I emailed Hereford’s Left Bank Village https://herefordleftbank.com/ never thinking they would let me utilise their lovely courtyard space. I hastily explained that I was a student at Keele University, studying for a Masters Degree in Creative Writing. I would be giving free Tarot readings in exchange for some written feedback, from which I would create Found Poetry. Somehow it worked. After I had completed my Tarot readings at The Village, having squeezed my campervan into the courtyard between a blacksmith’s demonstration and a stall selling clothes to raise money for refugees (it’s that kind of place), I was informed that although ‘things seemed chaotic here, somehow it always works’. I could say the same about the Tarot, a random selection of six from seventy-eight cards (which also can have a reverse meaning) chosen by a person I have never met before and know nothing about. How can I possibly tell anything about that person, their life, and the choices they have before them? I have no idea. Yet in Hereford as in Stoke-on-Trent almost everyone who had a reading said that it resonated with them, helped them, and they left feeling better about life than they did before. More than that I cannot say, but there is a power in the cards and the reading of them, maybe because they create a space to think. The creativity came from the feedback given and recorded by my lovely friend aka Mooncat, (who because of her occupation had to have a sticker on her photograph), the people I spoke to in the gorgeous venue – not at all chaotic – and the amazing, beautiful and mysterious border country of Herefordshire. At this point it’s fair to make a few comparisons between the two Tarot experiences. I was far more blessed with the weather at Hereford, and the Village is a place that the community visit purely for socialising, eating and drinking and all the other experiences provided in the evening too. Despite the eighty mile drive (the M6 was clear!) I felt quite relaxed; I had already fulfilled the brief at Stoke, which was also a sound learning curve. There were a lot more distractions for people at the Village, which has an air of prosperity. Yet when I held the readings over more than four hours (this time I had a break) it was not the differences I saw in people from the two communities, but the similarities. Social conditions may be slightly different, but the things people are anxious about, and care about, are not. It may be a cliche, but we are all just people under the skin. The poetry on the blog is partly mine, and partly poetry 'found' from the verbal and written feedback form the Tarot recipiets. It is totally anonymous, and photographs have been posted only with permission. Other found poetry (also anonymous) has formed part of my Masters portfolio. Thank you people of Hereford for sharing your leisure time with me, and to the chilled events organisers who accomodated me and my van.
Here I must mention that I knew the area of Hereford and the Welsh borders from when I travelled on business. The folklore and facts about the border of England and Wales (including modern times) is mind-blowing. I have complemented the poetry with images captured as I travelled the borders long after I finished my on-the-road days. (The reasons why belong to a separate blog) It is one of many stupefying co-incidences since deciding to use the Tarot as a creative tool, that I ended up back in Hereford - and that really is the truth.
All Border Country poetry copyright June Palmer
Dilwyn, Ewyas Harold, Llandinabo, also
Llangarron, Llanrothal, Llanveynoe
Welcome to England. Croeso!
The ebb and flow
of border country is shaded dark.
Boundries have shifted,
castles collapsed, and no spark
lights the hop-kiln
yet the church at Kilpeck
seems lit from within by unknown energies.
spreads her fanny like a porn star.
On the south door,
the Green Man is carved.
He has older names - the Wild Hunter,
Lord of the Forest, horned Cernunnos.
Taken high above myself
to see an overview of my life
we both agreed
how easy it would be
to enjoy complacency.
To live the happy retired couples life
of pub lunches and two-some holidays,
champange brunches on Sundays,
I could see what I needed to do,
the depth of it, the simplicity.
Just let go, go with the flow
that takes me back to travels and camps,
The past lives never fully lived.
Once I was a warrior.
Reassured, I can be so again.
I haven’t valued it
The reading told me this,
informed me of what I already knew.
Friends, I haven’t valued you.
Everything has been about family,
not about me
not about the friends I have forgotten.
I have closed myself away,
now it’s time to be open.
To involve myself in life
* Found Poetry
A confluence of history
The tree at Whiteleaved Oak is suffering,
votive offerings of a once-Pagan nation,
its white leaves stilled, under the moon.
I hide in the hem of your skirt
like a young hare.
Those of you who know me are aware that I have been up to very weird, wonderful and creative things recently, all part of studying for my Masters degree in Creative Writing at Keele University. Some of the story can be found on my Facebook page ‘Chalice Creative Writing’, which looks at the preparation I made for two events, one in Stoke-on-Trent, the other in Hereford. In the pursuit of creative material, and because I love doing them, I provided free Tarot readings as part of my Writer in the Community Project. In a few days time the full story will be on this blog, but there is a part of the preparation I haven’t really talked about. Before I held the two events, I went for my own Tarot reading with a lady I met a few years ago, a very experienced reader. What happens in the reading is always confidential, but I did talk to her about my cat who died three years ago, it just so happened exactly three years to the day I went for my reading. The date was chosen by the Tarot reader because that was the date she could fit me in. This cat was very special to me, but of course the reader could not have known about the significance of the date. I was so close to this cat I have sometimes wondered why I’ve never dreamt about her or ‘seen’ her, as has happened with another cat I had. It prompted me to write a poem about my conversation with the Tarot reader when we talked about my ‘soul-cat’. It's more emotion than high art, but true.
The image of the moon is copyright of J R Biddulph who kindly gave me permission to use it.
I still cry for her, my familiar.
Strange I never glimpse her;
a shadow on the stairs,
a fleet movement in the half-light.
Soul-cat who sat close to me,
and shared my nights.
I loved her. She was my friend
from the tips of her soft paws,
her needy claws and coat of spices,
to her skinny talkative tail.
Her chirrup greeting never failed
to make me happy
She never made me cry,
until that moment
I had to let her run free.
You will see her
when your grief is not so hot.
she is imprinted on you.
I will be reading at Stone Library tomorrow night as part of Stone Scribblers Spring Festival to celebrate their first anniversary. The artworks above by artist and sculptor Liz Watts are the inspiration behind the poems I will be reading. It will be a great night - I am only a tiny cog in the mighty wheel that Stone Scribblers Writing Group truly will be.
“The North Chose Us” said Nils-Aslak Valk eapää, poet of the Sami people. I would never, ever say I am capable of evoking Sami identity, or the geography and ecology found where the Sami live in the far north of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and northwestern Russia. The furthest North I have ever been is Iceland, which I have visited five times, but I remain fascinated by those countries and cultures which lie near and within the Arctic Circle. Inuit, Sami, Greenlanders and Icelanders seem to me to be the ultimate survivors. Iceland alone has suffered not just the harsh cold, but earthquakes, volcanoes and disease that at one point in the country’s history seemed destined to wipe out the entire population, which even today stands at just 339,764. I hope on World Poetry Day to pay tribute to some of ‘The Peoples of the North’ not by writing some sort of poetic hagiography or cultural appropriation, but attempting to show how inspiring the cultures of the far North are to me.
Yes, I will highlight some of the problems, indignities and cultural destruction that have been forced onto these peoples. Most importantly however I will try to perform poetry that reflects the mystery, the beauty, and the culture that I have seen and read about.
Looking forward to reading my new six minute story 'White Nights and Darkness' set in the 1960's
White nights – in areas of high latitude the weeks in mid-summer during which darkness is never complete. The poet Boris Pasternak referred to “White Night, that all-seeing enchanter”
Image copyright June Palmer
Writers for the December 6x6 -In no particular order:
I will be reading my Winter Tale "The Essential Absence of Light"
Image by kind permission of J R Biddulph (copyright)
The Lighthouse Wives
There are three phases of twilight: Civil, Nautical, and Astronomical. Nautical is vital. In clear weather, the horizon is faintly visible and the brightest stars can be seen. I use their position to navigate. I am now an old sea-dog, sailing coastlines and islands, alone. Night is risky. Sometimes I have company - the aurora’s Merry Dancers or a full moon that works both for and against.
I remain tough and strong enough to make my living, overcoming naked young women dancing on beaches at dusk; tethering them to the deck as I sail toward distant flashes of light on dark seas. They cry for their seal-skins left behind on the shore, and refuse nourishment. They will adapt. Lighthouse keepers are happy to relinquish bachelorhood and don’t haggle over money; without their skins the wives are land-locked. I re-visit every light. Children are born, and loved, but lighthouse wives yearn to return to the sea. Some die young, broken-hearted. Good for business.
Lighthouses are numerous around treacherous coasts. I map them, discovering a remote islet with a towering light. Ever hopeful, slithering up rocks to the doorway, I’m disappointed to be met by a slender, wiry woman. Her man is dead, but she keeps the light. Her dark eyes laugh at my discomfort when she says she wants to buy a husband.
Snatching girls from groups of enchanted dancers is one thing, but the males look muscular and strong. I think of the money, selecting a slim laddie who has strayed from his kin. My fist smashes his face. He is surprisingly compliant when I haul him aboard. How wifey manages him is her problem. After two days we make land, barely visible through the sea-haar. The woman, dressed in her dead man’s clothes, pulls me up onto the jetty. I fall screaming as she snaps my arm. Her boot smacks my head like a mains’l boom.
He sails before dawn to reclaim his skin. A selkie with soft liquid eyes bobs beside the boat. The sun is 12° below the horizon, slowly peeling the lightening sky from the sea.
“Live Long and Prosper”
The Governance said it would make us filthy rich. Filthy as the planet’s tiny, pock-marked moons; misshapen asteroid chips where we mined Uranalite before processing it on this rusty, freezing wilderness. The Collectors never hung around. They loaded the Metamaterials, and disappeared faster than ice-caps. No pilot wanted to discover a stowaway on their ship, and have to jettison them.
We worked our asses off, vented frustrations on sex-bots and retired to habitation tunnels away from radiation, stashing forbidden stimulants grown in the bio-domes. On HiRISE cameras, a blue planet with its moon was visible, if desired. Hal was cool with this place – he was born here. The first. His mother died almost immediately afterwards. Hal had never left, smiling enigmatically when some-one called him an alien. Truth was, we were all aliens, reliant on supplies and medicines from “home”. Hal never got sick, even when accidentally exposed to raw Uranalite.
I fretted. What was this job doing to me? My body, my reproductive system? I still had my period. The night of the dust-storm I invited Hal over and sealed my door. His body was human perfection.
Almost ten months later, birthing was as painless as this century could make it. Medics formed a silent army. I screamed. The baby was long, slimy, with skin like grey-green lichen; the colour of Uranalite. I pulled Hal close to me.
“Kill it” I gasped
© June Palmer
Author - June Palmer