We are launching a new series this spring with poets whose work we love and want to feature!
Our next poet is Roselle Angwin whose work is deeply inspired by wild places and the natural world. You can hear Roselle reading her poem "River Suite" below and read more about the connections she makes between poetry and the sacred.
from I Colum Cille: St Columba's Isle
iv Why we stayed
It's the glass-blue day
it's the way light inhabits
the creases, smears colour
that steals your breath.
It's the unbidden moment
that spells dolphin, otter, seal.
It's the islands we come to
the islands we're not.
It's the white glyphs
that scribble the swell
in the Sound, and the bucking boats
that yield, and do not sink.
It's the sand so pale
it might be grains of light.
It's the big Hebridean night
that opens its arms
and drops its creels of stars
towards our upturned faces.
~ Roselle Angwin, A Trick of the Light: poems from Iona
Poetry and the Sacred
Poetry, for me, is essential practice, in both senses of the word 'essential': something about peeling away the layers to reveal essential nature under all our habits, roles and conditioning. Significantly, it offers entry into a more subtle dimension, mediating between worlds: between unknown and more familiar aspects of ourselves; between ourselves and another; between ourselves and the rest of the natural world. It's a 'slender thread', a connecting thread, that continues to keep us alive when all about us seems to be descending into ruin.
The best poetry is transcendent, and always 'plugs me in': enables reconnection to the whole, remembering that everything is interconnected.
So I go to poetry to reach beyond ego; to be part of the great family of all-that-is.
As sacred practice, poetry takes me beyond the transient. Poetry transports me, simultaneously bringing me instantly and entirely present through the poem to this moment, this light rain on the skylight, the buzzard that just glided past, daffodils bravely pushing green spikes from hard dark earth – the courage of everything, the cycles, the joy; despite war, poverty, climate change, species' decline. Heaven on earth. It's a reminder that there is always beauty and presence, and we're all in it together.
Themes of Her Work
My latest poetry collection comes from the Isle of Iona, where I lead annual retreats. It's very much about the sacred within nature. My work is predominantly about our relationship with and reconnection to each other and the other-than-human, and the urgency of our need to find a better way to be with the others who share our planet. I'm utterly passionate about animals, birds, plants, trees, rivers and so on. Most of my courses and writings now have this focus, and I'm currently leading a yearlong 'Tongues in Trees' course with the aim of making people's connection more conscious.
You could have been squatting here forever
almost grown into bank, or become another
rippling ring of light on the dark river.
Twigs have roosted in your hair; your hands
river-stone-cold. Breath feathers the last of the day.
Where do we go each time we close behind us
the door of the present moment? Who
steps forward and who is left behind?
Who still squats by the water when you're
long gone into tree, or bird, or sand?
~Roselle Angwin, Looking For Icarus
Almost a Prayer
After we'd trudged so far to the pass at the top
of the island, rain and wind beating our faces,
rising like a single uncluttered thought
from the lochan's dark mouth a pair of swan,
whoopers, passing through to Siberia,
their curd-white a thickening, a measure
of silence hefted against grey air,
their presence an act of grace, almost a prayer.
~ Roselle Angwin, appears in both All the Missing Names of Love and A Trick of the Light: poems from Iona
Poet, author, mythologian and counsellor Roselle Angwin has been leading the holistic 'Fire in the Head' creative and reflective writing programme for 28 years on Dartmoor, in Cornwall, on the Isle of Iona and in France. As an eco-writer and eco-psychologist, she also leads 'The Wild Ways' outdoor workshops and retreats. Her eleven books include poetry, novels and creative non-fiction.
She's passionate about wild places and the natural world, as well as the meeting points between inner and outer geographies: imagination, relationship, connection, land. She has been described as 'a poet of the bright moment... whose own sources of creative inspiration are her native Westcountry, the Scottish islands, and a highly individual blend of Celtic myth and metaphysics, psychology, shamanic and Buddhist thinking'.
Dreaming of Stones
(available to pre-order)
Christine Valters Paintner's new collection of poems Dreaming of Stones will be published by Paraclete Press this March.
The poems in Dreaming of Stones are about what endures: hope and desire, changing seasons, wild places, love, and the wisdom of mystics. Inspired by the poet's time living in Ireland these readings invite you into deeper ways of seeing the world. They have an incantational quality. Drawing on her commitment as a Benedictine oblate, the poems arise out of a practice of sitting in silence and lectio divina, in which life becomes the holy text.