The Balancing Dance (2007)
Organically Grown Poems, Nothing Wasted
THE BALANCING DANCE includes the lyrics of the green cantata, FIVE SEASONS, written with Cecilia McDowall in 2006, for the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir, sponsored by Respect Organics with logistical support from the Soil Association. The rest of these poems grew from the rich compost heap of material that could not be contained in a 25 minute musical work.
about this compost heap
“In May 2006, the composer Cecilia McDowall and I set off with rucksacks and boots on a series of visits to five organic farms: Becklands in Dorset, Low Luckens in Cumbria, Ardalanish on Mull, Woodlands in Lincolnshire, and Blaen y Nant in North Wales. We were gathering material for a commission from the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir for a piece of choral music to ‘celebrate the organic landscape in the twenty-first century’.
But how do you go about writing a cantata about the organic landscape? There were no rules, no precedent for us or for the farmers we visited. ‘Is this it?’ they asked. ‘Is this what you need?’ All we could say was, ‘Yes! Everything is still possible. Everything is vital.’
We listened. We talked, over tea, coffee and wine. And over long delightful meals of slow food – organic meat, salads from gardens and wild verges. We talked while walking, while scratching behind dogs’ ears, while gazing at sheep, while resisting sleep. We took notes and photographs. We just sat and watched the cows, turkeys, hills, fields, the sea. We sang and listened to others sing.
Visit by visit, our heaped-up riches grew. Slowly, step by step, farm by farm, they were distilled back down into Five Seasons. These poems are an overflow from all that was given to us by the twelve people to whom I have dedicated this book. They made generous gifts of time and of talk – about their animals, weather, flowers, the seasons, the organic movement and its struggles and rewards. They educated us and showed us places of intense beauty – all of them very different. For me as a writer, it was a unique experience to have so many creative collaborators and so much input from others from the very beginning.
But as with a farmer’s work, there was also too much. We could have written a cantata for each farm. The commissioned twenty-minute piece of music was not long enough. Too much rich material was going unused. I have collected up and recycled a bit of it here, but the list of poems hasn’t finished growing yet. Five Seasons was the first crop. These poems are the second.”
Dynamiting Fish (1994)
Collected poems, both serious and playful, including the ones written late at night in casualty ward, which kick-started the writing self again after a long, long silence.
Copies of these books can be ordered from The Ollerton Press