The following poem is from The Years Fulfilled - The Collected Poems of Dorothy Gibson 1941- 2001
Fishing Boats at Leigh-on-Sea
Ebony boats poised midway between
apricot sea and sky,
or squat and square under flyaway clouds
on a running tide;
post-impressionist boats on a smudgy dawn,
or motionless on a frozen sea
with a handful of stars:
smoke grey in ebb tide mud and mist of rain.
Little cockle boats with sturdy ribs
and solid hulks with a haul of fish
coming home through a rain of fire
from the dropping sun,
as they once came home from Dunkirk:
little fleet with a haul of courage
and of grief.
From sea and sky and boats
on a stream of coloured days
I have a haul of dreams,
shining and strange and sharp
as a heap of cockle shells.
MERVYN LINFORD - SAMPLE POEM:
Thin and scratchy, that’s the sound of the dunnock:
the sound, if you like, of spring –
not yet full-throated
It floats, if floats is the word for a song,
above the celandine, the stitchwort and the sorrel
like a ghost of former springs and other people.
A sound that brings them back:
children I knew, now dead, in the woods
at One Tree Hill or Westley Heights –
arms full of bluebells before ecology
with ears attuned to the chiffchaff,
the yaffle and the cuckoo.
Like the windup gramophone I found on Pitsea Tip:
the box of needles, Tommy Steele, Pat Boone,
- The Laughing Policeman –
Thin and scratchy
as I think of
all those boys
the girls I fancied.
The spring, slack, unwound, unwindable:
going back a virtual recording in the mind
as the dunnock sings
- If sings
is the word
for a needle
in a groove –
Stuck. Thin. Repetitive. Scratchy.
*(Hedge Accentor, Hedge Sparrow or Dunnock)
The above piece was a commended poem in the George Crabbe poetry competition of 2018
NEIL LEADBEATER - SAMPLE POEM:
How we mistreated you,
tore off your leaves
to rub against our skin
hoping that you would take the sting
out of living.
We hurt you
because we our selves were hurt.
We lashed out
and left the nettle alone.
It was cowardly, I know,
and our shame grew
like the green stain
you left on us -
the mark on the palm
of the hand.
Published in 'Finding the River Horse' Littoral Press 2017
Adrian Green - Sample Poem:
“To the drunken Welsh poet who staggered towards her through the smokey fug
of The Wheatsheaf, she appeared an angelic beauty.”
(The Observer, Sunday November 26, 2006)
A long way from Swansea
to this place, made famous
by your meeting
and it is hard to imagine the energy,
excess of words and ale,
the arguments and laughter
The wooden panels oppress,
close down the space, and darken
the bar I sit and scribble in.
More serious now,
yet there is tradition,
a continuity of sorts,
dressed in studio black,
discuss the sound and lighting rigs
for future television shows.
A long way from turbulence
at the Taf rivermouth,
the boathouse quiet, or
drunken nights at Brown’s Hotel,
but here, at lunch,
I listen for echoes, wonder
at the photos fading on the walls.
Published in 'Chorus and Coda - Littoral Press 2007
MAGGIE FREEMAN - SAMPLE POEM:
The Tower Door
These autumn evenings it's her turn
to lock the tower door. She approaches
from inside, hesitates in the dark
of the stone walls. The door's shut
and through the keyhole the low sun
slices gold into the chamber.
It touches the dust, it spikes
her worn shoes, her skirt
her bodice as she draws closer.
It dissects her hand - skin, veins, bones -
it lights the key -
Published in 'Singing for Mr Bear - littoral press 2014
CLARE HARVEY - SAMPLE POEM:
Swallows like midshipmen,
tack across a field of flax,
gybing before the wind,
hawking for flies -
trawling in the hatch.
Buff bellies spraying pollen
instead of salt
as they heel into this heady
sea of flowers -
rise into mackerel sky.
Published in Double Vision by Clare Harvey & Mervyn Linford - Littoral Press 2015
DEREK ADAMS - SAMPLE POEM:
Hot sunlight sparkles across the Serpentine,
echoing in the bursting bubbles
it catch lights in our Cokes;
contrasted by the dull glint of the ice cubes.
Your words sail, windborne
on the slow grassy air,
they float gently,
over the white plastic glare
of the Plantery Bar table,
"This is beautiful, I could stay here all day".
Ice clinks in your glass.
I bask in your presence,
blissfully unaware of the titanic finality
of this afternoon,
of what lies hidden behind your sunglasses.
Published in 'Everyday Objects and Chance Remarks' - Littoral Press 2005
For details of my poetry collection Credo published by Mica Press
and my latest prose work The Incidental Marshman published by Campanula Books
please click on the Links button above
Credo, by Mervyn Linford. Mica Press. 62pp., £9
Mervyn Linford’s ninth collection of poems, Credo, is a bold statement of faith in the natural world.
Linford’s main viewpoints are the shorelines, salt marshes, mudflats and tidal creeks of Essex. Anticipating the claim that these places are unprepossessing, he writes in ‘Indistinguishable (Marsh Road – Burnham on Crouch)’ ‘Who could love/such a landscape?’ For a celebrant of the natural world, love is a haunting, an imaginative involvement in the life of the land. That poem’s title, and the titles of several poems of place, give precise locations: ‘Wet & Westerly (Bradwell Waterside)’, ‘November the Fifth – Two Tree Island’, ‘Black-Tailed Godwits – Mersea Island’, and the promissory precision of the titles is fully realised in the keenly observed detail in the poems, details that includes variations in the quality of light in the landscape.
In the opening lines of ‘November the Fifth – Two Tree Island’ he writes
the sea – like silver foil –
refracts the fallen sunlight from a tide
that sears the mudflats.
The birds in ‘Black-Tailed Godwits – Mersea Island’ are seen ‘silhouetted in the heat of late September/and the sun-shot, glittering, shatter of the sea/in smithereens.’ In contrast to the luminescence of these two poems, he writes lyrically of a level light in ‘Esox Lucius’ (the Latin binomial for pike)
How calm this river glides:
the willow-herb, the willows, autumn light –
where green as jade the water holds the sun
And he captures the absence of light in the playful virtuosity of ‘Soundless’: ‘Mist across the meadows/amputates alders:/leaves oaks in mid-air − /cuts cattle in half.’
The natural world of Credo ranges from land and sea to the skies. ‘Through the Leaves – Through the Branches’ ends with the lines ‘I can see the planets and the stars/held after midnight, like the fruits of darkness’, and in ‘Spate – Liston Mill – River Stour’ he speaks of ‘a firmament so deep and drenched with stars’. Through this encompassing vision and a profound imaginative involvement in the life of the land, Linford is, in a pure and simple sense, a visionary and mystical poet. He himself is aware of this condition when he writes of sunlight on a mill pool in ‘Miracle’
Who said that miracles don’t happen –
that epiphanies and other forms of mystic revelation
are dreams and wishes?
Miracles exist only when a person has the capacity for the miraculous, and it is this capacity that allows Linford to apprehend the spirit as well as the topography of a place.
These lines from ‘Miracle’ are prompted, I believe, by a religious as well as a creative impulse. Linford’s religious impulse, a non-doctrinal twenty-first-century variant of animism, appears in the title poem, ‘Credo’, where he writes of ‘these religious littorals of light’; ‘Gothic – Thames Estuary’ ends in ‘the sanctity of stone/in dawn’s cathedral’; and he speaks of watching an ‘aspect of creation’ and realising ‘a joy/that’s unexplained’ in ‘Black-Headed Gulls – Sudbury’. His explicitly religious poems, ‘Il Est Né’ and ‘Epiphany at Chartres’, lack a Christian presence and seem merely dutiful.
His love poems, too, lack a presence: the loved one is less substantial than the contexts in which she appears; her presence is displaced by features of the natural world; she is not seen as a subject of adoration. In ‘Golden Shower’ he speaks of ‘each cruel event’ and sees the loved one not in her own right but ‘in every flower/in every star’; ‘Song & Dance’ speaks of the end of love, and perhaps the end of life
where darkness snuffs
the snowdrop and the rose
and rooks are silent.
And yet, perhaps ironically, ‘Old Man’s Fancy’, a poem in which the loved one appears, or disappears, among bluebells, anemones, bees and nettles, is one of Linford’s most lyrical. His lyricism is apparent throughout the book; Credo sings.
James Aitchison, October 2017
The Incidental Marshman by Mervyn Linford
Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater
The full title of author, poet and pantheist Mervyn Linford’s latest book is ‘The Incidental Marshman: From Mucking Creek to the Broomway’. A marshman is the name given to a person who lives in marshy country, an inhabitant of a specific area of marshland. It’s a term I had not come across before but Linford, having moved from the bombsites of Canning Town in the East End of London over sixty-seven years ago to the freshwater fleets, dykes and creeks in the Essex coastlands, more than fits this definition.
At the start of this book, which is part poetry and part prose, Linford pitches his readers into a distinctive landscape that is marked (some might say marred) by oil refineries, pipelines, flare-stacks, standpipes and landfill sites. Some might regard this as an unlikely place for poetry, especially poetry that relates to the natural world, but Linford is perfectly at home here drawing endless inspiration from creeks, guts, gulleys, saltings and marshes in the coastal environs of Essex: strange worlds that are neither land nor sea. Despite what Linford terms as ‘our eleventh-hour inability to face the environmental and climate facts’, there are success stories to be found within these pages. The Thames, for one thing, is far less polluted than it used to be.
Linford’s powers of description make this a memorable read: a single daffodil is described as ‘a bright idea’ and Spring is ‘a green idea.’ The sun is ‘a burning question in the west’. A little egret is ‘a circus performer on stilts’ as it teeters on the edge of the tide and brent geese ‘bob about on the waves like burnt corks’. Reading this book, you can almost smell the oyster smacks, cockle spits and brine coming off the sea.
Never one for towns, Linford is happiest when he is communing with nature: ‘the curlew’s lost and lonely call speaks to the soul whereas the sound of traffic and aircraft doesn’t. Somehow it’s where we came from.’
The book is a fund of information. Linford’s knowledge of his local area is encyclopaedic. If you want to know where the Peasants’ Revolt began, why a pub called ‘The Dun Cow’ on Canvey Island changed its name to ‘The King Canute’ or the name of the plant that used to be seen on the back of the old thruppenny bit, the answers are all here.
Key events are described such as The Great North Sea Flood, interesting insights are given on the possible origins of Dutch Elm Disease and an account is given of the life cycle of the European eel. Always one to document the vicissitudes of our English weather, the Great Storm of October 1987 is given some prominence in a chapter on Southend-on-Sea when ‘Michael Fish went ex-directory’.
We catch the author’s surprise and delight in coming across masses of the relatively rare golden samphire below a seawall in Hole Haven, sense his wonder at seeing a phosphorescent bloom of plankton out in the estuary, marvel at his description of sand martins massing for migration at Paglesham and share the joy of patience rewarded when he finally comes face to face with a short-eared owl quartering the banks of Two Tree Island.
Linford’s love of fishing is all pervasive. Many fish swim through the pages of this book: eel, rudd, roach, perch, tench, flounder and skate are all there in phenomenal numbers just waiting to take the bait on the end of our line. He writes extensively about the shellfish trade at Old Leigh and the oyster fisheries at Paglesham.
I never knew that Essex had so many interesting place-names. As well as Mucking there is Messing followed by places with names such as Fobbing, Sutton-with-Shopland and Ballards Gore. In many cases, Linford gives us their derivations and sometimes he writes poems which play on these names.
The book ends at the Broomway: a public right of way across the foreshore at Maplin Sands. When the tide is out it provides access to Foulness Island. The Broomway is named after the ‘withies’ or ‘brooms’, bundles of twigs attached to short poles, that were used to mark the route. The track is extremely dangerous in misty weather as incoming tides can flood across the sands at high speed obscuring the direction of the shoreline.
This book is complemented with many colour photographs taken by the author to illustrate the local geography. With his wealth of knowledge and at times, irrepressible sense of humour, Linford leads us on an inspiring journey that is accessible, informative and enjoyable. Fully recommended.
The Incidental Marshman
By Mervyn Linford
Released – 1 June 2022
First Published in The Poet