Sunday, 12 May 2019

The world is art.

I woke early this morning, to do some writing before everyone else was up. I made a pot of coffee, lit a cigarette, and sat outside to drink in the loveliness of this place. Everything was quiet and calm and beautiful, and words spilled onto the page easily.

Being here has given me so many ideas, and sparked new ones too.

After I'd written for a while, I wandered down into the fields and befriended this chap.

My new BFF.
His name is Bob, and after we had conversed for a while (me in bad French, him in...well, whatever sheep speak) he allowed me to pet him. I am absolutely in love with Bob. Can I fit a ram in my hand luggage? (Maybe if I 'ram' him in. Ugh, I disgust myself.)

Our workshop today was in this magical little art gallery, based out of someone's house. Sadly I didn't manage to get a picture of their beautiful German Shepherds, but rest assured - they were stunning, and provided something like a nicotine patch as I miss and long for my own beautiful dogs!

Anyway, after having my trousers sniffed by an excitable, French-speaking dog, we went into the art gallery, and spent some time studying the pieces. The ones we were focussing on were made by a local artist (I'll update with the name) and are made of repurposed slate. I love using art to inspire poetry, and people had all sorts of wonderful ideas about what each piece could represent or depict.

For me, this piece was the favourite; it reminds me of music, and brought to mind all sorts of thoughts about the musicality of nature.

Leaves of slate.
We wrote our first pieces, and I wrote a short lyric poem in quasi-Middle English - for me there's a real unmatched lyricism to Middle English, perhaps because I am so fond of The Canterbury Tales. Then we were challenged to take it in an entirely new direction, so I shifted focus, and rewrote the piece as a take on Modernist poems. It was a really new experience for me; I love Modernist poets and poetry, but have never before had the confidence to try it out for myself. Anyway, this is my first draft, and although it probably needs a lot of work, I'm happy with how it feels in my mouth when I speak it aloud.

Tapered to a blade, guillotine sharp shaft, the slate is black-beetle shining,
groven from ground 
ancient and fettled, like armour. Like bone. 

Stiff and unfeeling, but! feeling and breathing. We snatch 
at the air. Twisting, awakening. Bright now, and breathing. 
Twists of grey-silver are shelter and music. High
as rooftops deeper than tree roots. 
Stone is music, tap tap
of chisel against rock. The world
is art. 

After lunch, Claire took us to a ruined chapel in Quimper. It was built in the twelfth century, and mostly destroyed in the French revolution, but somehow this entire window remains standing. It's so striking against the beautiful sky, and I imagine it would be even more so when filled with stars.

Isn't it just a thing of wonder?

Then we went to a little concert in a bar on the beach. I had a wonderful time, chatting and drinking and laughing, with people I hope are becoming new friends. I learnt some essential French - puis-je saluer votre chiot? (May I greet your puppy?)

Then we poked about on the beach itself, scrambling in the rockpools in search of crabs.

Life's a beach.

Back in time for a delicious dinner, with plenty of laughter, and now I'm sitting, gazing out at the grounds of this stunning house, once again struck by how astonishingly fortunate I am.

One thought to end on: when I was planning for this retreat, I thought I would try and work on a single story idea from the beginning of the retreat to the end. That absolutely hasn't worked out. The workshops are beyond inspiring, the house itself is an explosion of writing prompts, and I have so many ideas I hardly have the ability to put them all in words. I'm not going to let that worry me, though - I'm going to let the ideas flow freely, write and write and write, and when I am home again, I shall sift through every word, like a panner, hunting for gold. 

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