'There are no bolts that do not exactly
fit the gates into and out of the store-ring'
wrote David Scott in his early poem 'Kirkwall Auction Mart' (the first poem in his 1984 collection A Quiet Gathering). The poem would have been instantly recognisable by the Cumbrian farmers amongst whom David lived when he was vicar of Torpenhow. 'A nod decides the hidden bidders' and the buyer turns out to be 'a man of dull cloth' who was 'hunched over the front rail'. Those bolts in the auction mart could be an analogy for the writing of a poet whose words exactly fit the subjects of his poems.
At the end of March I signed up for Anna Dreda's Wenlock Books' poetry breafasts - carefully curated selections of poems on a theme. I was delighted to read this poem again in Anna's selection on the theme of Journeying which began with David Scott as featured poet with a commentary by David's wife, Miggy.
The selection also included 'Skellig Michael: a pilgrimage' - a meditation on a visit to the remote island off the southwest coast of Ireland. The opening words seized
my attention immediately:
'I was on the top of an illuminated wave ...
The boat climbed the wave, sat on
top of it, and slid down the other side'
just like, he says, the boat on an upturned U in an illuminated manuscript. Typically in his work he combines the ordinary (the lighthouse path 'thick with a high-pitched smell of bird lime') with a quiet, simple spirituality:
' ... Stop.
Breathe. Let in the peace, and if you don't kneel there
where on earth will you kneel?'
* * *
David was a member of the Cumbrian Poets' workshop but had moved away long before I was invited to join the workshop in 2003. But I did overlap with Jeremy Over, whose third Carcanet collection Fur Coats in Tahiti has been shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year award (like me, Jeremy relocated from Cumbria to Wales a few years ago). I very much enjoyed his recent interview at Poetry Wales. There is a wonderful deadpan playfulness about Jeremy's poems. One of my favourites in this collection is featured in the interview - 'Red sock in yellow box'. That red sock would unravel if I tried to extract bits of the poem to quote. Read it at the end of the interview - I defy anyone not to laugh at the last verse.
The interview ends with some of Jeremy's advice to writers:
'Read widely and enjoy yourself';
'Write what you like and be happy';
and, more soberingly, 'You are doing some of the last things done by beings on this planet. Generosity and beauty and basicness might be good ways to go' (quoting Anne Herbert).
We'll know the Wales Book of the Year results by the end of the week - good luck, Jeremy.