My latest book with Longbarrow Press – Rock as Gloss – is full of various characters, some made of geology’s processes and others made of meat-&-bone, some wild animals & others animals of culture, and some of them entirely fictioned, and others drawn from the actual human world. At the very end of last August my partner Nikki & I enjoyed some time with one of the actual humans that Rock as Gloss engages with. The following is an expression of an afternoon of being with large pebbles (or little boulders) & Johnny Dawes (click on the images to view the caption to each photograph). Before we begin though, I will give you the note from Rock as Gloss’s Gloss of Rockery, that refers to Johnny:
Johnny Dawes is often described as a legend of British climbing. During the 1980s he produced the first rock-climbs to be graded E8 & E9 (the E standing for extreme). Dawes is an artist of sorts – a unique visionary & practitioner of movement-&-adhesion. He is also a profoundly gifted poetic climber-writer.
If You Go Up To Higger Today
Johnny is wearing a bright yellow t-shirt, a white golf cap, shorts, red socks, and also a pair of jaggedly-patterned-sportily-branded trail-running shoes. Sunshine sings off Johnny’s torso. The sky is wearing a bright blue sharp suit … uniform … but because of Johnny’s clownish brilliance, this precise sky is now all-ready relaxing … and laughing too … now our sky today wears a few white chiffon ruffles, and is even this very now suddenly waving gentle cloud-hankies … all sporting! … all so over the top, and leaving itself wide … wide open … open to be accused of being some kind of fop … way … way up … up its own farce … But this collaborating sky also makes a clean late August breeze hiss across Higger’s top, and gently weesh in Higger’s grasses, and then rub Higger’s grit with a blunter sound of air. And this is just simply beautiful, and utterly present. An invisible scurrying is a circling transparent cat settling on its cushion …
Johnny wonders if what we are doing today could be called ‘pebble-wrestling’, or perhaps ‘frictioneering’. He talks of the little helicopter that must land on each toe-tip step to show the places we can or must land our bodies’ intentions (but not our minds’!). The dark pellets of sheep-droppings, haphazardly spread in the grit-dust or presentation-placed on brillo-pad tufts, are part of a fairytale trail out of the maze, or better, deeper into it … into a place in which place is digested. And the mass of flying ants in the air, and some of them that grapple with my arm-hairs, these lusty specks are all taking part in Johnny Python’s Pebble Circus. And yes, of course, there is something irreverent and Englishly rude about this clown … but also he is hugely generous … his way of drawing passers-by into having a go at handless climbing … see the performer handing out gifts of precision standing, walking, running, and leaping … and all on un-cliffs, on nothing higher than his yellow-t-shirted chest. And none of the passers-by have a clue of just who the grit-wizard is … and the wizard loves that fact …
Often, over the years, I’ve walked across this top above Higger, the small boulders laid out like a colony of utterly still beings hunkered into deep time. And I have stood on some of them and also jumped from one to t’other. But today we get to see the stone’s secret textures. (And we realise that we could act ually believe that these stones were always wai ting for us.) Johnny is moving his head side-to-side, Bollywood-dancer-owl-style – he is showing Nikki how to see the rugosities rise and fall, and how footholds dance with what Johnny has understood as a particular kind of parallax, special to one who wishes to connect her-his-its-their mineral frame to that of the Earth’s … limitless genders …
Johnny is now gently plugged, by his feet, into a small tor that is fractal-exactly the same shape of the little cloud six or so thousand feet up in the blue and some nineteen miles north-north west of this gritty here. Stanage is way off at the back, a line of knuckles on a keyboard of geology, and just across the way opposite us Burbage is arranging absolute stillness at an incredible speed. Both edges partaking of and freely giving out the sweet silent sounds of what Johnny calls foot-notes. And here we are miniaturised amongst this thisness, focusing in on the grains of grit, and the most primitive of human gestures: that one where your throat wobbles to make … a gurgle sound that is hard to explain … yes, Higger is laughing with infinities of grit, and we are laughing with it … her … him … them …
This piece is massively informed by the insights & concepts of Johnny Dawes, who, over the last couple of decades, has been working extremely hard to condense and clarify his special understanding of stone & movement into artistic expression … but also into a series of clear instructions that can be shared with a variety of others …
Mark Goodwin‘s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), a category finalist for the 2019 Banff Mountain Book Competition. Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:
a poet as rock – an attempt to gloss
Andrei Tarkovsky identified the specific material with which art-cinema works – time. He said that it’s obvious a musical composer works with sound, and that a writer’s material is words, a painter’s is colour, and a potter’s clay … Tarkovsky realised that the artist film-maker sculpts in time. A material of memory!
‘Where will they put [time]?’
‘They won’t put it anywhere. Time isn’t a thing,
it’s an idea. It’ll die out in the mind.’
I feel enlightened by and confident in Tarkovsky’s explaining that cinema is made out of time (or rather, perhaps that should be ‘from’ time?). And I’m comfortable that obviously a sculptor’s material could be marble, and that a musician’s is sound. But I’m not so sure about a writer’s material … or rather I’m not so sure about Tarkovsky being right about the material a poet works with. And in turn this starts to make me doubt whether a poet is actually a writer … because writers do … of course, of a matter of course … work with words …
But to say a poet works with words, that is, perhaps, like saying a rock-climber works with stone. Of cause [sic], a writer works with words, in the same way that a map-maker works with symbols that represent geometry that represent ground … that …
… But what is it that a rock-climber works with? What is a rock-climber’s material? Am I being foolish, to assume that a rock-climber makes something, that a climber is a maker? Yes, perhaps being a fool is the point, or a point … in time … or out … of time …
A person has one body,
Singleton, all on its own,
The soul has had more than enough
Of being cooped up inside
A casing with ears and eyes
The size of a five-penny piece
And skin – just scar after scar –
Covering a structure of bone.
A map-maker works on paper (or at least they used to!). A climber moves on … (or is that with?) … rock. If we are to believe, remembering that just like the word ‘fool’, ‘belief’ is a vital word for human-ness … if we are to believe, or rather if I am to believe … that a climber is a maker, that a climber in the act of climbing creates some ‘thing’ … then what is it that they make? The produce of the map-maker is their (or our?) map, made out of symbols of measurements. The produce of the/a writer is an/the … essay … prose … a novel … a story … a narrative … fiction … journalism … The Tweet! Where does a poem happen? When? What is it made of? Where from? Does it happen on the rock’s surface, or start deep down amongst strata, way back in deep time … or is it only now held in (the) memory, that sensation of fingers pressing against gritstone, or toes jammed into a sharp slate crack? The particular layout of holds … and textures on the rock’s surface … did the first climber to find that pattern, or put that pattern together … make the holds? And what of the climbers who follow after that first ascent? What do they make of it? What did they make of it? What will … ?
The road is mirrored in your tearful eyes
Like bushes in a flooded field at dusk,
I love … and I think that is the right word … I love to see light change the expressions of stone. How Stanage Edge is made of light and not rock, or at least it is made of light if I just watch … but … it is with … out any doubt in … my body … when I touch … it … made … of gritstone (and perhaps ‘from’ that substance too) … and when I remember my moving on the rock (or with the rock?), and I recall the resonance of other climbers having moved there also, and remember that others will also move in tune with the stone(’s) pattern(s) … at the ‘same’ point in space … but … long after I’m gone … then this memory feels …
… like a gleam, a glossy trembling, a smoothness just … vibrating over the rock’s rough surface …
In answer to each step you take
The earth rings in your ears.
First quote: from The Possessed, Fyodor Dostoevsky,
quoted by Andrei Tarkovsky in ‘Imprinted Time’
(chapter 3 of Sculpting in Time).
Second quote: the first stanza of Eurydice,
by Arseniy Tarkovsky (Andrei’s father),
(translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair). This poem
is spoken in Tarkovsky’s film Mirror.
Third quote: first two lines of the second stanza
of Ignatievo Forest, by Arseniy Tarkovsky
(translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair).
This poem is also heard in Mirror.
Fourth quote: the last two lines
of Eurydice, by Arseniy Tarkovsky.
Image: Hen Cloud by Paul Evans (click here to view his paintings, drawings and poems for the Seven Wonders project). Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019). Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:
On the ninth of November 2018, climbers Paul Evans & Mark Goodwin performed together at the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival.
The following cycle of seven
poem-photo-combinations is drawn
from that experience.
All photos are by Nikki Clayton.
to say a
to tear an
caught in a
edy or trag
as a bran
dow light as
our own I
and even as won
even as now a
est reflected gest
tence has lit
Artist Paul Evans has collaborated with a number of Longbarrow Press poets in recent years; click here to view the paintings, drawings and poems for the Seven Wonders project. His main website can be found here.
Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press in late January 2019). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. These themes are developed in his new collection, Rock as Gloss. Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:
an introduction to Doorways Gather
I lived a childhood in a typical old Leicestershire red-brick farmhouse. So to go to, and to go inside another old typical red-brick farmhouse – that had been deserted many years before – was bound to rebuild various rural childhoods and cause an array of layers of childhoods … and squeeze them through various degrees of haunts’ angles. One haunt’s interference can boost another haunt’s signals, or it can cancel. It all depends upon aligning care-filled angles made by corners & the oblongs of doors & ways. And it so very much depends on the angle with which we hold one haunting up to the light, as we bring another haunting in front of it, or behind it. And haunt-waves – which we call sound – are always dependent, utterly dependent, on whether the air that transmits them is being breathed or not …
And as we snap from one place to another – as we change dimensionally – we may or may not notice our existence’s transiting judder(s) …
Not long ago I went down into the cellar of my parents’ old Leicestershire red-brick farmhouse to make a field-recording. I tapped various bottles and also blew into their necks. I dabbled my fingers into the little puddle that is always there at the bottom of the stairs, where-water-has-settled-in-a-dip-where the quarry tiles have slumped ( a change to the cellar’s physical substance, a transformation that probably finalised its position decades before I was born ). My son’s Collie god, that so reminds me of one of the gods of my childhood, heard my underground percussion via the cellar’s sky-light and so, as gods do, replied to my noise as if hearing a prayer. That field-recording of that place in that time has been laid beside another-that video recording of another that-place in another that-time, and so those-layers have now bled out unfathomable times … that have somehow wept … together … and merged into some organised kind …
And many years before the field-recording I made of my mum’s & dad’s cellar – in one part of a Leicestershire – and before the video that artist Martyn took from the light that had been kept in that deserted farmhouse – in an other part of a Leicestershire – I had made a poem in a large barn in the Morvan of France, just to the west of the Côte d’Or escarpment …
And that House At Out poem – its text once barned in a book – has recently passed through my voice’s sound to be placed beside – and yet also so very much within – the fields of a video & an audio recording at
[To experience the full sonically-detailed jaunt please wear headphones.]
Martyn Blundell is an artist and film-maker. His other film-collaborations with Mark Goodwin can be viewed here. Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press later this year). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:
Glen Arnisdale & Gleann Dubh Lochain, March 2018
[…] without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
After days of snowy & iced ground, after abrupt ups and steep downs, we turn from the mountains’ tops … and so we now walk along, we walk a longa gentler un dulating ground down in the glen. The sting of fast-thrust snow specks in the face is already from some other story. Down here in this nestling Glen Arnisdale spring suddenly begins. Sunshine unfurls its newest of oldest gestures. Our rucksacks are smaller, and our boots not so big. We need no crampons nor axes. It is like a well-earned holiday, this warm day, after the early starts for high cold tops. And holy it is as some unidentified bird pours her or his or its voice through and across the loveliness of Glen Arnisdale. This song is nearly thrush, but it is not thrush. And when we see the bird flit from tree to tree … its jizz, its gestures, its motion is not of a bird I know. I then, at that moment, or probably another moment I made or make from memory, at that some moment I remembered – I remember – how a poet called Peter Riley wrote, writes, will write … that he felt (feels) something about a place named Alstonefield mattered, mattered so very much …
Such inexplicable matter, and mattering happens for some version of me – here or there – in a Glen Arnisdale …
Behind us, as we walk east, is Loch Hourn’s mouth, open to The Sound of Sleat. (And beyond the south shore of that slot of sealoch, and its sprung expression of mixed waters – fresh & salt – stands the almost fabled Rough Bounds of Knoydart, tops snow-glossed and east flanks silvered.) In front of us, to east, Glen Arnisdale’s wide pasture ends in a tight throat where River Arnisdale is squeezed between rock-knolled hill-ground. And through this throat-gate we pass into Glenn Dubh Lochain, with its two damned reservoirs, its two black lochans, set prettily and smoothly in some newly revealed scape of tangled textures. Spring’s sunlight shatters glee gorgeously sad across these dark foils. We try to stalk otters along these lochans’ frilly banks, but we see nothing, no signs at all, but I notice how I hope I am watched …
And further on, and where this hidden glen t-junctions, and where burns merge, and where little pylons carrying power-lines pass, their frames’ movements through this place defined by their actually staying still within it … here, at this juncture, there are some ruins. The larger house has been sky-opened, and young rowans grow on the battlements of its crumbling. And the much smaller equally sky-seen & sky-tortured roofless one-roomed cottage to the north-west of the bigger wreck, this residency is occupied by a plant-being, an old thick-trunked rowan … and all four walls of the raw open interior are peopled by glistening green ferns …
I never arrived at this place as much as I never left. The little pylons, and they are little, they are children pylons in comparison to the ones I know in Leicestershire, but they are also mountaineer pylons, their smallness their fury, these beautiful pylons delicate as birches … and the mature rowan growing ever older boxed in its sky-roofed cottage …. well, my self’s (or an other’s) really having existed and not existed here or else where is as …
of pylons whilst
a stoic rowan plays
that dance’s tune
with its buds
Photographs by Nikki Clayton and Boz Morris. Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press later this year). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:
an introduction to a received transmission categorised as Quarry Some
As a child I was fascinated by paintings of alien landscapes containing wrecked spacecraft. One particular sci-fi coffee-table book, called Spacewreck: Ghostships and Derelicts of Space, still stays embedded in the canyon remnants of my child brain. Such huge hulks of corroding technology, each dropped to ground like some giant letter from some lost god’s alphabet. These still moulder in my mind, cold with distance and yet hot with some kind of strange glad angst …
And I now know that such projected ghostly derelicts of super-technologies have played an important part in setting my mind towards the present pull of dereliction. Tarkovsky’s Stalker has also pulled me from one dimension into another and back out again. And so I have always been drawn to The Zone, by the forbidden fenced elsewhere, by the contained broken analogues of our breaking worlds …
A few years back I had the honour of actually travelling to some other world with a team of Quarrynauts. Together we rode over an abandoned civilisation’s traces … we held our craft fast, hitched a ride … or we passed our craft from one to the other … a baton of co(s)mic trajectories … its imagination-impetus, its creating-eye, pulled us through …
My son, a one-time technician of useful-deceptions, and a forever-improviser, had empowered a telescopic-pole with a photon-coagulator. Or to use today’s Earth language: my son had, using a strap of tractor-tyre inner-tube, mounted a digital eye to the end of an extendable aluminium pole. This pole saw the way, and its vibrant visions danced our hands as we carried it and ran … puppets we were of vision’s touch … all of us … a team of fathers & sons on the run … the run to … as well as the run from …
How we dreamed … the aluminium pole had an intelligence – aluminium intelligence – crystalline, light and strong …
But our dream also boiled with poetry fragmented into comedic fibres & jostling alien components & the frail muffled tragedies of objects’ disintegrating messages. There is no clearly discernible speech recorded in our document of our voyage, but perhaps I remember how at one point in space we discussed a mysterious murder on the far-off & ancient Benny Hill of Old Earth. We wrestled with the legal rights & moral wrongs of that murder, and the reincarnation of granite, and the filling in and filling up of outer & inner space with mineral density. Forever some corner of a universe is a corner of Earth, for a quarry is a corner of ground, and the stone dreams dug from it remain spaceless but fluid and awake eternally … and thus, to disagree ever so slightly with Gaston Bachelard, and to be much inspired by child Alice’s bold mischief, our team’s odyssey motto was: How we take flight, through a corner of a universe …
What you are about to see and hear should not be tried at home … it is only for those who wish their dwelling to be a corridor of motion, a tube of going towards gone, a carrying of nowhere from nowhere to nowhere, an event of bearing an horizon of aluminium rod … through the active radio of space … space … where no one can hear … your poetry cry …
This text introduces Quarry Some, a one-take collaborative film by Louis Goodwin, Mark Goodwin, and others:
Mark Goodwin’s fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings.
I was brought up on a farm in South Leicestershire, and since my childhood, some of the outbuildings have always ‘housed’, each summer, a certain kind of dweller, or rather I suppose, a certain kind of traveller. These beings made the dustbin shed a dangerous place to enter, or at least it seemed dangerous … because, more often than not as you opened the bottom half of the stable-door, the top half of which was always kept open, suddenly you would need to duck as a blurred
dark wing-edged missile
skimming your crown …
It is just like that now – the swallows are still there at Lodge Farm, in the summer. And I, like many others, have come to know swallows as being the chirrups-&-clicks and flitting flow-visions of a particular summer place …
An intimacy of sorts. Swallows zooming the corners of the cobbled yard and then banking up into the wide summer blues above. You could never get near them – all speed & agility – and yet that fast distance they carry or project … that was, and still is, a kind of unique nearness, a bringing in of the far …
And as a child I could only vaguely imagine far-off South Africa, and how it might feel to fly and weather the long sky-hours crossing continents to that unknown ‘there’ … and then again to fly the vast space back … up Africa … across the deadly Sahara … Morocco … Spain … the high Pyrenees … France … across The Channel to England … and then up to Leicestershire again, and again to a particular rafter, in a farm’s outbuilding. And as an adult, I think I can imagine this no better. And yet, the swallows – settled in the dustbin shed – each year they bring this intercontinental distance close. Even though, swallows, flyers that they are, can never be touched …
Yes, swallows in my life, so far, have been near, but utterly impossible to touch. That cup of mud tucked into the rafters? Well … even as a small child I knew and felt just how forbidden it is to put a hand into that nest of peek-a-booing chicks. And in all the years of my growing up at Lodge Farm, and since, not one swallow chick has fallen from the nest. Or at least, I believe it to be that way …
Swallows. The impossible to touch. So, it is such a beautiful but strange surprise to me then, that my growing-up children, who are both now moving out and into the far world, should one day bring a touchable swallow to the place where I grew up …
My daughter, Tess, is a vet student, and she was recently doing some work experience at a stud farm in Shropshire. One of the other students had found a fallen swallow nestling, but was unable to carry on hand-rearing the bird, because her time at the stud farm had come to an end. She managed to persuade Tess to carry on with the rearing … and then Tess, as her work-experience came to an end, brought the swallow back home with her …
And so, that is what she, and my son, Louis, are now doing – they are hand-rearing a swallow. Or at least trying to …
Swallows grow fast, very fast. The grip of tiny claws on your finger. The strength of the grip. The fanning of wings, and the swish of air on your skin as flight is felt by the bird, but … flight not yet made, at least for now. The sudden little crinkled squawk-&-wide-open-yellow-maw as a tweezered wriggling mealy worm is offered … then gulped down. The sharp frightening hunter gaze and already skilled precise rotating head-movements as a passing fly is scanned avidly. This little creature is a terror! A hawk of a kind – a gnat harrier. So fast its ancient instincts are making its form & drive come into the world. This little creature is immensely beautiful …
Tess is trying very hard, as a vet student, as a scientist no less, NOT to get attached to this little being. She is failing, of course, but not enough to try at all to keep the creature. I’m sure part of her does not want this bird to fly, yet I know she mostly wants the creature to go, and to be free … yes! that is certainly what she wants most …
And as we talked about this, with the swallow on her hand, in the garden at my parents’ farm … suddenly the fledgling took flight … was up … and instantly bigger versions of itself boomeranged out of thin air and swooped close through the confines of the garden … and then the little swallow and the bigger ones that had joined it were beyond the beech hedge and in the big sky … Were they friendly, these big blade-shapes cavorting with the fledgling? …
The concern on my daughter’s face was as clear as the streak
of a swallow’s cry …
And then the wee bird landed on her hand again.
And my daughter, the scientist, knew, so very well, that the bird had returned only because of hunger & thirst, and nothing else. And yet, human that she is, my daughter declared her ‘love’ for the beauty of this driven beast …
Last night, Tess took the fledgling back to Lodge Farm, which is abundant with swallows, skimming flies off the farm’s lake …
Before last night, the little bird had already made a flight with the wild adult birds, of about twenty minutes or so. I was there, at Lodge Farm, and saw how the bigger swallows curved close and jostled the fledgling. Were the ‘wiser’ birds teaching? Or were the wild creatures bullying a stranger? We couldn’t really tell. We suspect they were actually helping, but we don’t have enough knowledge of swallows to be certain of what we were looking at, other than a smaller bird circling and swooping … and being … pursued by larger beings of its kind. And when the nestless fledgling returned to my daughter’s hand, its beak was ajar: the fledgling was panting, and obviously very tired. The sudden open sky and the action of flight had taken a lot of energy …
Late last night, Louis told me that the little swallow had been flying again at Lodge Farm, and this time for over two hours … and that Tess was about to leave, suspecting she would see no more of the bird, when suddenly it landed on her head …
… I texted Tess this morning: ‘I hear, on the wing 4 over 2hrs yester eve! Lv d’ Her reply: ‘Yes but he’s not in a good way 😦 he came back absolutely exhausted and hasn’t tweeted since, and this morning I noticed a slight bloody patch on his under belly so he’s going 2 the vet today. Lv T.’
It is likely that the juvenile driven flyer, un-guided by parent swallows, simply flew and flew in circles until exhaustion … and then made a bad crash landing causing injury …
Such an immensely beautiful & driven little beast. And yet so fragile and dependent on a particular pattern of existence, a particular unfurling of events, a set of steps in a deep old precise process … that cannot be easily interrupted …
The attrition rate for juvenile swallows whilst making their first migration is so very high – only the strongest flyers stand any chance of making the journey their instincts demand of them …
It is sad, this loss. But only for us people. The swallow cares not …
Photographs by Nikki Clayton. Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press this autumn). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below: