BurnedThumb

Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


Blog


  • A Few Updates

    bookshelves floor to ceiling, two wooden steps in front of them

    I have a new computer, which is very lovely in many ways, but I am struggling to find the photos I uploaded yesterday, so until I learn the file management system on this beast, there will have to be old photos. This is one of my library, which was set up last year. Although it has a lot of books in it, it is mostly used for a chill out space for those of us who need a break from the chatter when we’re all together, and for crafting. Sometimes I feel rather uncomfortable about having so much space and access to books, when some people, especially the younger generation, find themselves struggling with access to resources to support their writing, so I’d like to find a way to share this. If you are a writer who needs to borrow or consult books that I have, let me know and we’ll see what can be done.

    This is a bit of a distraction from my main intention which was to remind everyone about the poetry event at the Little biggar Festival on 28th October. The Facebook posting reads:

    Biggar-based publisher Red Squirrel Press invites you to an afternoon of Red Squirrel Press poets and friends in aid of MacDiarmid’s Brownsbank, held in Biggar & Upper Clyde Museum on 28th October.

    Featuring some of the best-known names in poetry, WN (Bill) Herbert, Dundee Makar and Professor of Poetry, Sean O’Brien, multi award- winning poet and Emeritus Professor, Colin Will, writer, musician, former Scottish Poetry Library and StAnza International Poetry Festival Chair, award winning Biggar-based poet Lindsay Macgregor, Andrew Forster, poet and literature development worker and was previously Literature Development Officer for Dumfries and Galloway. Elizabeth Rimmer widely-published poet, reviewer and editor, author of four collections from Red Squirrel Press and editor of the eco-poetry discussion website Ceasing Never.

    Tickets available from https://www.biggarlittlefestival.com/literature/red-squirrel

    There is another upcoming reading in Stirling on 4th November as part of Paperboats Day for Nature, but I will post more about this later when further details are available.

    Also, I am sorry to announce that I am going to stop sending out my newsletter. I used Mailchimp, but as the parent company has announced its intention to scrape content in order to train AI, the potential for copyright infringements eems too high to be worth it. I’m looking for alternative ways of keeping in touch, as there are some subscribers who don’t follow me elsewhere on social media, but in the meantime, I can be found on BlueSky, (mostly poetry) Mastodon (mostly politics and environmental stuff) and Instagram (herbs, cooking and gardening). That’s a lot, and I’ll probably refine it as the platforms develop, but that’s where I am just now.

  • The Gallus Herbs

    witch hazel against a brick wall. A slanting line of sunlight. rather weedy foreground.

    I have been out weeding this patch of the front garden before the rain gets here this afternoon. Although it looks better, I couldn’t say I’d made a meticulous job of it, but then my allegiance is divided. Because it is the front garden, overlooked from the sitting room, and faces directly onto the street, I really wanted it to look cared for and intentional, with scent and colour all the year round. But on the other hand, I can’t help wondering if a lot of what I’m taking out isn’t at least as interesting as what I’m leaving.

    a clump of snowdrops

    I will admit I can’t get too enthusiastic about hairy bittercress, which gets everywhere there’s an inch of bare soil, but some people eat it as a salad or a spring tonic. I could probably do without willowherb too, but buttercups? I do like them, in their proper place. And dandelions? They are very useful, for salads and to make into a salve for aching muscles, a dye herb, a coffee substitute, and pollinators love them. I like their brassy cheerfulness, their delicate seedheads and their folklore, but I have to admit there’s nothing makes a garden look neglected more quickly than a bunch of seeding dandelions. I’ll have to move them behind the shed or up against the back fence, or behind the greenhouse.

    The plants I’ve left aren’t much of a guide – the meadowsweet and ragged robin, the wood violet, foxgloves that hitch-hiked on the pot plants from my previous garden, the betony and woundwort, the field poppy that has seeded itself even in the gravel of the parking spaces, the dog rose I found behind the buddleia. If I keep them, shouldn’t I keep the stitchwort, the eyebright, the red clover? And as for the chickweed, if I pull it out I’ll need to forage for some to make soothing cream for my skin, but I really don’t think I can let it smother my pansies.

    The problem with the gallus herbs is that they are relentless and stubborn. They give no quarter to their neighbours, and they won’t stay where they are put. Invincible champions, in fact:

    Praise-Poem for Weeds
    I call on the gallus herbs,
    the wild herbs of verge and scrub,
    the loud and flashy herbs,
    the herbs with the souls of weeds,
    the unrelenting invaders who blow
    their seeds over the hills,
    send their roots rampaging
    through the ditches, between
    my lettuce and cabbage and kale.
    I’ll butter their feral paws,
    tame them in my pestle, they’ll guard me
    from elf-shot, the stitch, the sudden
    pain that sneaks between the light
    woven shield of my ribs.
    Feverfew, plantain, red dead nettle!
    Come, smother it all, you little witches,
    you ghosts of old gardeners,
    you tough, bristly, bitter
    invincible champions.

    (from The Well of the Moon)

    They can stay. Probably not in the front garden, but wherever I am, I am sure the gallus herbs will follow in my footprints.

    a pot of helleborus niger. Two terracotta pigeons stand in front of it
  • World Wetlands Day

    boardwalk in the Avalon marshes, grass and willows surrounnd it

    Today is World Wetlands Day. I have form with wetlands, since my poem about blanket bogs was used in an installation by the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh, and even featured on the side of a bus to advertise it. This is a later poem, however, from The Well of the Moon, which deals with the Avalon Marshes in real life, but also the landscapes of our hearts and heritage, and the myths we create to try to express them.

    Lost Roads
    I am haunted by wet places, the lure
    of rivers, reedbeds and green lands of ash
    and willow. The drift of water, pooling
    between the autumn stems and wind-frayed flags
    of common sedge and reed, is like the course
    of blood, of thought, deep in the mulch of me.
    There is talk of lost roads, boardwalks
    of planks and narrow handrails
    hid deep beneath the quaking ground
    with its stealth of buntings, stepping heron,
    its shattered tops of bulrush, spilling
    cottony seed for birds like new coins
    at a wedding scramble. The hidden past,
    with its myths of Romans and lost queens
    of the Iron Age, threads its careful way
    through thickets of imagined story, and I,
    not immune to this casual appropriation,
    imprint my own lost ancestors, finding
    or inventing the feel of home here, roots
    where there may be none, whole trees
    growing into the open wind and sky.

    I’ve been thinking about the celebrations that have happened this week, whether you call it the Feast of St Bride, Brigid’s Day or Imbolc. I am delighted that in Ireland it is being kept as a public holiday – goodness knows we could do with one at this time of year, and I’m not sure that Robert Burns Day quite has the impact. These spring celebrations are all about returning to the light, or bringing into the light things that have been nurtured in the dark, and so I thought I might write a little about my four poetry books, that don’t seem to have seen the light of day much lately.

    Wherever We Live Now came out in 2011, published by Red Squirrel Press. It has a lot of seasonal poems in it, a few about exploring my Irish heritage, and a sequence about the Orpheus myth, which was the closest I ever came to an artists’ practice statement. It has a cover image by the film-maker Alastair Cook, a Berneray landscape showing the land merging with sea and sky.

    The Territory of Rain came out during a very scary time in 2015 when my husband was hospitalised with myasthenia gravis, which probably explains the rather high proprtion of death poems in it. The hospital was wonderful and they discharged him just in time to come to the launch. This is the most explicitly geopoetical of my books, and has a very special cover image by Gerry Cambridge on the front. How special it was I didn’t realise until 2019, when his book The Light Acknowledgers (Happenstance Press) and I found it was a picture he had written a poem about.

    Haggards came out in 2018. It was centred around herbs and dealt with social and environmental collapse and regeneration. I think it is the most popular of my books, having been reprinted twice. Gerry Cambridge excelled himself with the design, providing not only the beautiful cover image, but a tiny wren hopping about on the title page of the sequence The Wren in the Ash Tree.

    The Well of the Moon came out during the pandemic. It has a lot of plant and herb and landscape poems as you might expect, but was inspired by mental health issues (my own and other people’s) which lead me to reflect on what ‘a person’ is, and what the sense of identity is made of. Gerry’s cover image this time features a crescent moon and a feverfew plant, which appears in the first poem in the book.

    The two most recent books are still available from the publisher, but the first two are out of print. I still have the last remaining copies, however, if anyone would like them. You can buy them from my shop, and I don’t charge for p+p in the UK. You don’t need Paypal either as I’ve enabled credit card payments.

    All of that was three years ago, and it’s probably time I was thinking of a new one. The news is, I am indeed. So far it is called The Midsummer Foxes, and is about land and belonging, magic and death, the self and the other – and music. It won’t happen for a couple of years yet, but yes, it is coming into the light!

  • After the Storms

    A pale blue iris just opening in a very wet border

    We have had two named storms in three days, which is something new. Now things are quieter, but still very wet and the burn behind the house, which is normally nothing more than a deep damp ditch, is running noisily down the hill to join the Lightburn and into the Clyde. I went out to see if the greenhouse and all my pot plants were intact, which they were, mostly, though I think I’ve lost a cowslip seedling. The quarter tray it was in was spun round and upended, and the contents are probably halfway across the garden.

    But the new warmer temperatures have spurred the garden into growth. Everywhere I look there are daffodil, snowdrops, tulip shoots and iris springing up, even a lone and battered crocus underneath the roses.

    snowdrops, their flower-heads showing but not yet open, coming up between houseleeks.

    The first witch hazel blssom is out and many of the perennials in the garden are putting up vigorous shoots. Of course, the place is a mess, as I try not to cut everything down too vigorously – if you leave the dead stems it provides hibernating spaces for ladybirds and other useful creatures, but I must admit, I’m longing for a dry day to get out and create a little order and room for the new plants. I have bought many of my seeds now, mullein and agrimony, soapwort, wormwood and mugwort. I’ve tried several times to save seeds from the wild plants down along the Clyde Walkway, but without success, so I bought some from Earthsong Seeds, whose seeds worked pretty well for me last year.

    I have some more ordinary seeds too, thanks to my grandson who say he wants to grow rainbow carrots and lettuce and some gigantic yellow sunflowers with me, and I’m going back to my favourite Harbinger tomatoes. I tried Ruthje from Vital Seeds last year, but I wasn’t impressed, though I think the (relatively) cold summer, and the late start might have had a lot to do with it. And now my fingers are itching to get started.

    The birds are getting restless too. Before the cold snap there was a definite increase in birdsong, though it seems to have tailed off a bit, and the pigeons are playing kiss chase in the cedar tree two gardens down. There was a robin staking its claim to one of the hawthorn trees along the burn, and the magpies are playing King of the Castle along the rooftops. It’s been a long dreary January, but finally, we are inching towards spring.

    witch hazel branch, the first blossom untangling itself.


Latest Posts



Blog Categories



Archives by Date



Newsletter



Tag Cloud


admin arts birds Burnedthumb Charm of Nine Herbs Colin Will Cora Greenhill dark mountain Double Bill editing eurydice rising Expressing the Earth family fiction garden gardening Geopoetics haggards herbs home Interlitq Jim Carruth Kenneth White Mrs Grieve napowrimo newsletter Norman Bissell Northwords Now photography poetry reading Red Squirrel Press review Sally Evans Scottish Poetry Library seeds Stanza stravaig the place of the fire The Territory of Rain The Well of the Moon walking the territory Wherever We Live Now William Bonar writing