It’s one thing developing our skills in writing poetry and making pots but there is so much more to sustaining this as a business – learning all about social media, how to approach galleries, how to write a newsletter and build a mailing list – how to set up at craft fairs… the list goes on. But one of the key parts of all of those business aspects, is photography. It’s not easy. A group of local artists got together a while ago to pay a photographer to run a workshop for the day and help us all – we did pick up some tricks and tips and hopefully you can see the benefits – but photographing larger ceramic works is still defeating me…

Okay, this isn’t pottery but it symbolizes our life and our attempt to live as sustainably as possible. Making our own pottery and making a living from that pottery is a life-giving thing – we don’t have a lot of extra cash, but we pay the bills and have enough. We can be very caught up with work at some points, like in the run-up to a ceramics fair, but we can balance that with days at a time when we are free to spend relaxed time with family and friends. Growing our own is part of the same choice – there is a lot of work in permaculture but less cost than in buying in beds and soil and certainly, much more enjoyable to be eating and freezing and planning our own food! For clothes, we buy second hand or maybe fair trade and we choose not to fly. Other steps are currently unaffordable – electric car or solar panels, but maybe one day!

I made this sculpture in the first lockdown, from a mirror and old wire found in the garden, with a small figure, wrapped in nature – resembling the joy and comfort that we found during the ‘great silence’ but the chaos that went on around us. It’s hard to remember those days so I am glad to see this sculpture every day in our garden and watch as nature takes hold, rust, small drops of moss from passing nest-builders, the mirror reflecting skies, whether dark or blue. I am looking forward to a sculpture course later this year as I have many more ideas spinning in my head!

 

 

Two events coming up over the next few weeks here in Cowal – a beautiful poetry and music evening and a local makers market. Check out our social media or sign up for our newsletter to hear more detail!

Do come and join us! It’s our first local craft fair – we have artists, textile artists, potters, a glass artist, printmakers, a jeweller – and a delicious pop-up cafe by Eco Nature…

This is a re-post from Chris’s blog. If a poet was going to announce the start of a poetry tour, perhaps they would do it like this!
I have mentioned a few times the plan for this year was to take some poetry from ‘After the apocalypse‘ on the road. We made a number of steps in this direction – identifying some hosts and venues (thankyou!) and imagining how I hoped this would work – but I have struggled to bring the final ideas together. Partly this is because the last year has been one of the hardest of my life. I have been struggling with a number of things, probably related to the recent loss of both my sister and my mother. This left me grappling with the boy I was and still am within, bruised and broken by my upbringing, struggling to hide the shame that all survivors of abuse carry with them. Alongside some other family things, I was struggling to find the energy needed to invest in such a creative and collaborative endevour as I had imagined. In turn, this made me feel worse, as though I had nothing to give, nothing to offer. As if I was over. In some senses, such is the creative life. We mostly create out of our vulnerabilities and brokenness. Or perhaps not all do, but the works that moved me most came from these places. Because of this, creativity always comes with a shadow of self doubt and even (in my case) self loathing. The nature of creativity can be so self-centred too, so endlessly self-referential, which can form a loop in which the urge to make reflects backwards in a harsh light. (Some of you will know exactly what I mean.) With that as confessional context, you will appreciate all the more what I am about to describe. It is the rack that you too are stretched upon. No amount of ‘sucess’ seems to change the realities of this kind of being.
Images by Si Smith, from ‘After the apocalypse’ Yesterday (because Michaela had not given up on me when I more or less had) I took a few more steps.I did it almost unaware, just knowing that I had to keep moving. (But Michaela had been making connections, doing things that seemed to me to be almost futile.)She had already been doing the drudge-work, without which no good thing can ever happen. The form filling, the diary making. The frustration suppressing. The loving. She thought I did not see it, but I did, I just mostly thought she was wasting her time. Then, yesterday, things took an entirely unexpected (by me at least) turn.
  Before I tell you what happened, perhaps I should describe my longings for these poetry events. I have come to realise, that the things I do that bring me the greatest joy have to start with a certain kind of ‘uuughh’. It is that feeling you get when your chest feels pregnant with… how can I describe it?… goodness? Hope? Love? Grace? Excitement? None of these words quite contain what I mean, so let’s stick with ‘uuughh’. I know too that for me, uuughh is a spiritual thing as much as a physical one. It may seem totally fanciful to you to suggest that uughh is about connection to the great spirit that made the world and holds it all together, but there it is, this is what I feel, somewhere deep inside myself. I have tried to learn to look out (above all things) for the uuughh and to trust it when I feel it. To follow it when I can. I think of this as a spiritual practice, informed by thinking around theopoetics that I have spoken a lot about on this blog. In my experience, uuuhgg is most likely to be encountered around some of these things; Kindness (always always kindness, that most underated for virtues.) Community, when we do good things together Friendship, which is precious and rare, particularly for introspective men like me Hope, even in the shadow of despair Beauty (particularly arising from brokenness) Stories of hope and redemption Stories of liberation Justice bringing and peace-making It is perhaps most readily accessed when art (particularly for me, poetry and music) becomes a channel for the above. Things like this;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaSnmZLTQSE
Or this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QSivy1fkL4
  You will understand then that despite the pressures we all feel to make a living, the plan for taking these poems ‘on the road’ was not about making money. It was about making moments of uuughh for others. Small moments of kindness and transformation. This or nothing. But I knew I needed help. I needed to make community. I am fortunate enough to live in a family of musicians, but despite the best intentions, it can be hard to do things with your family. There is too much baggage and boundaries are too weak, even if love remains strong. Besides, what young musician wants to do something with dad? What we needed above all was a gifted catalyst from outside. But who would be kind enough to put themselves in the middle of such a project? Our friend Yvonne certainly has the giftedness. She has even done poetry collaborations before;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO4Cj9E422s
  Yesterday we got together to see how it would feel. My lad Will joined us on guitar and vocals. I read poetry whilst they wove sounds and then slid into song. I can only describe what happened by saying one word. Uuughh.

A post from Chris.

Advent begins on Sunday. I love to allow seasons like this to shape some contemplation, and so intend to put together a daily reflection thing via my blog. Does anyone want to contribute?

Advent is about anticipating something better. Hoping for light that is still to come, even in present darkness. Do whatever you like with this this. Could be a poem, an image, a video clip, a song, or a painting, or anything else that provides a space for others to be still for a moment and reflect.

How is it that still, you love things by becoming them?

How was it that this brown-skinned man with the heart of a woman

Took upon herself another name for everything, so we could

Encounter her in all these beautiful things and bleed with her when she

Lies broken? And just when all seems lost, she whispers still –

See, I am making all things new.

Even you.

It can be hard at first to step aside from both secular and religious cliches about the approach of Christmas, at least until you allow yourself a bit of space to think again about the nature of this season.

  • the time when winter is still deepening, the coldness increasing, the days shortening
  • the creak of increasing Christmas pressure coming at us from our screens
  • fears of scarcity despite our abundance
  • the end of last year and the approach of the next
  • the certain knowledge that there will be a new spring
  • the simple, all surpassing idea of immanuel, the god who loves things by becoming them

If you would like to join us for the journey, reply here or drop me a message. You need espouse no particular position of faith. Just help our hearts open a little when we need it most.

After the apocalypse is now out on all those unmentionable global websites that used to sell books and now sell everything.

It is also available on our website here, so forget what I just said.

After all the hard work by lots of people to get the book into some kind of shape – the editing, the design work, the proof reading… and of course Si’s magnificent images – I think it time to take make grateful pause.

It is not perfect. A few errors slipped through. The print quality on the images has not totally passed the Smith test. Despite this, I am feel a sense of satisfaction that I have not always felt after a book has been completed. I think it is because this book, despite its limitations, is as honest as I can be. Its limitations are my limitations. If it carries any hope, any beauty- these are ones that I have lived through or am reaching towards. Also, despite the commercial nature of any project like this, the book was not written to sell anything. It started in frustration, anger and dissatisfaction with the world we have made, and ends in a great sigh of connection with the spirit that sings within us all.

I hope people will read it, but if you don’t that is OK. I needed to say these things anyway. More than this though, I feel a sense of responsibility towards the ideas that the book contains.

I stand by the anger. There is lots to be angry about. But we can not exist on anger alone.

I appreciate the pause that poetry gave me, the chance to ponder and reframe the way we look. But pausing is only the beginning of change.

And even if the book offers no blueprint for betterment (because I know my limitations) I think it carries some clues. It feels to me as if these are not my own insights, but ones I have discovered, almost by accident, in the margins of the scribbles I was making as poetry was forming. This is the gift of poetry – it takes is both inside ourselves and then, if we are lucky, it draws us towards new places.

Or perhaps it is nothing to do with luck. My contention is that if a solution is anything at all, it begins in the ‘theatre of the spirit’ (as Havel put it), or to put it another way, we first have to re-encounter the meaning of our lives as individuals, but even more so collectively. We have to remember that the human world we live in has been made by humans, so it is quite possible to re-make it.

In the next season of the life of this book, I hope to be bring together some actual ‘theatres of the spirit’, by putting together some gatherings where we read together and dream together. If you are interesting in hosting/attending then get in touch.

It is hard to choose poems from the book now. They are all fragments of a five year journey. But this one will do.

.

I want to live

.

I want to live in a world in which refugees are welcomed

As if coming home. As if the food they are given

Was cooked by their own mothers.

.

I want to live in a world in which people share what they have

With those who have nothing. Where fear of scarcity is foolish

Because we finally recognised abundance.

.

I want to live in a world in which love for neighbours

Made hedges and fences inconvenient. As if real estate

Is not real after all.

.

I want to live in a world in which guns are things for museums

Behind glass with suits of armour. Where tanks are

Used only to store liquid.

.

I want to live in a world in which nothing is expendable, as if landfills

were already full. As if bags of bolts and empty cans

Can be used again tomorrow.

.

I want to live in a world in which children are thrilled by birdsong

and gloriously appalled by black beetles. Where great adventure is made

Out of mountain and forest.

.

I want to live

I have a wonderfully spacious table, made by Chris. He used the framework from a friend’s greenhouse, when they moved away and attached a piece of marine ply to it, knowing it would last well with the clay and water. He even attached castors to the legs, so that it could be positioned in the room according to the activity being undertaken and how many of us are gathered to make!

So, how is it that I end up, working on my own, but still squashed into a small space at the end of the table for making? Gradually, tools, machinery, drying clay, works in progress, notes… all spread out and take up the space..

Are you the same..?

Chris participated in a zoom reading with a couple of friends the other night to mark National Poetry day. It was a lovely evening, full of those tender moments that only poetry can bring. It was recorded, so if you fancy dipping in to some poetry, I’ve posted them here.

Chris was reading poems (mostly) from hie new book, which can now be ordered directly from here (as well as the usual Amazon behemoth and the like).

Those who kindly pre-ordered their copies will be getting them soon too – we are waiting for a batch to arrive here.

Here are the two recordings.