Great Orme, August 2006

great orme llandudno

I’m becoming very fond of Llandudno and all it, and the surrounding North Wales coast, has to offer. I recently returned there and spent several splendid October days, but this poem was conceived on my first trip there in August, although my mind didn’t give birth to it until late September.

It’s about walking on the Great Orme, about being alive, being at one with nature, and about being aware of one’s own mortality in the midst of natural beauty that itself is not eternal.

Llandudno is naturally fenced off on both sides by two mountains called the Ormes – Great Orme and Little Orme. The Great Orme is a spectacular natural habitat for many kinds of wildlife, with spectacular sea views and many pleasant walks. Despite being popular with tourists, it is always possible to find a remote spot and indulge in solitude with the spirit of the Orme (norse for sea monster, perhaps worm…)

The photos in this poetry blog entry were actually taken at the moment I believe this poem had started to gestate in my mind, as I looked over the cliffs and saw a group of bleating goats! In the future I am hoping also to use video to create audio visial accompaniment to my poems, and perhaps publish on DVD!

great orme llandudno

Great Orme
Llandudno, August 2006

From stone to stone my feet
Trespass in these avenues
Where heather forgives my steps,
Creatures-become-stone my
Pavement as the wind sets
And a tarpaulin of sea smooths
Out from periphery to periphery.

Out here the dead whisper louder
Than the living shout, goats
Keep counsel with wind, their quick
Questions, summations, might
Be nothing more than hellos
As I perch in their world
On the edge of my tomorrows.

Hours from anywhere and
Just a second from death’s
Forgetfulness, gravity holds me in stasis
As moon swells up the hemisphere,
Drags wave after wave on rock below;
The goats and I hang on like
Bleating and determined gods.

I have walked and found sanctuary
On this headland that will give way
To sea in a century or two, so firm
Beneath my feet yet like all the world it will
Follow the dead creatures of its birthing
Into other avenues of existence,
Perhaps a sea kingdom next;

Yet for now the stone bears my weight
And time has yet to do its worst
Half way through our stone and flesh lives;
I will come back here when a few more
Days have dandelion-clocked; when vision
Drags my feet and I must have faith
That I and the living world still spin.

3 thoughts on “Great Orme, August 2006

  1. It is strange how effective and evocative the 2nd and 3rd lines are in stirring thoughts of the ‘ancient’ and past, without actaully referring directly to them so early inthe poem – the theme is evoked again unmistakably at the beginning of the 2nd stanza, and carried through with subtle use of vocabulary and diction (‘keep counsel’, ‘birthing’, the reference to ‘gods’). In all of this, too, there is a swirl of references which underline the time and timelessness somehow, with the refs to gods, sea kingdom, world, hours, seconds, death, moon, waves, rocks, existence etc. There is also, though, an element to this poem which keeps us in the here and now – the ref to ‘tarpaulin’ seems a bit out of place – a bit ugly and modern, and the goats ‘hellos’ is very prosaic amongst all the references to the wilds of nature and the element of time. This, for me, is not enough of a presence to make it intrinsic, but much more discordant. I love the ‘dandelion-clocked’ and ‘birthings’, and the heather ‘forgiving’ is very much part of why the first few lines are so powerful, i think. Overall I feel in this the author’s feeling of self among the powerful – it is not the huge elements of the wind, sea, moon, time etc that are overwhealming – rather the author’s not insignificant presence among them – as equal part of them and this is summed up in the poem’s final line. This itself is a refreshing take on a ‘man and nature’ poem.

  2. Thank you, Louise, for your thoughtful and perceptive comments on this poem. I found that as I wrote the poem I did move from a sense of being out of place – somehow discordant, trespassing – to a sense of seeking to assert my ego (hanging on like a bleating and determined god), and through to a sense, finally, of, if not peace, at least belonging as a part of all these processes around me, becoming part of them.

    Your response made me feel that I had succeeded in communicating the key messages within the poem, thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. I thought there were three themes that linked through this poem, a sense of time, death and the strength of unrelenting nature. I liked the lyrical quality of the poetry, the feeling of solitude and especially how you created a very visual picture of the sea- something I love:
    Drags wave after wave on rock below;

    also:
    And a tarpaulin of sea smooths

    The most haunting images for me were those of death:

    Out here the dead whisper louder
    Than the living shout,
    also:
    Hours from anywhere and
    Just a second from death’s
    Forgetfulness, gravity holds me in stasis
    and:
    Follow the dead creatures of its birthing

    I loved all the poetry in these lines which seemed for me to hold the essence of this poem, the poet with a vision of life and death wrapped into almost a battle to hold the ground in the wild landscape that seems to capture and transfix the voice of the poem, stronger than man who seems human and vulnerable.
    The last stanza provides an answer to this dark vision:
    Half way through our stone and flesh lives;
    With faith holding the past and the future together. I thought this poem was outstanding with images that melted with the landscape and gave me a feeling of timelessness and a sense of natures strength and how the landscape changes over time. This poem appealed to me a lot as it achieves a sense of timeless awe, man becomes a fragment against the cliffs almost clinging for survival in front of such a cold and unforgiving world, beautiful, yes but also dark and inviting – catching a sense of time, of death in life and of vision. One of the best poems I have read recently with structure and depth that was enchanting and brilliant to read.

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