• Heartfires

    So, recently, my friend River Jones and I finally published our long-time-brewing poetry book ‘Heartfires.’ The book had its inception a mere ten years ago in the embers and then new light of a Beltane firepit a few hours walk from what was then my home on an estate on the outskirts of Brighton. Chatting to River that dawn it emerged we both had poems recently ready to be put out in the world. Later we met with the poems in hand and were more than satisfied with the synthesis they all held put together.

    We put a shout out for an illustrator but it was several false starts and many years later before my friend Rebecca Tann, accordionist for Twenty One Crows amongst other things, stepped into the breach and produced some truly fine and beautiful lino cuts. And several years later, here we are in the midst of another bout of Betane fires. Some of the poems are inspired by love, others by dreams, often the two combined. But some of them express a wider sense of connection too, something that can unite us all, beyond creed or class or even any search for individualized fulfillment.

    Sometimes it can get to you, being down here in the South. Often a stranger talking to you is a thing treated with suspicion – another random occurrence in a far too crazy world. Perhaps this is because, in large tracts of the South at least, strangers talking to you sometimes can be slightly mad or certainly often don’t seem in possession of the kind of protocol that makes talking to people you don’t know a pleasure – it can be something of a fine art.

    So instead, people hunch and put up borders and retreat, suspicious of anyone breaking down boundaries. Experience in nearby towns with their fair share of drugs, booze and their associated issues mean that such defences can be understood. But it’s good also to look at the other extremes, at where such inroads to isolation can lead us. As a culture, the Western world is riven with maladies of isolation; it’s more of a defining characteristic than any amount of tiresome street encounters.

    We could all do with looking with a greater degree of self awareness of where such instincts to retreat from the world can lead us. The pensioners who barely see a soul from day to day, the countless people in jobs where they never connect with anyone at all, let alone anyone new. You could call it the English condition; a kind of cultural assimilation that has begun at home and is perpetuated by our day to day decisions, by each opportunity that presents itself to retreat or reach out.

    And what’s the antidote? Heartfires I suppose represents one articulation of what another way can look like – inspired by times that were as much about people as anything else. People bonded by adversity or just by places themselves at the edges of conventional existence. That kind of fellowship never really leaves – the challenge perhaps is bringing it out in our day to day interactions.

    But really, as Bob Hillary has said in one of his truly fine albums, we are all in this together; pilots of a collective human ship. Maybe at this point we should just sit back and ask; what would it be like to live in a world where every chance for connection is grasped, where no one feels alone, where communities are not some hippy pipe dream but a reality for anyone in any given place. Everyone of us operates better when we are part of a living, breathing mesh of human souls – such a state is meant to be our natural inheritance. Connection is at the heart of human existence and we are all more fully alive when this becomes apparent. That is surely the lessons that life is waiting to give us; that it can be full of such riches and counting ourselves abundant in interaction and friendships has to be one of the greater gifts life has to offer us all.

    Crossing

    There’s comfort in the roll of a ship,

    There’s comfort in its assurance

    that we’re, after all, at sea. For now,

    the confines of our world are bounded

    by this solid hull. Outwardly enclosed

    this world but given room to magnify

    with clarity and strength that’s hard to find

    on land where borders stretch beyond the mind.

    And what’s a world but definition?

    And what’s security if not a mood or misconception?

    Or does our sense of safety fold around us;

    like a gentler, softer hull, that turns

    the winds of turmoil, should they come

    and lets us sail through steadily, uncut.

    Image by Laura Joy

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branchlines

The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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