Sowing poetry seeds in two very different gardens

Over the last month, I’ve ‘appeared’ in two very different gardens…

Just last week, I was lucky enough to read from Digging Up Paradise at Long Barn, probably one of the most beautiful and interesting private gardens in Kent.

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The evening was organised for the charity, Haller, aimed at empowering communities in Kenya. It was generously hosted by the owners of Long Barn, who also had organised some delicious sunny weather for us! Because Haller is all about sowing seeds, this is one of the poems I read during the evening:

Seeds

Deep in the root ball of the ship
the plant collector is making a nest.

He counts his catch, tucks each seed
in its own hand-labelled box, an ebony

cabinet ticking with paused hearts.
Soon he will grow a fresh desert,

bring back to life these dried moments
of the old land. And as he waters

his dust, the sailors sleep on,
and no one sees how the wooden

mast dances its memory of the wind’s
song until, reaching for water, it leans

too far, loses balance. White sails,
like baby gowns, christen the sea.

me and marian!
(Here I am with the inspiring landscape architect, Marian Boswall, who is currently working on the garden at the Charleston Farmhouse, surely the mothership of Literary Gardens!)

The second garden is the Kensington/Olympia Community Garden in London, right on the edge of the train track. This is an amazing idea – local residents are encouraged to take over one of the brightly coloured wooden boxes to grown their own vegetables and fruit. And how they did! What I loved most was how different each box is.

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It was inspirational! And well looked after by the community gardeners, including Will Gould (that’s him above) who had asked me to run a poetry workshop there for the Chelsea Fringe. It was such a pleasure to have two unsuspecting tourists from Sweden join us – they had wandered in to see the garden and ended up writing poems too. Below the photograph of us all ‘in action’ is the group poem we wrote during the day. It was a serendipitous mix of random memories that created something beautiful in its own right – much like seeds!

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A Group Poem – Kensington Olympia Community Garden
May 2015
Garden Memories

We remember sitting in the garden,
eating a cabbage,
walking barefoot,
being told not to walk barefoot,
crawling through damp rhododendron tunnels
and waist high backyard fields of wheat,
seeing how paths between emerged.

We remember late Spring,
walking in the greenhouse,
watching new life,
biking home from school and climbing a tree,
eating plums until our stomachs ached;
we remember smelling a mint for the first time,
cutting grandmother’s grass,
and we remember to be humble.

By
Denise, Magnus, Will, Anna, Lisa, Zoe, Nigella, Ginny, Isobel, Sarah

Happy birthday, Digging Up Paradise!

Hard to believe that my little book is a year old now.

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Especially as it’s out there walking and making its own way in the world without me!

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I’m still smiling with the memory of the launch though, and one particular moment when I stood in the shop window (where we were having the launch party) looked out at the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells and saw my friends and family and even strangers laughing, talking and holding MY BOOK!

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tamsin, mary and tanya
anna reading

I’m not too proud to admit I cried! So when I got my writing group to write about joy recently – not pleasure, or contentment, or even happiness, but those moments of clear joy – it was that night I thought of. Here’s my poem:

The sun’s been changing clothes
all week, only now, today,
does it blaze out, saying,
I’ve made an effort, just for you,

and it dresses us too in gold,
there are sparklers in our hair,
rockets in every hand, passers-by
marvel at us, we’re gods

come down to cartwheel in the Pantiles,
we’ve been given the keys
to the treasure chest, turned
the whole world into a garden,

and when I stand in the doorway,
see friends, family, carrying my book,
the sun dazzling us all, until
even my tears taste like nectar.

me reading

Haha! Silly maybe, but that’s really how it felt. And we should treasure those moments, shouldn’t we? Never grow up, little book! May you always be cartwheeling in gardens.

mo looking