GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Elspeth Brown now lives in Dunbar, East Lothian having previously lived in London, Wiltshire, Glasgow, Galloway and Edinburgh.
She was born Elspeth Stewart and brought up in London by Scottish parents. Her Grandparents were from Wick and Montrose.
Her early writing was done between teaching English and bringing up four children. She writes poetry short stories and plays.
In 1980 she moved from Glasgow to the Old Station at Parton, in Dumfries and Galloway. One of her most significant influences has been working with the Solway Poets. There she also developed an interest in the Scientist, James Clerk Maxwell who is buried in Parton Kirk.
She continued to write during a sojourn in Edinburgh. Plays performed include “The Siege of Haddington,” in St Mary’s Church, Haddington. Also "Dynamo of the Twenty First Century,” a play about the life of James Clerk Maxwell performed at his birthplace in Edinburgh and Fringe Festival and also in 2002 a revised version called “The Spectrum,” with Andrew Dallmeyer playing Einstein.
Elspeth has done some editing and criticism and has run creative writing workshops.
Now in Dunbar she is working on a series of poems about the ecologist John Muir who was born there. She is also trying to complete a novel she abandoned a few years ago about a subversive group in the run up period to the Scottish Parliament. She is finding the writers and artists of Dunbar and the beautiful setting, a great inspiration.
Her collection of poems, “A Crab in the Moon’s Mouth,” was published by Markings Press in 2011.
Indigo Dreams Publishing
Publication July 2014
138 x 216 mm
I told her not to wander alone.
I fear for her, sitting by the lake.
Teenagers are so wayward
Even a god is not listened to.
Zeus says he knows nothing
but there is something he fears,
something he knows.
I cannot make him speak.
He says I should tend the fruit,
water the vegetables,
grow more pomegranates.
Persephone loves those.
I wander the world begging the sun
to help me. As the crops die
I am told the worst. Helios
shines a light on the underworld.
Her father guessed all along.
He never warned me or her.
It was a secret among men;
so now the world is dying.
I cannot grow and feed and weed
while my daughter will never return.
I will end my days in mourning
and Hades can ferry them all across.
Sorry now, Zeus gives me hope.
Though a shade in the world of Hades
by the rules of men Persephone can return
as she has not eaten in the world below.
So happy am I, ready to nurture the world.
But she has sucked on seven pomegranates.
You never get your child back completely,
my grief will bring the chill of winter.
He is between her and the hills,
legs astride on his ladder,
frothing soap washes away
the view, stripe by stripe,
hilltops, light, trees, ocean.
Then he pulls out a scraper
from his working belt,
clears the haar from the summit
to the last shoreline daisy.
Now only he, stowing his tools
breaks the sunlit vision.
Then he is gone,
the view beyond glass
is clear to the horizon,
until a crow splats the pane.
“Elspeth Brown’s poems look at the world slightly aslant, as Stevie Smith did. She has a vision that encompasses a despised flower in the wonderful ‘Skunk Cabbage’, a hellfire preacher in ‘Drying Out,’ and the sun ranging the sky as the head of a giraffe, in ‘Kate’s poem.’ Her voice is questioning, unafraid – bravely tackling no-go areas, wryly humorous and always compassionate. Her poems are moving, thought provoking, but above all, with their offbeat observations and insights, highly entertaining.”
The minister screamed hell fire from the pulpit.
I was six visiting Grandpa in Wick.
He pointed a shaking finger
straight at me and shouted sinner!
I sucked on a Pan Drop guiltily
fearing devils rising from the floor,
not knowing the minister was on his last warning
in a dry area, a hundred miles from a pub,
suffering from withdrawal,
drying out for God.
Later at Convent School
we hallelujahed to a less vindictive deity
through stained glass, and nuns
prostrated themselves before the altar.
Yet Easter and torture were linked,
a crown of thorns; Hell fire
was flickering below our feet,
temptation leading us down.
Peace and love seemed a better option,
flowers, sex and rock and roll.
Though sometimes in the night,
I can still hear the minister’s cry.
Isle of Bute, September
The storm is heading to the island,
last breathy gasp of a hurricane
making the most of its last days
hurling Atlantic waves out of its path,
sure of its reincarnation in the clouds.
Moored boats begin to rock
as if trying to escape to sea
to join the party, join the wake;
trees bend together, like runners
in a race, small birds hide in bushes,
cattle huddle by hedges,
rabbits leave the grass
as the sky empties of hawks;
no noise but the singing wind,
the ferry strains at its anchor,
and the island is battened down.
Whoever called you skunk cabbage?
What bitter jealous man, surely a man,
who saw your proud erection
and golden petals, large as hare’s ears,
huge leaves spring glossed
thrusting from the winter mud.
Strange scent in the air, but skunk?
Overblown lily or dying hyacinth perhaps.
You are a swamp lantern,
lighting the loch shore in early spring.
The Last One (herring gull)
The last gull flies leaving her alone,
the woman who watched him jump
wings spread, slipping down tiles,
his webbed feet hindering
his flapping wings.
Last because he was alone
on a shed, fallen
from the roof top, he tried
every hour, every day,
to struggle up the slope.
The last gull flies,
dappled brown feathers
lined to the sky.
Wind-borne above her
he heads for the mud flats.
He calls to the woman,
still chick-like, dips to elders
for scraps. Will he still return
for tinned fish and bread
in lean times ahead,
the last gull?