Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • May Reading

    The month started with Paula Jennings’ poetry collection, This is you Dear Stranger, published by Red Squirrel Press. It’s an astonishing book, not only because it was published while both poet and publisher were seriously ill, but because it moves beyond anything I expected from Paul Jennings, whose pamphlet, Under a Spell Place, exploring the experience of dementia, I have loved for a long time. These are strange, daring, tactile poems dealing with the female experience of nature, bodilyness, aging, death and memory. I gobbled this book – it was a delight.

    Windswept by Annie Worsley, published by William Collins. Annie Worsley has written a blog called Red River Croft for several years, and this book is a synthesis of all she has observed and learned in that time. She writes about migrating birds, the return of many wild flower species to the croft under their benign management, but most of all the impact of wind and sea on the experience of living in the landscape of the north east of Scotland.

    A Shakespearean Botanical by Margaret Willes published by the Bodleian Library. I got this from the globe Theatre in London, and it’s a very pretty book, a well-researched introduction to the herbs and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare. If you already know Gerard and Culpeper, there isn’t much new stuff in it, but it does have a teasing hint that Shakespeare might actually have known Gerard, as they were both protegés of the wealthy statesman Lord Burghley.

    Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. Too well-known to need any introduction, I was blown away by the elegance as well as the power of her writing.

    The New Diary by Tristine Rainer, kindle version published by First Person Press. This is an in-depth look at journalling that goes beyond the aspirational affirming style of more modern texts, to consider personality, memory and relationships in a way that could be playful as well as profound. As I’m dealing with some issues thrown up during the writing of The Well of the Moon – memory, family mythology, boundaries and isolation, I’m finding this level of consideration intriguing as well as helpful.

  • Summer Reading

    paperbacks fanned across my desk

    The good thing about having finished a book is that you can feel free to read what you like, and this summer it has been a very random selection – cookery books, books about trees, a lot of short stories, this historical adventure – the first of a trilogy

    cover of mandy haggith's walrus mutterer

    and almost everything else that has come across my path – short stories by Colin Will and Tom Kelly, poetry from Lisa Matthews and Matthew MacDonald, who has finally moved from the pamphlet basket to the full collection shelf with Petrichor – all from Red Squirrel Press.

    There were some books I wasn’t expecting but have made me think and speculate over the summer: Linda Hogan’s Dwellings, a take on human relations with the environment from the Chickasaw point of view, which I find sits quite well alongside the philosophy of Neill Gunn, whose Atom of Delight and The Drinking Well have kept me busy since April; Eavan Boland’s Journey With Two Maps, discussing the opposition of the traditional (communitarian, formal, a status granted) and the Romantic (original, inspired, solitary) view of the poet, which along with the idea that the appropriate subjects for poetry are the exterior, the sublime, the universal, combine to disallow the feminine perspective and experience, which is often personal, domestic, and focussed on the foreground not grand sweep of the bigger picture. I’m astonished that although I’m only ten years younger than she is, my experience and ideas about poetry are so different, but it’s helping me to analyse why and how that should be.

    One thing still seems to be the same, however. It does seem that the stereotypical idea of women’s writing is that it is domestic and personal, and all the changes that have happened since then have not prevented it being dismissed as ephemeral, sentimental or trivial. Four times this summer I have had conversations about the marginalisation of women’s writing on nature. In spite of the success of Kathleen Jamie’s Findings, Miriam Darlington’s Owl Sense, Helen McDonald’s H Is for Hawk and Amy Liptrot’s women are finding their work dismissed as ‘not really about nature, it’s all about their emotions’, or finding themselves excluded from such lists as the one for the Wainwright Prize.

    For this reason I was thrilled to find In Her Element, published by a Welsh co-operative Honno Press, an anthology of nature writing by women of all sorts – poets, farmers, hill-walkers or sailors. There does seem to be a need for a serious initiative in this area, and I’m giving it some thought.

    People of colour, too, have struggled to find recognition in this area, so I’m particularly pleased to mention the launch of The Willowherb Review, which aims to diversify nature writing. They had a successful Kickstarter campaign and the first issue is due later this autumn.


  • The Post Book Fallow

    Every time I submit a manuscript, I resolve to keep going and not lose momentum while I the poems go through the proofing, editing, printing and turn into a book. I have sometimes written some new poems, often come up with new projects, planned translations and so on. But you can’t outrun it, so now I am embracing the fallow period.

    There are three more readings, one at StAnza, (and I can’t tell you how exciting that is!) and two in Glasgow which I will talk about later, because they aren’t until May. There are four editing jobs including Stravaig 6, which is going through the system just now, which will take me until at least the end of July. But new writing? I’m not sure.

    With Haggards, I seem to have come to the end of one particular cycle. There are scraps and loose ends, and a sense that new paths may be about to open up, but not yet. Though in one way, I served a long apprenticeship to poetry before I started, it was quite unconventional, and there are gaps in my knowledge and practice I want to fill, experiments to try – and so much reading to catch up with.

    Here is the first sample, books given to me for my birthday, some I bought with birthday book tokens, and a couple I treated myself to. I’m feeling rather lucky. As we dig in for the duration of this dramatic weather, I’ll be lighting fires, making soup, baking cakes with my grand-daughter who is having a snow day and frankly, having a ball.

    I’ll post some reviews as I go – the first being #Metoo – a magnificent anthology edited by the wonderful editor and original Emergency Poet, Deborah Alma, which is going to have a launch reading at StAnza on Thursday 8th March at 18:15. Look out for this next week!

  • family stuff

    Work seems to be grinding slowly to a halt. I get distracted by Christmas shenanigans (our village Christmas lunch and carols, catching up with friends before we get too busy, shopping, cooking, cleaning —)and also by family stuff. We have one daughter at home, and her erstwhile flat-mate staying for a while, and a grand-daughter not far away who wants to play a lot. Plus a vast extended family who are moving into Facebook along with the poets I like to keep up with.
    So there’s not much new work going on. About four poems started, another three in prospect, and a short story called Lithic Flake. But mostly I’m reading, and I’ve come across some excellent new fiction – Sue Gee, John Banville, Stevie Davies. They have given me a lot of ideas for Recusant, which is going to be a more multi-layered and multi-centred novel than Saracen Woman ever was, and is going to let me put in some more of the things I’ve learned from poetry.
    Poetry is strugglng. I seem to be reading more rhetoric about it than poems, which can’t be right.Hugh Macdiarmid is a discovery though. His Lallans poetry (despite the neologisms and obscurity) is so much better than the English. It is more direct, more simple, and so can carry so much more than more writerly stuff. This seems counter-intuitive. Perhaps it suits his mind-set better, or perhaps using a familiar culture he is able to imply more without stridency.

  • round and round

    Yes I am working on the Lúcháir project, but it isn’t going very fast. I still have my head full of Saracens, and it’s hard to get focussed. So I have been going round my bookshelves picking things up and turning them over, and so far I have read
    Colour by Rose Tremain
    Medieval Lyrics ed RT Davies, who is still as annoying as I remember him from uni
    What I Loved by Siri Husdvedt which I’m sure I read once before, but can’t remember
    The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell (fun but repetitious)
    and I am in the middle of a book about the blues by Alan Lomax (which seems to have provided the entire plot for Honeydripper – a fine film btw) and The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro.
    It is all turning into a rich compost, but I have to say that it feels more like a new novel than poems and short stories, at least so far.

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