Coleridge in Wales...
Into ice the sky
Melts, projecting raindrop clouds,
Drawing words from song
Inbetween the crevices
Where water runs like cold ink.
On a mast of pine,
her flag still proud...
On the 20th May I was delighted to be involved in The Coleridge Festival's Ancient Mariner event in Swansea SA1; with Poets on the Hill, jazz on the quay, archaeology and pirates, a ton cube of ice and a ghastly crew aboard the (mock-medieval) Matthew of Bristol.
R.M.Parry's tour of Wales, following in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's footprints, had only just begun. As I taught children about climate change and dendrochronology little did I know how important Coleridge's influence was about to become in other aspects of my work, including giving birth to 'The Nib Speaks' - a series of spontaneous short poems tied in with performance art and photography.
Tide after tide the moon-star dog
Does sail, too quick for groan or sigh,
Her face white as the distant foam,
With land set in her eye.
And then there came the ice, a ton,
It melted on the quay,
Waist high, more brilliant than the sky,
It wintered, as glassy as the sea
Within the shadow of the ship
We spoke of changing bone;
The glossy hue of polished time,
The crumbling teeth and sandy core,
Told their own most ancient rime.
Dark was the day and dark the night,
Yet never a breeze up-blew.
A month later and the Coleridge tour joined Stories, Songs, Science and the Sea in rehearsal at the new Aberystwyth Bandstand. The following involved an interview with Radio Bronglais and a talk by the Canadian academic, Professor Tom Dilworth on David Jones' woodcut illustrations of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This was at the National Library of Wales and coincided with an exhibition there of Jones' in combination with Aled Rhys Hughes.
The guests are met, performance set:
May'st hear our merry din.
Merrily did we stop
Above the kirk, upon the hill,
On the hottest day of the year.
at the National Library
- trees, war, photographs;
memory, images told,
still alive with an old grief.
Cool from the hot and copper sky,
The talk to start post-noon,
Down below the mast did stand,
Young Parry, in the waiting room.
The Sun came high, to the mermaid drawn,
Out of the song came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Fell dancing into the sea.
All heads were turned
by Davy Jones
into ancient rime.
When Lammas (August 1st) came around, I found myself beside another ton cube of ice (provided by the wonderful Ice Academy). This time at Gorsedd y Beirdd, in the National Eisteddfod, Abergavenny.
New shepherds gathered
in their flock of dreams, drawing
life out of the cold.
Small brushes recorded
the destruction of a harp
by an abandoned wind
whose trumpeting tangled
in the roaring of repetition
as the nib spoke
to a leaving tide.
The nib spoke
with many hands
from a grove of ice
Huddled beneath an umbrella, dipping the brushes into meltwater and ink, Ivor began to paint onto the roll Chris had begun. I improvised a poem about climate change, which they illustrated together as the rain fell, rhythmic with a cold which did not belong to an August afternoon.
The sky and the ice
wore a shared colour, making
solid the one world.
Afterwards I sat in a small tent, accompanied by the incessant rain and Ivor Davies' film, 'Pyrogenesis'. To begin with we projected this film onto the tent wall, which was invisible to daylight eyes - so the music played quietly into the Eisteddfod hum almost unnoticed by passers by. Only I heard it all, again and again as darkness claimed the ambiguities and images began to take shape on the purple canvas of my shelter.
a single heart is wrapped
in the small flood
a comma to the climate's parenthesis.
A travelling sonograph
showed us the way home
by reversing time
Then, as darkness dried out the day
we turned the projector onto the ice.
In the midnight ice
Bugiliaid Newydd rang
with a rainbow song.
My deepest thanks to everybody concerned, including Huw and the Eisteddfod tech team, Arcipelago, Honeycomb Print Services, Vision Computer Centre and UWTSD Faculty of Humanities & Performing Arts.