BurnedThumb

Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


Red Squirrel Press


  • Virtual Launch: There Will Be Dancing by Kemal Houghton

    cover image

    In the unusual circumstances posed by the corona virus, formal launches of Poetry have been cancelled – at least for now. So I would like to welcome you to the virtual launch of publications by Red Squirrel Press.

    Electric Minstrel

    Plugged-in and tunes selected,
    the electric minstrel fills the air
    with a beat they will know
    and a voice that must coax.
    Some may glance her way
    in the lull of conversations,
    but she is the salt of the diners;
    the liquid of the glass.
    Her mother was a jukebox,
    her father played the fiddle.
    Long ago there was someone
    playing a lute while people, as always,
    shouted over the racket.

    Her job is to entertain,
    distract and take away the silence.
    She is in every town, every encampment,
    wherever people have knotted together.
    She drives through the rain, as she always has,
    down mud-spattered lanes
    with carts or whatever could be carried
    on groaning backs. And this road is no place
    for the squeamish. Many have fallen; Buddy Holly,
    Johnny Kidd, Eddie Cochran are just a few.

    Yet she will battle above the rows,
    the women who teeter towards a fight
    and the drunken laughter. She
    will get their attention.
    Now someone is singing in the corner,
    bodies unwittingly move to the beat.
    They have learned to accept her voice
    and there will be dancing.

    Every Drop

    I am the drip that wears the stone,
    darkly I fill the upland wastes,
    then trickle the hillside where I
    crash and fall. I am the roar
    at the valley’s heart where I sing
    my song as I dash to be free.

    I am the green upon the lawn,
    the juice that feeds the forest pine,
    each little sip the sparrow takes,
    each cup of tea, each cask of wine.

    Trapped underground, I have distilled
    the years where I’ve been the maker
    of caverns and spires. Caught out by
    the cold at the roof of the world
    or at the Earth’s poles where I turn
    so solid I can crush the rocks.

    Your great ships may cruise me, careless
    you’ve abused me as you clutter
    the oceans with pain. But I am
    the one drop inside your collar
    who’ll shudder a chill down your spine.

    Tougher than Belfast steel, I am
    heavier than the air you breathe;
    I am the force that can sweep you
    away. I will rise and fill up
    these fields, drown your crops and livestock;
    this planet has always been mine.

    From the stiffness in the plant’s stem,
    the liquid in the blood, I float
    all the things you do and I am
    always
    the better part of you.

    Offa’s Dyke Path: In Mist

    The pace of life slows to a step
    along each rugged or muddied
    path. We slide in the wetness, feel
    the fall of the earth beneath us.

    All sense of place is muddled here
    in the fog of the hills. Valleys
    are lost, even the route ahead
    is consumed by the fallen cloud.

    Company is sparse. Huddled shapes
    mist past: walkers, wild ponies, but
    mostly sheep. Few words are spoken,
    just the duplicitous skylark
    singing us away from her nest.

    Through faith we follow the way down,
    markers mostly point the right way,
    though some need interpretation.
    Guidebooks and GPS all help.

    We enter each new town the way
    people have done throughout the years;
    strange pilgrims in search of shelter.

    Headshot of Kemal Houghton

    Kemal Houghton lives on the Wirral.  He is Chair of the Chester Poets, a co-presenter at First Thursday in Heswall and of Poetry Roundup on the internet station Vintage Radio. He is on the planning group for the Wirral Poetry Festival and has run numerous workshops for both the festival and other community groups.  He has a diverse body of work which has appeared in Chester Poets’ Anthologies since 1981, Poetry Scotland, Poetry Cornwall, The Jabberwocky Green Book, and on-line on Three Drops of the Cauldron.  A retired social worker, Kemal now chairs the charity and not for profit organisation, Wirral Independent Living & Learning who provide support to people with learning disabilities.  In his ‘spare time’ he enjoys hill walking and completed the 189 miles from Chepstow to Prestatyn along the Offa’s Dyke Path in 2018.

    This is Kemal’s first pamphlet on Red Squirrel Press and sets out with A Sense of Purpose to explore, not just people and places, but attitudes to and our relationship with the world we live in.  Amongst the many ideas collected over the years, be assured ─ There Will Be Dancing.

    “There is a reassuring solidity in these poems, which encompass themes of time passing, evanescence and journeying on foot. Yet conversely there is also a disconcerting sense of the poet observing life from a very distant vantage point. A worthy first collection.”                                                                                                               Gill McEvoy

    You can buy copies of this book from the Red Squirrel Press website, or signed copies from Kemal’s site when it goes live. And later this year, we hope to have live launches, with the usual wine and (potentially) squirrel cookies!


  • Virtual Launch: Heft by David J Costello

    In the unusual circumstances posed by the corona virus, formal launches of Poetry have been cancelled – at least for now. So I would like to welcome you to the virtual launch of publications by Red Squirrel Press. The first is Heft by David J Costello.

    Heft

    Altitude affects them.
    Fixes contours in their flesh.
    They learn the valleys from their mother’s milk,
    assimilate the paths’ worn ink, the brutal rock,
    the hoarse voice of the heather.
    Every lamb is impregnated with its map.

    Each day the shepherd and his dogs
    corral them on the lower slopes
    but their internal compass
    tugs them back into their heritage of rock,
    the heather’s cackle,
    and the milky-white cartography of snow.

    Visiting Time

    He found her name
    amongst the unused words
    his mouth forgot it knew

    and like a moth
    discovering a flame
    he caught the flicker
    of her face inside it’s frame

    and for the briefest time
    became aware
    of all the loss and loneliness
    that kept him there

    until his tears erased her to a blur
    and cleansed his grief.
    Her visits seemed so very brief.

    Moth

    Drawing the curtains dislodged it.
    Now it bothers me at night.
    The whirr of its wings.
    Its little thermals bristling
    the stubble on my face.
    The way it nuzzles into dreams.

    I see it with my eyes closed.
    Its floury wings dibble
    powdery clouds all over the place
    and now it speaks to me as well.
    I never catch its question
    but I recognise the voice.

    Your last words when you fell asleep
    and I got up and drew the curtains back.

    Headshot of David J Costello

    David J. Costello lives in Wallasey, England. He has been widely published and anthologised. David has won prizes in a number of competitions including both the Welsh International Poetry Competition and the Troubadour International Poetry Competition. His latest pamphlet, No Need For Candles, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2018. David’s first full collection Heft is published by Red Squirrel Press in 2020.

    You can buy copies of this book from the Red Squirrel Press website, or signed copies from David’s site at https://www.davidjcostellopoetry.com/ . And later this year, we hope to have live launches, with the usual wine and (potentially) squirrel cookies!


  • Declaration

    I was at the opening event of Celtic Connections Yesterday, to hear a commissioned piece inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath and played by the Grit Orchestra which seems to include almost every musician in every genre in Scotland. Words by Liz Lochhead were included: ‘A declaration is a clear and open statement about who we are, and what we stand for. And what we do not stand for.’ It was quite a striking statement, but I was more moved by Greg Lawson’s words later: ‘Don’t just tolerate difference and diversity – welcome it, explore it’ and ‘Freedom that comes at the expense of other people’s freedom is not freedom at all. It requires inclusivity, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, empathy – and then freedom becomes about your identity, and it is global.’

    This was about as political as it got, and if it was fair to say that independence supporters were, on average, likely to be more comfortable with it than the embittered unionists who complain so much, it was a useful corrective to the kind of people who want ‘freedom’ to mean ‘I’ll do as I like and you can just take a hike if it doesn’t suit you’. It is also a spin on what I understand as ‘identity’. It isn’t just who you are, or feel yourself to be; it’s who you recognise as being like you, who your peers are, who you feel you have obligations to, or common interests with. It isn’t something monolithic or pure and self-contained, your sense of identity shows and shapes your connections and relationships with the rest of the world. In my case, as regular readers will know, this extends to all the ‘more than human’ beings, down to the wind and rocks and rivers.

    I feel that we are increasingly being exhorted to see ourselves as individuals, sold a package of liberties and choices that are supposed to be uniquely our own, exhorted to see our destiny as entirely our own creation, regardless of truth, physical reality or community. And the only outcome of this atomised conjunction of insecure and aspirational individuals, is a social media characterised by anxiety, anger and shame, and a politics of naked greed, narcissism, aggression and fantasy.

    Which is where I come to the purpose of this blogpost. In view of the isolationist decision of Britain to leave the EU, and in the light of the Scottish preference for a national identity defined by inclusion, openness and connection with our neighbours, I have decided I don’t want the .uk suffix to my domain name. As of the 31st of January, this website will fly under the .com label. There will be a redirect for a good long while, so that anyone using the old address will still find me, and plenty of warning.

    I would also like to give you the first intimation of the publication of the new book. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Sheila Wakefield (without whose faith in me I can’t imagine having come so far), Burnedthumb is due to be published in February of 2021, by Red Squirrel Press. It is a reflection on the many kinds of knowledge and connection which go to make up our awareness of ourselves as ‘persons’, and the the kinds of conversations we have with external reality that make it possible. And the Burnedthumb poem, which you will probably have seen on the front page of my site, will take its place there. It deals with listening and diversity and patience – and the accidental gift of being able to do it – and it is my personal ‘declaration’.


  • It’s Still About the Herbs

    herb garden with lavender stoechas foxglove and costmary

    I keep saying I’ve finished the herb poems, and they still keep coming. In today’s Atrium you will find the one about costmary – the long grey-green leaved one in the centre, just behind the lavender stoechas. This picture might be familiar – it is one of the headers on the site, and the source for the silhouette on my business cards. Atrium is one of the best on-line poetry journals going, and I’m very flattered by being published there. I’m very fond of the poem too – it was longlisted for the Poetry Society competition on its first outing, which was a great honour.

    And then, last night the inventive Objet-A Creative launched Becoming Botanical.

    cover of anthology, grey with line drawings

    You can find out all about the project on the website, and even see the digital version, but I promise you, you’ll want the actual book. My poem, The Herb for Nightmares, is in it, and I was there to read it, along with Bradley Fairclough, who wrote about a fungus called cramp ball, which could smoulder gently for days, and was used to carry fire on long journeys, and Josh Armstrong, the director of the project. It was a very stylist event, sponsored by Botanist Gin, which formed the basis of some very classy cocktails. I don’t drink, so I had the soft version – a hawthorn blossom soda – it was amazing! I have never really like elder flower cordial, but I can see myself making one with hawthorn blossom next year. There was gorse, nettle and rhubarb too, all concocted by Josh, which I might have to try sometime too.

    You can find out all about the project on the website, and even see the digital version, but I promise you, you’ll want the actual book. My poem, The Herb for Nightmares, is in it, and I was there to read it, along with Bradley Fairclough, who wrote about a fungus called cramp ball, which could smoulder gently for days, and was used to carry fire on long journeys, and Josh Armstrong, the director of the project. It was a very stylist event, sponsored by Botanist Gin, which formed the basis of some very classy cocktails. I don’t drink, so I had the soft version – a hawthorn blossom soda – it was amazing! I have never really like elder flower cordial, but I can see myself making one with hawthorn blossom next year. There was gorse, nettle and rhubarb too, all concocted by Josh, which I might have to try sometime too.

    It’s been a miserable week for rain – though the garden needs it! But if the sun comes out tomorrow, I’m going to pick thyme for drying, before I go the the Red Squirrel Press launch of Peter Jarvis’ Land the Colour of Heat and Helena Nelson’s Branded in the Scottish Poetry Library, at 3 pm – later than usual, because of another booking. It doesn’t matter how much of this poetry stuff I do, I still seem to be all about the herbs!

    thyme, with a bumble bee feeding

  • Latest News and Some Upcoming Events

    This is a ragbag of a post, but if you don’t do Facebook you will have missed some interesting bits of recent news.

    Firs ts that the second imprint of Haggards has sold out ( I still have a few though—-). The third imprint has been ordered and will be available from Red Squirrel Press as soon as possible, and I will have more copies to sell in the shop too. Neither Red Squirrel Press nor I charge for postage and packing within the UK (please add £2 if you live abroad). And I will sign any that you order from me.

    pages from the forthcoming anthology
    becoming botanicals

    This is a glimpse of the new anthology Becoming Botanicals, in which I have a poem. You can find more information on the post, which also includes a link to the fundraiser, and a glimpse of the perks on offer. The proofs are coming out very shortly, and publication will be in June. But don’t you think it looks lovely?

    Then another anthology I was involved in, Umbrellas of Edinburgh, which was edited by Claire Askew and Russell Jones and published by the ill-fated Freight, is now going to be reissued by the imaginative and innovative Stirling Publishing (nothing to do with where I live, the reference is to the Commissioning Editor, Tabatha Stirling). It’s going to have a new cover, illustrated maps, a new foreword and some new poems, and should be out by Christmas. And as part of the project, some of the poets (Harry Giles, me, Gerda Stevenson and Alice Tarbuck) will be filming a reading of their poems in situ. My poem, Grassroots in Edinburgh, is going to be filmed in the Meadows, and it’s all very exciting.

    A third anthology I’m involved in, Scotia Extremis, is going to have an Edinburgh launch in Blackwells on South Bridge in Edinburgh, on the 3rd of May at 6.30pm.

    Now, switching to my editor hat, three poetry collections I’ve edited are going to have launches in the next week. On Saturday 6th April at 1pm in the Scottish Poetry Library, Red Squirrel Press will be launching books by John Bolland (Fallen Stock) and Mandy Haggith (Why the Sky is Far Away). And on Tuesday 9th April, in the Scottish Writers Centre, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, John Bolland, Jon Plunkett (whose debut, A Melody of Sorts I edited), Anne Connolly (Once Upon a Quark) and Thomas Stewart (Empire of Dirt), will be reading from their new publications. It has been an enormous pleasure to be involved with these books, and the events should be a delight.



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