Wednesday 31 August 2016

Waves at St Bees, Cumbria, my West Lakes writing residency

It's been ten days since I moved into a large caravan on the beach of St Bees for my West Lakes writing residency, on the north-west coast of Cumbria. I'm taking part in the Elements project, a brand new festival celebrating age and diversity, and my role is to write poems, lead 6 workshops and 4 daytrips with my over 60's group and take part in the Elements festival in October, with a series of readings by me and the group, the whole thing dreamed up by Tonia Lu. I'm grateful to Tonia because since I've been living here I've become acquainted with the terrifying sea. Yes, I am terrified of the sea, in this case the Irish Sea – on a fine day I can see the Isle of Man on the horizon, and on my coastal cliff walks northwards I might glimpse Scotland, which is apparently only 25 miles away. Because there's so much to write about I'm focusing on waves today, and some pics of them taken with my iPhone, on the windier days. IPhones are good at capturing animals in motion, as I discovered when I took pictures of the jaguars in Paris zoos, but here is an altogether larger animal, with a multitude of claws, fangs, fur that sometimes seems made of ice, other times molten glass veined with kelp, and which has a roar like a mile wide glass kiln with the door wrenched open, the beast inside revealed. I've worked with glass so I remember that sound well, and the white heat.

Hopefully some of the poems I'm writing will go into my next book Mama Amazonica, due out from Bloodaxe in autumn 2017, but I'm putting together the rough manuscript by the end of this September, so am concentrating on the task, except it's not a task but a wild adventure which I'm very much enjoying, enthralled by my subject ma mère la mer. I'm not only writing mother sea poems – because I'm also still on those post-Peruvian Amazon trip ones – but interesting to bring the sea in now. I can see the monster from my caravan which has floor to ceiling windows in the front.