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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Inspiration : Map Reading For Beginners

One of the reasons why I keep this blog is as a Commonplace Book.  Writing posts about my jaunts with photos helps me to remember in detail where I've been, and if I'm lucky enough to come home with the promise of a poem in my pocket, it's a  useful tool for the writing of it, especially since a fair bit of time can elapse before the poem is ready to be written.  

With this in mind, I thought I might occasionally post finished poems with their associated photos, and a brief description about how they came about. 

 Map Reading For Beginners

 The bulk of the title poem of my second collection, Map Reading for Beginners, was inspired in the first instance by this picture of the remote Church of St Ishow at Partrishow, high on a hill above the Grwyne Fawr valley in Powys.  As soon as I saw it, in January 2013, I asked the artist, Dru Marland, if we could go there and she agreed we could.  

I came back from our jaunt that day knowing I had to write about the place.  My starting point was a pair of ravens we'd heard chatting in the empty sky a fair while before we'd seen them rolling overhead - a happy encounter for me as they also inspired a sequence of three poems called Speaking Raven (also the same collection).  Before long the fox and hare from Dru's picture had made their way in too, as did the holy well below the Church, which has miraculous tales of healing attached to it.  

But then images from other places which evoke similar feelings in me came crowding in.  The sat nav relegated to the boot is a  reference to a trip I made from Taunton with another friend, back in 2008, following our noses with no idea of where we were headed until we ran out of land at Porlock, and drove along the coast to Watchet.   The tunnelling lanes are therefore those of Somerset, and also Devon, both my ancestral home 'where the story first began'. 

The snake is also from Devon, the pregnant she-adder I encountered on Meldon Hill on Dartmoor in 2009, who also inspired a poem (Ophidiophobia) in the same collection ... 

... or maybe it was the snakelet I spotted with my partner near Scorhill Stone Circle, on our first trip to the moor together in 2013, which turns up in yet another poem, The Seventh Sign.

Meanwhile, the fractal dreams carved by beetles date from another, earlier jaunt, this one in my home city, Bristol. I'd gone up to the Downs, again with Dru, for an afternoon stroll and a glimpse of the newly installed goats in the Avon Gorge, only to find myself clambering down the steep side to the Portway at the bottom in her wake ... and surviving!

All these elements were drawn together into the poem and subsequently the cover of the collection, drawn by DruAs in the poem, the buried Saint Ishow has become a poet with wild strawberries (a nod to the poem of the same name) and primroses growing from her hair.  Best of all, the flowering garlic in the shape of The Plough. Just gorgeous. 

Here's the poem:

Map Reading For Beginners

Put the sat nav in the boot
Follow your own arterial route

the tunnelling lanes that take you down
to where the stories first began,

where fox and hare listen in bracken,
ravens chat across the silence of the sky.

In the moss-dark holy well
a nadder bites its stripy tail,

completes the circle.
Your turquoise tracery of veins

espaliered branches
mapping skin,

a buried poet
with a fruit tree growing through her,

whose fractal dreams are carved
by beetles under bark.

©Deborah Harvey 2014

Map Reading for Beginners is published by Indigo Dreams and available from their website (and Amazon and good independent bookshops).

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