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Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


Eclogues


  • A Quick Round-up Before the Holidays

    School’s out for summer! So I will be looking after Lucy a lot, and posts will be when I can get around to them. But beofre I disappear into the cake-making, flower-pressing, music-learning, story-reading, picking up and delivering to activity classes over the next weeks, I thought I’d catch up with what has been going on – there was more than I thought!

    I was at the launch of the Stirling Fringe Festival on Thursday night. This has been unaccountably below the radar up till now, but it looks like a truly inventive and wide-ranging mix of artistic activity, and I’m hopeful that a new era of the arts in Stirling is about to dawn. And not before time, either. The most exciting thing about the night, however, was meeting a local artist who will be having an exhibition during the fringe, Tamsin Haggis. We had a long discussion about creativity and geo-poetics, so I am really looking forward to seeing more of her work.She has a fascinating website, which you can see here, and I’ll be posting a link in the sidebar shortly.

    Creativity was also on the agenda at a reading and discussion I went to in the Scottish Poetry Library on Friday, with Christian McEwen, who wrote the very popular book World Enough and Time. She is a very nice woman, and has a lovely voice and reading style,but it did leave me rather thoughtful. Every now and again I find myself up against something that just doesn’t work for me, although everyone around me seems to love it.I don’t do well, I discover, with the notion of ‘slowing down’ and ‘wasting time’ to liberate creativity. I don’t have any bother with generating creative ideas. I do have bother turning them into useful working projects. My brain goes in fits and starts, often buzzing with way too much to do, sometimes spinning its wheels in a depressing morass of exhaustion and frustration. The trick, I’ve found, is a steady pace, enough to keep up the momentum, not so much that I lose the plot, and (horrors!) engaging the much-maligned intellect. Shifting my left brain (always a Cinderella in discussions like this) up a gear gives a project a bit of traction, and rewards the dullness of structure and habit with a satisfaction that I find genuinely liberating. Nimue of Druid Life discusses the same kind of thing here, but I’d be interested in other readers’ comments.

    In addition to keeping up the momentum on the transaltion of Virgil’s Eclogues (feel a tub-thump coming on about the relationship between the state and ownership of land, but that will have to wait a week or two)and Bernard Lonergan’s Insight (I’ve hit a hard bit, there’ll be nothing about that for a good while, till I get my head round it) Cora Greenhill introduced me to the poetry of Moya Cannon. That was a real revelation. Her poetry is on much the same ground as mine, but in many ways could not be more different. I’ll be reading and re-reading Carrying the Songs a lot over the summer, and reviewing it some time in the autumn.

    I haven’t been walking the territory much this year, but today I noticed that the wild roses and the elder flowers were in full bloom. My hayfever is too bad this week to be outside much, but the garden seems to be getting along without me. We are harvesting lettuce and gooseberries, and the strawberries are filling out nicely, though there’s none ripe yet. The roses are in full bloom, and the lavenders are just beginning.

    The house martins nest that was raided by the gulls is full of cheeping again, so I hope that brood#2 has better luck than the first one! I was weighing up this year’s nesting season, and it doesn’t seem too bad. I’ve noticed fledglings of sparrows, dunnocks, blackbirds, greenfinches, jackdaws, great tits, mallards, goldfinches, crows and magpies – and the gulls, of sourse, now very large and mousy brown, but still roof-bound. And ospreys, though these weren’t actually on my patch, but at Aberfoyle, where you can see live pictures from a webcam in the mini lodge.

    And this brings me rather breathlessly to a stop for a while. I hope to be posting over the holidays, if rather erratically, but otherwise, I will be back in august. Happy summer, everyone!


  • Pastoral Poetry

    One of the many upheavals in the cultural world over my lifetime has been a reappraisal of pastoral poetry. In my youth pastoral poetry was regarded as an artificial and rather sentimental construct – all these highly cultivated (and presumably rich) people pretending to live the simple life and envying the happy peasant his careless poverty. The Romantics, of course were regarded as different, seeing engagement with nature as a spiritual or intellectual adventure, with no sense of wish-fulfilment or nostalgia. It was all a bit macho then, and we went in for the hidden violence in Ted Hughes’ animal poetry (that thrush, for instance, a mechanical murderer, like something out of Terminator – what were we thinking?)

    Well, we weren’t entirely fair to the pastoral as a genre – though there’s something to hang onto in there; it’s awfully easy to slip into something that sounds as if it belongs in Country Living – pastoral poetry has a serious job to do, and we are in just the situation where we need it. Pastoral isn’t really about playing Marie Antoinette – a bucolic holiday for spoilt or disappointed urban readers. It is almost always written in response to a time of social and political upheaval. It is almost always about renegotiating what’s really important about human life, our place in the universe as individulas and as a species. And there is no doubt that this is what is driving so much of our writing and thinking. From geopoetics, eco-poetry, permaculture and transition, the revival of interest in crafts and slow food, to the upsurge in nature writing and deep ecology and earth-based spiritualities, we are really open to questions that pastoral poetry invites us to consider.

    I’ve written before about this in Wilderness Poetry, but I’ve just started working on a translation of Virgil’s Eclogues. It will take me ages. I’ve forgotten so much vocabulary, and I was always a bit slip-shod in my translations even when I was doing it all the time,but it’s fascinating to take so much time to concentrate on the weight of each word.

    Take ‘lentus’ in the fourth line of Eclogue 1, for instance. If you look it up quickly, you get ‘slow’ like in music, or ‘tough’ which are both a little bit weird in the context. If you go on (I got an enormous dictionary very cheap in a booksale at the Scottish Poetry Library) you get words like ‘fixed’, ‘inactive’, ‘lingering’. Are we insulting our rustic shepherd – slow-witted, inert, a bit thick? No, not really. Although Meliboeus is comparing his hasty flight into exile with Tityrus’ contented stay-at-home idyll, he is also talking about resilience, roots, belonging. To Virgil, as to many of us these days, stability comes with engagement with the earth; it is the foundation of a proper human life. Whether it is pleasant or peaceful or happy is not the point. There aren’t any guarantees or illusions about it. But as we get into the Eclogues we realise that in more than one way, we are ‘grounded’.



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