Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Red Man's Way:
Guest Poem by Kim Moore

Red Man’s Way

When I finally get here and see the channel
with the tide out and the boats drowning 

in sand, and the gulls wheeling overhead,
sometimes hassling a lone crow from the sky

and the old path across the channel,
as if someone has drawn a finger across

the wet black mud to make it so, I feel full,
as if one person can’t carry this with them

and be unchanged, as if I could speak seagull
and they would come, cursing, articulate,

their wings the colour of sky, as if I could 
hold my hand up and stop the noise of traffic

from the nearby road, or pinch out the lights
from the shipyard with my finger and thumb

and it’s never silent here, because the wind
likes to run its hands over and over the land,

shaping the newly planted trees to strange angles, 
as slowly, year by year, the bank covers itself

with grass, and last summer, for the first time, 
ox-eye daisies, tall as your knees and fearless. 


I was glad to ask Kim for a poem after I first heard her at Leeds when we read together. I am really pleased with this poem. Red Man's Way, the place, is a 'recreational path running the length of Barrow's slag bank site, in the area formerly occupied by the Hindpool Iron and Steelworks'. 

It is, in effect, a walking poem, both tender and rapt. The emotions are full ("I feel full, / as if one person can't carry this with them // and be unchanged") but the gestures are delicate, of drawing a finger across, pinching out lights with finger and thumb and the wind running hands over the land.

Time and change are major powers in the poem in which change, both in place and person, takes place both immediately and over a vast period at the same time: it is a slow, year by year change among fleet seagulls and the wind.

 Facing the changes implicit in such great temporal powers requires hardiness and courage, a courage particularly  located in the ox-eye daisies at the end. The landscape is ravishing yet potentially a cause for fear in those trees at "strange angles". In the 1870s, as the linked text says, the site was "the biggest Bessemer steel production plant in the world and employed over five thousand men."

The idea of the 'nature poem' as we understand from Wordsworth lies in a sense of the sublime (those great temporal powers) and the memory of childhood experience. More recently Alice Oswald has attempted a direct relationship with the forces of nature, to allow natural forces and patterns into the poem and to steer it. These attempts, now more referred to as ecopoetry - and also associated with John Kinsella, Mario Petrucci and Forest Gander (and possibly John Burnside and others) - often spring out of a desperate sense that we might be losing nature altogether.

I can't speak to that with any authority. Brought up in capital cities and educated in a major industrial city, the urban is what I have known, though my last forty years have been spent somewhat closer to nature. Nature to me has been the movement of wind and light, the look in a cat's eye and its body language, the feeling of fragility about the human bodies around me, including my own.

Kim's poem moves me though because some of those very feelings are applied to water, birds, mud, trees, banks and ox-eyed daisies without forgetting the nearby shipyards. The human trace is part of the poem, and I can't help but read the ox-eyed daisies as human emblems too. They are after all "fearless".

I could say a good deal more about the poem in terms of its blend of freedom with technical control. The language is passionate without being a dramatic performance, the rhyhms quiet on the whole but not muted. It's a very good poem and a pleasure to have.


Kim Moore's first pamphlet 'If We Could Speak Like Wolves' was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. It was named in the Independent as a '2012 Book of the Year' and was a runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year awards. She won an Eric Gregory Award and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2010 and is published in various magazines including Poetry Review, The TLS, The Rialto and Magma. She works as a peripatetic brass teacher in Cumbria.

Kim's website is here.


Elinor Brooks said...

and it’s never silent here, because the wind
likes to run its hands over and over the land,

How I wish I'd written these lines, and how pleased I am that Kim has. This is one of the things I tried to put into words when I spent a week listening to the sea north of Berwick from the old lobster house in Lower Burnmouth. I never tired of the variety of sound reaching me even in my sleep, so that a week of 'silent' retreat was a pleasure to the ears. Thank you for a wonderful poem, Kim - and thank you George, for posting it. Elinor Brooks, BlueGate Poets, Swindon

SweetStefani said...

I'm with Elinor. Really enjoyed reading Kim's beautiful poem. The words evoke such clear images. Thank you to both of you from me too!