November blog by Sue Wallace-Shaddad
Not long ago I saw ‘The Fisherman’s Friends: One and All’, a film inspired by fishermen in Port Isaac in Cornwall — very engaging! It speaks to us of community and the power of song. I sing in a choir and very much enjoy that sense of community. I don’t have any real music education so have been learning to follow the music as I go. I have tried writing poems about learning to sing and being in a choir but I find I am more comfortable writing poems in response to concerts I have attended. This does mean I need to learn a whole new vocabulary e.g., musical terms and names of instruments. I want to know how a cello is constructed so I can reflect that in a poem! I am not sure I am really getting this right, but I enjoy capturing the moments when music has made an impression on me as a listener. They are memories worth recording.
I have always been interested in cross-arts collaboration but mainly focus on working with the visual arts. For the last two years I have been collaborating with the Suffolk artist, Sula Rubens, R.W.S. We hope that Sula’s images together with my poems in response to them, will be published next year. It will be another learning curve as clearly, as well as working with a publisher, I must stay in step with my collaborating partner, the artist, who will need to be closely involved in how her images are presented. This will affect how such a publication is put together. I have now joined The Society of Authors which offers good advice to writers on a range of topics.
Here is an extract from one of my poems about children journeying across Europe which was inspired by the Sula’s work and brings music into play (forgive the pun!). Interestingly she often paints musicians although I have not tried responding to those paintings as yet.
A percussion of children
would enliven the road
with a ting-ting of triangles,
tambourines in small hands,
bright brittleness of a xylophone,
the ringing of some bells.
I also hear howling wind, slash
of rain, breath of bodies huddled
for warmth when the sea is done.
These children are moving from place to place; they have been displaced. I mentioned in my October blogs that I would be running a workshop about ‘place’ in early November at Poetry in Aldeburgh. It has been interesting looking through my piles of poetry books to select poems for discussion and to go in a reading list. I found, given the time constraints of the event, that I needed to select short poems, which is a pity as I am sure there are excellent longer ones. My pamphlet ‘A City Waking Up’ is all about Khartoum, Sudan, a place I have visited since the 1970s but did not write about till 2016. Memory of ‘place’ is such an important contributing factor to our sense of identity.
I will end by quoting the first three stanzas of a poem by Caroline Gill who often writes about nature and place, whether Wales, Suffolk, Scotland or Cornwall. The poem comes from her collection ‘Driftwood by Starlight’ published in 2021 by The Seventh Quarry Press.
SW437374, Treen, beside B3306
Zennor Quoit, Robin’s Rocks, Great Zawn
and Gurnard’s Head ripple off the tongue,
raining their music on this granite land.
I tilt my neck and watch the sky display
its spectral colours as the clouds recede;
two farm dogs scamper up the hill. I walk
towards the fingerstone, which hides
between the tarmac and a Cornish hedge;
a snail trail shimmers in the afternoon.
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