Whether you stay or go, you hear
The water brushing at the threshold
And the long wave comes and carries you -
Home, home, as far as far...
Extract from Long Wave ~ Sean O' Brien ( Shadow Script)
I'm not sure how I discovered it, but idling through some Radio 4 Listen Again options I came across this programme, Lindisfarne Poetry in Progress, so listen I did, and I am in haste with this post because there are only a few days left to listen too if you missed it.
"In the year that the Lindisfarne Gospel returned to the North-East, twelve poets and a digital sound artist discuss their contemporary responses to the island's priceless book.
After four centuries, the Lindisfarne Gospel-book returned, this summer, to the region in which it was made - not as far as the island itself but to Palace Green Library in Durham.
The Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts commissioned twelve poets to respond to the book and to the almost-island on which it was created.
Beaty Rubens followed the poets' progress - sharing crab sandwiches and beer on a coach-trip to the island back in the spring and hearing about their progress over the summer and early autumn as they each wrote and recorded their poems. Finally, she heard from the digital artist who created two installations where the poems could be enjoyed by the public.
This is the story of their Poetry in Progress."
Having travelled vicariously to Lindisfarne with Rhys earlier this year, who very kindly took those pictures of Gertrude Jekyll's garden for us, I was enthralled at the prospect of these poems and wasn't disappointed. The programme follows three of the poets as they ponder the location, glean meaning and inspiration and start to choose their words, before finally reading the finished poems. This left nine poems that I just had to read so I was delighted to hear that the anthology had been published by Newcastle University and I sent for one that minute.
'In this pamphlet, the title gestures towards the palimpsestic nature of medieval writing, the often incomplete scraping away of words and re-use of manuscripts for new works. This is given new form in these poems, where images, narratives and words from the past can be seen as shadows in the background, glimmers of meaning, illuminated by their contemporary imagining.'
Forget 'pamphlet' this is a properly stitched and bound 'book' with a cover, and the aura of the palimpsest is a powerful one. Palimpsest is a word I love, one that doesn't quite trip off the tongue, in fact it almost makes you trip over at that second 'p' before you then have to stop and squeeze that 's' in, but the analogy of overlaying and re-creating words from the same sources of inspiration that have moved writers on Lindisfarne for hundreds of years, and the power of those words to illuminate, much as the old manuscripts did, and to create that sense of place and atmosphere...well it all pulses through this vast yet little book.
"After I closed the book there were other openings:
a medley of notes thinning to silence,
phrases of memory, cadences, voices
came back to me. I watched small pockets of light
on the waves, infinite gradations of colour."
Extract from Afterthought ~ Linda Anderson ( Shadow Script)
I was reminded of Veneration Bell an installation by Adam Buick, that the Tinker and I saw at the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness while we were on Orkney. A large white porcelain bell hanging in a darkened room with a backdrop film footage of waves heading into a cave..
'Sound plays a vital role, capturing the surging sea, water dripping from the cave's ceiling, the chime of the bell and the wind battering the rock...'
It looked and felt for all the world as if we were standing in the back of the cave, the deep, sonorous chime of the bell resonated around the gallery, and the sound of the waves was mesmerising. I could have happily sat and watched it for hours, and now I've seen this video I think I could sit and watch Adam Buick making porcelain bells for hours too... such calm and soothing work when its going well.
Shadow Script meanwhile is a book that creates echoes and resonances of its own that will sustain many-a repeated reading, it's gone straight onto my shelf of poetry favourites.