Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Tiffany Atkinson, Neil Rollinson followed by Thunder and Lightning
The Boo and a writer friend are working on a project that involves global warming. It is always difficult for me to think of global warming big scale, I sort of glaze over on a close up shot of Al Gore's face, it is something ‘out there’ huge and running away from me down an increasingly steep slope and I try not to think too hard about what’s at the bottom of the slope for my child or her children and their children ( see I have already run that sentence on out of control at the mere thought of it). Coastal erosion and flooding are features that might increase as a result of this and I have seen at first hand the effects of floods, front rooms sticky with mud and sewage and a stench that soaks into the walls ( let me tell you dear reader it is not the water it is the smell that gets to you like a thousand unflushed toilets being emptied onto your Axminster), a child’s doll and a bird cage ominously empty,floating serenely down a high street. I have also walked along the Norfolk coast and seen abandoned houses teetering on the edge of cliffs where once there were back gardens and men in badly fitting shorts mowing neat and well kept lawns. I have photographed broken old sea defences sticking up from the sand like rotting teeth. Things encroach and perhaps this erosion on the Norfolk coast is a metaphor for how we as the human race react to impending change. Some ignore it, the more socially active and closely effected insist that better sea defences, flood defences etc will hold it all back. They believe that modern engineering and ingenuity , if only the money was thrown at it, can allow us to be Canute standing at the turn of the tide and saying thus far and no further.
We may be able to do this for a short while, we may be able to shore up the eroding coast line and continue to believe that global carbon emissions is nothing to do with small Norfolk communities and historic windmills saved from the encroaching sea. We all like to look at the smaller picture because that is something we can hold in our hands, we as individuals can touch and hold on to it. The bigger picture we have to leave to the nation states to work out, the canvas is so huge it can’t be hung anywhere where we can see it all in one individual eye sweep over human misery. I try to be a good greenish person, I wash at 30 degrees, turn out lights, use low energy light bulbs, try not to buy fruit and veg with high air miles, once used a brick in the toilet cistern until the plumber took it out and told me I was at risk of something that sounded like a plumbing disease of the pipes but I still tend to think this is useful but in the end, even if multiplied by thousands of others like me, not the ultimate answer. It is like the inhabitants of those Norfolk coastal villages, I can protest and be vocal about what should be done but in the end nature will answer those statements we have hurled in its face both in the past and now. It will probably always have the final say and the trick is to keep the dialogue going for as long as possible if we can.
What brought all this on? Perhaps a drive back from a Poetry Trust reading in Suffolk (which featured Tiffany Atkinson and Neil Rollinson of that more later) in apocalyptic weather, thunder, lightning, torrential rain. Weather is spectacular, weather can make you feel very insignificant, it can make you realise that the human species, can harness it, divert it, generally faff around with it but in the end it is a force not to be reckoned with but will reckon with us as a species. Weather and the planet are an intimate relationship, they are so intertwined that what falls or burns from the sky is only an expression of the earth’s state. I always find it interesting that in most mythologies the earth is always female and the sky or things of the sky are male. The thunder and lightning on Thursday night seemed very male, lots of rumbling and stomping around accompanied now and then by quick flashes of magnificent illumination. I like storms, there is something pure and magnificent broad brush stroke about them but this is from a choosing perspective, when forced to be in them they can take on a different hue. I eventually pulled into a small lay-by in the forest (yes I know parking near trees when lightning is about could be seen at tempting fate, I think poets struck by lightning is a low actuarial risk) and watched it all happen, admired the ability of an individual raindrops to be so heavy it can shake a car and contain within its surface tension such a huge amount of water that my sun roof started to leak and I had to resort to sitting in the car with my anorak on and my hood up. I became fascinated by how quickly small rivulets formed on the falling camber of the road and within minutes small streams with tarmac beds were hurling themselves in the same direction. Weather and the earth not to be taken lightly, not to be ignored, not to be viewed under a leaking sun roof.
Poetry reading was good, Neil Rollinson read some of his hall mark erotic poems which you can read here if you are in that sort of mood
but for me his other poems asked something more of me and I liked to be asked to think and feel something north of the waistline by a poem ( that is not to say that visceral sexual feelings elicited by words are to be sneered at, the art of the erotic is extremely demanding if it is to avoid soft porn clichés and avoids making you feel that at any moment a TV Repair man, or a plumber will arrive at the door with a six pack, off the shoulder dungarees and a took box). The other poems on his website are worth a look to get a flavour of his whole range. Tiffany Atkinson’s work comes at you from left field (is that a cricketing derived term?) and is rich with quirks and surreal images. Here is her poem Rain that seems appropriate considering the events of the drive back
I have been looking at this gallery of photographs under the title earth that were submitted for a competition. They are well worth a look if you too find the power of the photograph sets off trains of thought at full speed (so much more green, the train, than being driven to something).