Writing Competition Runner Up: Robyn Curtis

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Through The Wood


Don't fear this wood
though its thin growth shivers your skin;
these mists and whispers,
this slightness is your own voice;
it doesn't matter
what shape, what leaning, each leaf, tree
what weeping, what bright blazing -
each has his own mould;
once you too were floating spores
settling on the skin of ripe fruits
like a balm or an irritation,
a bloom or a pallid woe;
briar can cling, entwine with runners
but puts her own roots in the soil;
a seed falling on good ground doesn't need a gardener.
so take wing with the linnets in the evening;
settle on a branch
fly off
tap tap the earth where you will
perch on the shoulder of another
they will be pleased to hold your weight a while.
And if there's bleeding from thorn and bramble
walk right through
like a dreamer
it's only pain leaving -
only listen to your forest sounds,
your special friends trust
that your bird-tongue
speaks your truth.

This poem came through several incarnations – I knew I wanted to write about a transformative process and that it had to be in nature.

I also wanted a mythological feel and was thinking of Persephone – but it didn’t really come to life until I put my own self into it. I also wanted it to be a kind of help, a teaching, that it is OK to go into the darkness when you have to. Resisting is not going to get you through to the other side. And the other side is more of a self not tossed around by the needs and wishes of others, but a self who can know pain, be OK that it hurts but also know you can be as light as a bird once you know that you are really free in your soul. Sounds a tall order! But I find the more I am in nature, the more I am helped to see the way through difficulty – not by avoiding but by being part of our world in all its pain and glory.

It's really just about becoming oneself, I suppose – sounds easy! But for many of us it is far from easy. It’s worth the walk in the woods though – there is so much to learn. Autumn's my favourite time of year, September, colouring up and ripening and the air moving. It’s been a hard summer, grief coming unexpectedly in the middle of holidays. So I welcome Autumn even more than usual. The house martins have flown off leaving a strange quiet round the house. Harvests are in and the fields and hills losing their August gold as we all start to think about preparing for winter in a slightly leaky house. It’s gathering time and a good healing to collect wood, light fires, share some cosiness with our loved ones.

And out with the notebook and wait to see what comes along. 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my poem and thoughts on WildWords and, as Winter moves in, I hope you've all had a fruitful Autumn. 


A Writer's Process: Robyn Curtis

My poem Climbing Kimber has been through various incarnations, one a bit too flabby, one too pretty, too gritty ... yet there it has stayed, the sky, the moor, the grey stone and rich heather and peat.

Kinder Plateau is my second home - after the downs of the Isle of Wight - and there it was the sea that fed the steel clouds and wind. But now living further north, limestone gives way to granite and some days only the tops and edges above the Edale valley will do.

I often start poems with an image from nature, usually on a walk which becomes a slow process if it's one of those days when I am stopping to scribble in my notebook every ten steps! I carry a small notebook that slips into a pocket and a soft pencil. I have become addicted to 3B pencils and their feel on the paper so nothing else feels right, though in extremis anything that makes a mark will do.

Images sometimes spark a personal memory - more often provoke a feeling which can take shape in the image. Although the sense in my poems is often of sadness, it is rarely exclusively sad because making an image, especially from nature, both gives the sadness expression and surprises us with a deeper joy, from both being in nature and in the act of creating itself.

I didn't write for many years;  like many of us, not listening to myself in the throes of family and career.

But I careered out of all that a number of years ago and have been coming to terms with health limitations alongside a deep need for self-realisation - said so often but it's so true, that if you are not doing what you feel you are meant to do, or being who you are meant to be, how can you find contentment?

So here I am in a new way of life: kids left home, obliging husband who gives me all the space I need and carries my lunch and camera up the hills; I have the luxury of a room to myself at the moment but that could change soon with enforced downsizing. I feel I could do without almost anything except a big table covered with art stuff that I just play with and my own room, however tiny, for just being alone in.

I don't actually write much in this room. I type things, amend things, play around, lie on the couch, talk to the cats - and I find all that 'nothing' time is vital for any creative process to grind into action somewhere out of awareness.

Then the writing, first draft, amendments, better wording, next level of ideas - all tend to pop into my head on the train, in a cafe, in the bath - I am looking for a waterproof writing set up for making notes in the shower!

So this poem comes after some considerable heartache dealing with the fallout from loss and trauma,

and earlier drafts featured heavily the gravestone/gritstone and running dark streams ... but as it evolved the moorland birds and sky and the great freedom and hope they bring would not be left out and I was so happy to find that I did actually feel I could live in both places -the darkness we must all navigate at times as well as the airy and magical spaces of the world and when you are up high you can really be with the birds there.

Thanks to Wild Words for giving me the opportunity to share with like minded writers - I am quite a beginner tip-toeing into the world. Good luck to everyone.