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POETRY

I now live in the south of the Lake District, where I’ve joined Kendal’s Brewery Poetry Group, and Barrow Writers. I’m lucky that the poet Kim Moore runs monthly workshops and residential courses, and this summer I spent five days with brilliant tutors and fellow writers at the Abbot Hall Hotel, close to Grange-over-Sands, at one of the courses she runs. I strongly recommend them. Kim writes a regular blog at  kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com

I recently walked the Norfolk Coast Path from Hunstanton to Cromer over 6 days, writing poems as I went. These poems, illustrated by watercolours by Philip Butler and my photographs, were published in September 2015 by Brewster Press in my book titled Poet in Boots. The book was launched at two wonderful events in Norfolk.

The end of the walk at Cromer Pier photo

This book is my love letter to North Norfolk – its huge skies and fragrant saltmarshes. If you’d like to buy a copy for £6 plus £2 p and p, please email me or find me on Facebook and message me.  

Here’s a poem from the book inspired by the golden corn fields I passed, and the Cley14 exhibition I visited on the walk.

The sheaf of gold

You ask me who I am. I cannot say.
I have one field to till, just enough,
and in the long years when light is lean
I lie down on my bag of musty straw
and hungry pray to live the winter through.
You'll find me wherever the soil is thin,
but in those years when the seeds plump up
and green firms into fat germ and grain,
I'll carry the blistering sheaf of gold
draped like a lover in my arms
into the shade of my modest house
and grind the flour and make good bread.
In those years when sun-rain feeds my bones
I swear I'll carry the swooning harvest home.

Caroline Gilfillan

I’m delighted to say that, as part of the Chronicle group of poets, my work has been published in Oxnead, A Paston treasure (The Cockleshell Press, 2014). This pamphlet, also featuring poems Rob Knee and Tim Lenton, explores the history of Oxnead Hall, once a magnificent Paston family house on the banks of the river Bure, which fell into ruin in the mid 18th century. However, the gardens, the kitchens, the nearby church and various outbuildings have survived, and we were permitted by the current owners to host a day celebrating the 21st birthday of the Paston Heritage Society at the end of September at which Chronicle performed a poetry and spoken word piece drawing on letters written by the Paston family.

I’m currently developing a collection of poems in collaboration with the photographer Andrew Scott, documenting life in the turbulent 1970s. Here’s one of his photographs, and my poem written in response.  

Photo by Andrew Scott
Photograph by Andrew Scott

Stoneyard Lane Prefabs

Two ticks and the fixer of the Squatters Union
has done the break-in, courtesy of a jemmy.
The door creaks in the fish-mud breeze blowing up
from Shadwell docks. Here you are girls.
Faces poke, glint through curtain cracks.

A man comes back for his hobnailed boots. Stands lit up
by orange street lights, his meek face
breathing beer. We got behind with the rent, he says,
muddy laces spilling over knuckles.
Thought we’d leave before the council chucked us out.

The next morning two hoods from the council break the lock,
bawl through the drunken door, Clear out or we’ll
board you in.
Bump-clang of an Audi brings bailiffs.
The fixer flies in, fists up to his chin.
Has words. We hunch on the kerb with our carrier bags. 

Caroline Gilfillan