Saturday, 13 August 2011

New poetry written with midges and OS Explorer 318

Out west in the Galloway Forest Park are the mountains of Benyellary, Bennan, Craig Neldricken, Craignaw, Mullwharchar and the big daddy of them all, The Merrick.  Scattered among and below the hills are the farms, in an arc north of Newton Stewart.  This is the area of the recently designated Galloway Dark Skies Park, a recognition given to only a few places in the world whose natural darkness is almost entirely unpolluted by human sources of light.

Since May I've been working with OS 318 and 319 close at hand, on a new poetry project, working title 'The Dark Farms'.  It's developing into a themed collection of poems focused on the landscapes and extraordinarily dark skies of the Galloway Forest Park.  It's about places, on the human scale of cottages or sheep pens (they're sheep rees in Galloway).  But I also wanted to consider 
the immensity and complexity of space-time, as visible in the dark skies that are still part of this area.

I've been reading astronomy and discovering extraordinary things about the cosmos that I was ignorant of.  I'm still pretty ignorant, due to the marked lack of a science education, but I'm staggered by facts like -
a black dwarf is surrounded by a sort of faint light, which is a 'memory' imprinted on the fabric of time and space, of the blazing star it once was.  Or telescopes move in altitude and azimuth.  Or that dying stars spin out electrically charged winds.  That wind makes no sound in space.

(My teenager heard me exclaim about the last one and looked at me pityingly.  "Well of course it can't" he said, "no sound in a vacuum".  Ah).

I've been walking alongside huge striped dragonflies in places where there are no longer even sheep tracks (just bog) and whenever I stopped to write something down, the midges caught me up.  Stood on foundation stones of cottages long gone, their hearthstones gathering rainwater.  Met a huge red bull all too like a comet, while I was looking for a place called The Castle of Old Risk. 

Working with me on this project is artist William Spurway, who I persuaded because of my great admiration for his draughtsmanship.  Also, since his work is about light, he's interested in dark too.  Here's one of William's bull drawings, and part of one of my poems in progress.

and now             they’re emptied
the dark farms
now crouched        in their earths 
for years               
they swallowed      glints               
and flakes          of stars

1 comment:

  1. Sounds a great projec Jean.

    Liked the poem in progress - so many ways to read it in its layout.