Solway Walk – A Last Word

Walking the World

On the Solway, so flat and otherworldly
I walked and remained fixed in space.
The sea, the sand,
the storm
approaching over Glasson Moss
moved past me
as I rotated the Earth with my feet.

Looking closely
and photographing,
I moved slowly.
But on my turn and return to Browhouses
walking faster,
the same thing occured.
The white windmills in the sun
sped towards me.
The earth turned under me
like a ball under a circus dog.

In the Renault it stopped.
Feet no longer on the floor.
The pedals, a, b, c
were depressed, and the car
sped past Metal Bridge and the services,
back to Brampton and my house.

In the house, out of my boots
in slippers
the crockery in the cupboard
rattled and chinked with each step.
I toyed with a short sprint.
The milk in the jug
like a storm…
in a milk jug.
Teacups were the same.
Tea sloshed over the rim.
Little waves on a bone china shore.

I filled the bath and on walking from the bog
a tsunami formed.
I walked the dog round the block,
and the planet rolled in a raggedy right turn
the size and shape of my neighbourhood,
back to where she started.
I sat still at last to watch the news.
Natural disasters around the world.
Unexplained tectonic movements
unforeseen by experts.

I went to bed.
I awoke.
And it had gone.

I moved.
The Earth did not.

I retuned to the Solway
to seek the spot where it happened,
and in it’s vastness the spot was lost.

But somebody some day
will find it.
And the earth will move again.

Chris Reed

Solway Walk – Dorothy Margaret Paulin – Writing

An unco sough i’ the gloamin’ 
An’ a flaff o’ risin’ win’,
A glisk o’ stoundin’ waters
By the weirdly licht o’ the mune, 
An’ the fell dark tide o’ Solway 
Comes breengin’, whummlin’ in. 

Whaur glistenin’ sands lay streikit 
Ablow the sunset sky
Noo a wan wide sea is reestin’
An’ the yammerin’ sea-birds cry, 
An’ a wheengin’ win’ rings eerily 
I’ the salmon nets oot-by. 

Solway Tide

by Dorothy Margaret Paulin

from Country Gold and other poems (The Moray Press, 1936)

Scottish Poetry Library

For the Annan Haaf Netters

Solway Walk – Helen Cox – Writing

I found a number of writers and poets who know the Solway. I want to include them in this bit about the Solway and will post their writings with links for visitors to follow. Please support these artists by paying attention and buying their writing.

Helen Cox has been writing professionally since graduating from her MA in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of York St John in 2006 . Between now and then, Helen has written editorial for TV, radio, magazines and websites providing commentary on a range of topics including film, literature, travel and feminism. The publications she has written for include The Guardian, The Spectator, Film Fatale Magazine, movieScope Magazine and Film4.Com.

Visit her website here

Of the Solway, in her debut poetry book ‘Water Signs’ she says…

(the last paragraph is a killer)

I was raised on the edge of the Eden River, at the point where her mouth opens out to the Solway Firth. The Solway is a fault line, marking the brink where two continents once kissed and swallowed an ancient ocean – the Iapetus, a long-lost ancestor of the Atlantic. On a still day, this saline mirror reflects the jagged lines of Scotland, where martyrs were once bound to rocks and drowned, and the English saltmarshes on the other side where the last ammonites laid down to die.

On this windless November afternoon, when the frosts have yet to scratch their nails down the backs of the distant hillsides, you can almost smell the chill in the air. But despite the coldness of this landscape, and its cruelty, despite the firth’s deadly quicksand and the way it hold hands with its radioactive sister: the Irish Sea, even now there is a feverish singing in my blood. A siren call that lures me back to this shoreline.

Like these tides I know of old, I will always return.

Nearby in St Michael’s graveyard, the corpses of Georgian smugglers who pirated brandy and tobacco are buried beneath the Yew trees. Their ears unable to listen to the bells chime in the church tower. Bells stolen from Scotland by English raiders. Bells that sang to me on playtimes and lunchtimes when I was a student at Bowness-on-Solway – a school that stands just a hop, skip and a jump from the skeletons of dead buccaneers.

My old school gate is an Ouroboros; the end and the beginning of Hadriain’s Wall – an eighty-mile frontier where rebels and Romans shot bronze arrows through each other’s hearts.

Here is division, threat and death, and for the time I lived here that is a truth I was never allowed to forget.

Hiking the periphery of the firth, twenty-five years after I left this landscape behind, I watch eroding earth flirt with the dislocated jaw of the estuary. I mark progress by the hazard signs posted every half mile. Warning strangers about the merciless tides that grip and twist the Eden until she no longer looks like her true self. I am reacquainted with the silence that lives here on the outer rim. The only sound: the intermittent rattle of trucks clattering over cattle grids.

When dusk closes in, mauve clouds threaten to smother and in my bones I know I wouldn’t resist. Through the mist, an invisible hand inks the silhouettes of bare trees on the horizon. The only other witness: a creaking gate the farmer refuses to oil. He’d rather save the fuel for his furnace. For the day the hearth wolfs down his last block of fire wood, when he cannot bear to chop hawthorn bark with chapped hands in the snow.

While we walk through the last shred of sunlight, chased by the icy breath of the coming solstice memories wash up on the foreshore like fragments of old pottery and river glass, and with them some dead bodies.

Looking back over my shoulder at the expanse of silver water, I think about the yawning void between information and wisdom. By the age of ten, when my parents left Cumbria for Yorkshire, the universe had taught me everything I need to know. It took me another quarter of a century to truly understand what to do with that gift.

‘Where there is no struggle there is no progress’ Frederick Douglass

Great BBC Radio 4 repeat of an ‘In our Time’ programme about Frederick Douglass an astonishing man, born a slave in the USA in 1817. Self educated, self made, companion to Abraham Lincoln, what is covered in this programme shows us the historical background to BLM, and thus shows us that when Michelle Obama stated, ‘When they go low, you go high’, this appeal has a long history. Respect due. Entrepreneur, orator, statesman, part of British and US history, how can this man not be a role model to all?


Quote – William S. Burroughs on artists

Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it ‘creative observation.’ Creative viewing.

Reading ‘Dinosaurs’. A song to Coronavirus and large slow witted reptiles who rule the world.

Wipe Riot

I was listening to The Clash just recently and one of their songs seemed oddly prescient.

Just start the yootyoob vid and sing along to the words below.

Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own
Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own

A need a sheet of toilet paper,
But it seems that I am not alone,
So down to the shops I caper
I look and I let out a groan

And everybody’s doing
Just what they’re told to
And nobody wants
To go to jail

Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own
Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own

All the power’s in the hands
Of people rich enough to buy it
While we walk the street
Too chicken to even try it

And everybody’s doing
Just what they’re told to
And nobody wants
To go to jail

Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own
Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own

Hey, you, standing in line
Are we gonna sign an agreement?

Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own
Wipe riot, I want to riot
Wipe riot, a riot of our own

Shakespeare, icons, archetypes, current affairs (and riots)

Two great programmes on BBC Radio 4 today, Mon March 16th.

The common theme is Shakespeare, but the relevance of his works today is, as ever, telling. He handles this through connection to archetypal material. An archetype is a symbol of some universal theme, or to cite Richard Dawkins, some current theme, the meme. When I trained as a drama therapist we worked directly with archetypal material in our work. An archetype, when understood as a universal symbol, stands in for one idea or phenomena, to allow shifting of dicourse from one form or context to another. The archetype of archetypes is Hermes as he can travel between worlds. He is the god of thieves and all art starts with theft. Learning is theft.

In both of these programmes, originally run back to back, Shakespeare’s work becomes a conduit through which to shift ancient and archetypal phenomena into the present. Hermes, through creativity, art or journalism, or writing, steals the idea from the past, from the gods, and gives it as a gift to humans today, like Prometheus stole fire, another archetypal form.

There is stuff about Trump and Twitter Spats, American history, the role of popular movies in political or philosophical discourse or not, and the astonishing tale of the Astor Palace Riot in which Shakespeare and ‘The English Actor’ was responsible for the deaths of 31 rioting commoners at the hands of the US militia. The only other ‘art riot’ I know of is Ballet Russes riot at the Rite.


dVerse Poetics: On Geography

Geography is the key, the crucial accident of birth. A piece of protein could be a snail, a sea lion, or a systems analyst, but it had to start somewhere. This is not science; it is merely metaphor. And the landscape in which the protein “starts” shapes its end as surely as bowls shape water.

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

A post on a poetry blog about geography.