GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
MIND THE GAP
Born in Edinburgh, Dorothy Baird studied Russian and French at Durham University. Her most memorable moments in her twenties include teaching English for a year in Moscow during the Communist Soviet era, travelling to India and Nepal for seven months and meeting her husband to be on a bike in the Trossachs in Scotland.
She returned to live in her home city in 1989 and has worked there at various times as an English teacher, literacy tutor, Development Officer for Steiner Schools, and most consistently, as a creative writing tutor. She's been leading writing groups in the community and mental health settings for over twenty five years now and, as part of the Scottish Book Trust's Live Literature Scheme, has given workshops and readings to adults and children all over Scotland.
In 2009 she founded the Young Edinburgh Writers (YEW) a creative writing group for teenagers in the city and ran it for five years before handing it on. In addition to the publication 'Muffins and Musings', the group created an innovative installation in Edinburgh's Central Library for six weeks of a messy teenager's bedroom where all the furnishings and furniture had the group's poetry and writings handwritten on them.
Dorothy juggles her commitment to writing with her work as a Human Givens psychotherapist. She has three grown up children.
Her poetry has been widely published in magazines and anthologies and highly commended in competitions. Her first collection, Leaving the Nest, was published in 2007 by Two Ravens Press. 'Mind the Gap' is her second full collection.
Dorothy writes to make sense of a world that moves too fast. Of a world where children grow up into challenging teenagers and leave home; where death is as much part of existence as an orca whale on a Hebridean ferry; where questions of the meaning of life are unanswerable but need to be asked; where the landscape we live in has a profound effect on our relationship with ourself and with others.
Writing is a way of helping to slow time down and give her space to reflect. In writing to prize open the feelings arising from experiences, she hopes to come to a clearer understanding of herself and what it means to be alive.
MIND THE GAP
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£8.99 + P&P UK
PUB: 23 NOVEMBER 2015
To my son who wanted to be a bird
To become a blackbird
first you must rise daily at dawn
and learn how morning enters your bones.
Then you need to study the significance
of gold, the history of black,
and write a treatise on why this bird
wears shadows on its wings
and sunrise on its beak.
When you notice your heart dances
at the flick of a worm,
you are nearly there. If you spy
the slink and pad of cat
with a flutter of distress,
you come closer still
and when you stand on the rusted swing
and sing as if the whole world was song;
when time becomes the wind
ruffling the nape of your neck
and you long to stretch your arms
into its lift and fly
– then, my dear,
you will be more bird than boy
and my loss
will be the morning's gain.
They called him a hero
but put him on a waiting list for a house.
They called him a hero
but sacked him when his temper blew.
They called him a hero
but when he felt the night fracture
and the park in town become a desert
leaping with IEDs it was four months
for an appointment to get help.
He thinks he is the only hero
for whom a seashore of gannets
is too much killing
and starlings murmurating in the cold sky
mirror smoke billowing
after a bomb.
A gale force wind
wrestles all night with our tent,
tugging guy ropes and pegs,
whipping its poles, snapping
the flap of nylon, as if
determined to wrest it
from the grass and blast it ,
over the white sands
towards Beinn Dhubh
like a belle-dressed ghost
or a Hebridean angel
jangling Celtic death songs
in the ropes of its lyre.
after Pie Corbett
The poetwoman carries her poems
in the pocket of her pinny.
She stirs one in the pot of soup,
slips one in between the cheese
of her children's sandwiches,
hangs one out to dry beside the socks.
She stitches poems in the bones of leaves
so they open in the hedgerows in the spring
slides one in the purse of the tired woman
at the checkout, scatters them
like daisies in the park, folds them
in the biscuits in the old people's home,
tucks one under a swan's wide wing.
When the sun sets, she shakes her pinny
over the cat's dark fur, so any unfinished
poems fall into its warmth. When the cat
pads out into the night, her lines
brush against bushes and walls, attach themselves
like burrs to be read by moonlight.
Poetwoman explores the nature of time
She stirs the past
watches stories surface
those moments where a choice
or chance decision
meant she veered towards
the point that's now, leaving
floating in the mix.
If only if only
She stirs the future too, but that's so huge
she stops. There's only so much uncertainty
she can cope with
and her arm grows tired.
She's seen on TV
how the starlight
we believe in
is the last signs
of its dying. So
it's puzzling out there,
where time is a word
in the silence
of so much space
where perhaps there is
a parallel poetrywoman
in her rain-stained shed
contemplating stars and stories,
living in the only place she can,
where pigeons coo in the sycamore tree
and a squirrel skitters off the roof.
Mind the Gap is a celebration of family relationships and our attempts to make sense of what it is to be human. Its poems explore the spaces between ourselves and those we love, the gaps between our imagination and reality, and the distance between ourselves and the natural world of birds, animals, oceans and rocks.
“There are poems of loss here, but more of gain, of the transformations of children into adults, and the necessary adjustments parents must make. There are also poems of place, of the East and West coasts of Scotland, and of the natural world and its inhabitants. Dorothy shows a confidence in her use of language, and in formatting poems to give emphasis to pauses.”
“Dorothy Baird’s second collection is a delight. In tune with nature, the poems explore what it means to be human, acknowledging and accepting major life events as part of an evolving pattern. I was particularly drawn to the character of Poetwoman.” Eleanor Livingstone
“Dorothy Baird catches moments as a photographer might, though always in 3D. Whether she is writing about birds and trees or family relationships – and sometimes both themes intertwined – there’s depth as well as richness in and between the lines. This is an immensely readable collection.” Susan Jane Sims
Friday 26th July 2013
I write the date as if its precision
might fix this moment, here
in a tent in Arisaig –
where I hear wind
bellowing in the pine trees, flapping
the rigging of ropes, the sails
of the door – but why?
When nothing around me
is still: not the clouds roiling
across the sky, not the grass
whipping like crazy on dunes, not
the waves pummelling sand, not
the children, tossed and tipsied
by cold water and shrieking
like gulls, not my heart, out
of the wind in the tent
of my body, beating
Let go, Let go?