-hour journey from north Edinburgh to Launceston, I arrived as dusk was falling but immediately felt welcomed by Malcolm, who had the keys to Cyprus Well. The cottage may seem like a time capsule to some, or a museum; to me it felt immediately inhabited. It is reminiscent of interiors I know well from Trinidad, oddly enough; for example, my late aunt’s house (she was born in 1925) bore great similarity to Laura Causley’s sitting room. Almost the first thing I did was open Charles Causley’s piano; it’s a delight to live with a musical instrument again. His music is an insight into the character of someone who must have had a lively side; there are many piano books of showstopper songs (Edith Piaf, Oklahoma, Carousel), and some red-pencil annotations on what look like songs for schoolchildren. It is lovely, too, to be surrounded by birdsong all day; Angel Hill gives a view onto various levels of landscape, so the birdsong really comes in as if from every point! Again, this oddly echoes Trinidad, where there’s a similar effect in the garden-facing room where I sleep when visiting my mother.
It’s been lovely to reconnect with writers living locally or close by, such as Sarah Cave, Pascale Petit and Ellen Wiles. I have spent a lot of quiet time just walking and gaining a ‘muscle memory’ of the routes that inform Charles Causley”s poems. I’m astounded again and again by the damask-like carving that makes granite delicate, on St Mary Magdalene Church. I was lucky, too, to be welcomed into the community at St Cuthbert Mayne church, which has been renovated. St Cuthbert is one of the local martyrs, and through this community and the building, once again a warm and living legacy extends itself, rather than an atmosphere of nostalgia or loss. I also love the ‘squint window’ that lepers used to look through, at St Thomas’s, and the wall painting with St Roche’s little dog in a charmingly keen posture!
On my walks I carry a tiny notebook and have been experimenting with collecting fragments of lines that emerge in my mind while walking, and with more rhyming forms than usual for my craft, in tribute to Charles Causley’s expertise at bringing life to traditional styles, musicality that resembles simplicity. A lot of these refer to the stones with which the town is built. I’m fascinated by the histories of craftsmanship and regular life encoded in the most ordinary-seeming corners. So far I’ve connected with Truro College sixth form, and we have been discussing how memory and embodiment come together to sharpen lived moments into poetic language.
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