Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • 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.

  • Down the Rabbithole

    I have been down several rabbit holes since I last posted. Many of them are to do with the updated translation of the Charm of Nine Herbs I’ve been working on in a random fashion for a while. I have been pondering words like ‘poison’, ‘venom’, ‘plague’, ‘in-flying infection’. I’ve been thinking about ‘elf-shot’ and the notion that tooth-ache is caused by worms gnawing at decayed teeth. I’ve been wondering what it was like to try to heal people when you didn’t know much beyond the basics of anatomy, and didn’t have access to microscopes.

    I discovered historical records of a ‘yellow plague’ that ravaged this area in the 5th and 6th century, killing at least one local king, which led me to wonder about the other colourful diseases mentioned in the text. Epidemics, food poisoning and diseases caused by polluted water must have been common – are the words ‘plague’, ‘poison’ and ‘venom’ just the best guess for the causes of illness too small to see without the naked eye?

    I’m also querying my identification of atterlothe – I went for ‘burdock’ for what seemed to be good reasons – it is an alterative, native and well-known, exists in more than one species (because the only other use of the word refers to the ‘smaller’ atterlothe being used with betony for coughs) and generally fits the bill. But on the other hand, there is another Old English name for burdock – ‘clate‘, and down the rabbit hole I went. I looked at speedwell, which was indeed used with betony for coughs, self-heal (no mention in Old English texts), bistort, cockspur grass, Viper’s bugloss, which Culpeper says was used as a substitute for speedwell, and now I’m eyeing up cinquefoil and vervain (I would love it to be vervain!). The trouble is that Old English scholars tend to be poor at botany, and botanists tend to blank Old English. And both are a bit rubbish about monasteries. But that is another rabbit hole, and yes, I did go down it!

    I’m following up Kapka Kassabova’s excellent book Elixir, and some poetry following my venture into Irish last year. Obviously you’ll know Seamus Heaney and Eavan Boland, but can I recommend Doireann Ní Ghríofa? Brilliant!

    I have now deleted my Mailchimp account, following their decision to scrape all newsletters for AI content, and I’m in the process of building a new letter at Buttondown, which seems to be free of all such shenanigans. I kept a list of all my contacts, and when the first issue is ready I will email everyone ONCE to invite you to sign up. I won’t harass anyone after that, and I will delete the address of anyone who doesn’t, so there will be no spam.

    Ceasing Never has taken a back seat as we try to sort out some accommodation problems for a family member, and I’m knee deep in judging the William Bonar Competition. Also Celtic Connections is coming up, and I have a significant birthday fairly soon. But in February I hope to add some new essays and reflections – please feel free to comment or add to the discussions.

  • Christmas Wishes

    a house, slightly on a skew with christmas lights in all the windows and a wreath on the door.

    I have struggled with a Christmas poem this year. I was reminded of the story of Christian de Cherge at the Mount Atlas monastery, saying to the terrorists who came to the monastery, “This is the birthday of the Prince of Peace, and you come bearing weapons”. The terrorist leader apologised and left the weapons at the door, at that time. Peace is a hard concept to think about just now. Then I went out to the garden.

    Ausculta is the first word of the Rule of St Benedict, and it is usually translated as ‘listen’. But it’s more than that, It means an active attention, engagement leading to understanding, and a heartfelt response.

    So here is my Christmas message – wishing you happiness, good company, delight, and also peace.

    The wind is in the cypress tree, a long shout
    over the hawthorns, ruffling the dignity
    of the magpies’ showy livery. The sun glows
    on the new bulb shoots and the random
    unseasonal violet. The leaves are all down,
    turning to cold mulch around the rogue seedlings
    of last year’s neglected berries. There’s a riff
    of starlings around the feeder and a single
    collared dove among the groundling pigeons.
    I can hear spring begin to whisper beneath
    the drone of distant traffic, in the heave
    of frost-lifted ground and the quiet undersong
    of the little burn. Dark is gathering, but light
    waits, in the hush where we might hear the song
    of angels, and a voice that speaks of peace.

  • 2023 on the Hill of Stones

    chamomile plants in full flower

    I don’t know about you, but this year seems to have been a lot. We’ve had one major health issue, resulting in my husband spending six weeks in hospital, with the consequent falloutfor those dealing with that level of stress and uncertainty. We’ve had one grandchild starting school, and another doing crucial exams. We have been involved in finding care support for one family member, and arranging a move to a new flat which is closer to us, and less inaccessible by public transport. I’ve dealt with a few health issues myself, and I finish the year in a very much happier and more confident frame of mind than I started, but my goodness, it’s been a rollercoaster!

    The national and international news hasn’t been great either. War in Ukraine and Gaza, famine and destructive weather, no clear action proposed to tackle climate change and some very shoddy political behaviour at home have all combined to create a very gloomy outlook. But against that, so many people are resisting the drift to disaster – protesting against the wars, taking their own climate initiatives, helping at foodbanks and raising money for refugees, making it clear to the powerful that we are not for sale to energy companies or devious media moguls. There is more to us than the news!

    It hasn’t all been storm and stress, however. The garden has bedded in beautifully, and roses and lavender, sweet peas, marshmallow and elecampane have bloomed generously, and filled me with delight. I haven’t managed to do much with them, but I have more concrete plans for potpourris and balms for next year.

    bright yellow elecampane flowers

    Now that the greenhouse is established, I’ll be making more adventurous use of it, although it is the smallest one you’ve ever seen. I can still grow tomatoes and peppers, and take all the cuttings I want, so the herb garden is coming together.

    I feel that I haven’t done much writing this year, but I did bring out Charms for the Healing of Grief, a lovely project with Hugh Bryden of Roncadora Press, which is selling well ( as it should, with those beautiful illustrations, which you can see here). I’ve also had a poem in the anthology compiled by Gerry Loose, The Earth is Our Home, and reviewed by Alan Riach in The National in July, and an essay in Paperboats magazine about the foxes which have inspired the next poetry collection (but it’s a long time ahead). Lately, though, the poems have come back to me, and I’m thinking about the moon, alkaline soil, bees and foxes, which will build on work in The Well of the Moon, about the self and the other, learning and communication, music and ghosts – a lot of ghosts of one sort or another.

    I’ve edited six books of poetry for Red Squirrel Press, two pamphlets and four full collections. The on-line discussion website Ceasing Never started, but this busy year stalled it again, what with babies, (2) book launches, new jobs or houses, wrestling with medical diagnoses and bereavements. I told you 2023 was a lot! but I hope to be able to post a bit more often. I have done a lot of reading though, and I can recommend Nicola Chester’s Gallows Down and Kapka Kassabova’s Elixir. In new poetry, Jim Carruth’s long-awaited Far Field, Marjorie Lotfi’s Not the Person to Ask and Judith Taylor’s Across Your Careful Garden were highlights, but I also immersed myself in Irish poetry – Seamus Heaney of course, but also Eavan Boland and Doireann Ni Griofa, Anne Connolly and Jane Clarke. I started learning Irish but I couldn’t keep it up – and no wonder!

    There will be one more post this year (I hope), but I’m away to clean my house, help the grandchildren put up the tree, cook, wrap presents and play. I hope you all have the space and time to do the same. Have a very peaceful holiday everyone!

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