Tag Archives: 16daysofactivism2017

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day6


16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence – Day 6


The painting above is by a fabulous artist called Fran Riley.  It hangs in my living room to remind me what I know.

Poets have always turned to myth and stories to talk about trauma and violence.  The figure of the woodcutter – just the word ‘woodcutter’ and the word ‘forest’ and all the old childhood stories are summoned from their resting places.

When a poem settles down on its hunches and the poet comes from out of the shadows and says something like ‘Listen’ or ‘I can tell you’ or ‘Let me tell you’ or ‘The story goes’ it can feel like they are with you in the room whilst you’re reading.

One of my favourite poems which does this is by the poet Brigit Pegeen Kelly.  The poem is called Song.  Listen, the poet says.  This poem is also about knowing.  Who knows, and who doesn’t.  Not only who knows, but what they know.  The type of knowing.

I read an article that told me that trees warn each other when there is danger.  That they communicate through an intertwined and complicated root system.  That if one tree is failing in a forest, other trees will divert resources to it to help it.

This poem is about a moment of knowing, of understanding, a moment of change, a moment of knowing. Although it is hidden amongst trees, and behind figures of woodcutters, and clever ravens, and throats, and light coming and going from the room as if it was a person.





The Knowing

The story goes that the light slipped past/and entered the
room like a shout/he stood over me/a woodcutter entered
the forest/and the trees began to warn each other/it was
July or maybe June/the knowing settled at my throat/a
clever raven/it never left/does not believe in trees or
flying/the light slipping past/it is sometimes painful/to have
a knowing at your throat/that clever raven/but better than
the alternative/something small and bruised/the raven
knows most things/it remembers nothing/this is really
about the trees/which saw it all

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day5


One must have a mind of winter

The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens is one of my favourite poems.  It is a poem that has haunted me.  I didn’t love it straight away – the first time I read it, I thought nothing of it, or thought I did.  But then, every time I’ve come across it, I take the time to read it again.

I like that the resolution of the first line, the conclusion, is held off, sustained by the poem until line 8, but then this is only half a resolution, and the poem pushes onward again.

What does a mind of winter feel like?

Who am I talking to in my poem? Not to him.  Maybe to you.  Maybe to myself.

Who is Wallace Stevens talking to?  There is a snow man.  There is a ‘himself’.  There is a male listener in the snow.  Could he be talking to me?  A mind of winter

Who am I telling this story to, where nothing really happened, apart from the snow falling, and everything, almost everything stopping.

Whenever it snows, I think of this poem.  I think of that night.

I am glad I live in a place now where it hardly ever snows.

There is too much salt in the air.  I live too close to the sea.

This is as close to a narrative as I can get.

I hardly ever read this poem out.

Even though it’s made of nothing but snow and air and light





It fell all day and cut off each street.
Nothing worked the way it was
supposed to.  Cars abandoned
at the sides of roads.  The snow
with a silent, insistent will of its own.
People in suits hurried past,
smiling despite themselves,
despite being late, snowlight
on their faces, opened up
at the slow speed of moving.
The traffic lights flashed
red/amber/green and every bus
brought shuddering to its knees.
In that quiet light he looked
taller than in the morning
when I left, everything black
about him, his coat and shoes
and trousers, his hands and heart
and eyes.  How pleased
he was to see me, his arm heavy
on my shoulders.  The smell
of his leather coat filled my nose
and took the cold away.
I told myself it was just a dog I heard,
that night on the street
when all I could see was snow.
I almost turned but then I followed.
I followed to the darkness of our home.