GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Since a child, Helen has found constant inspiration for poetry in nature and reading and always wanted to celebrate the delight that these have inspired, or the questions they have provoked. As a keen walker and hill climber she has explored many wild places in a number of long-distance treks which have supplied a particularly powerful sense of connectedness that she has wanted to celebrate in language.
A life-long teacher and Open University lecturer in English Language and Literature (and other Humanities subjects), Helen has always had an intense commitment to language and enjoy communicating and applying this creatively, believing strongly in the power of poetry to transform and illuminate ‘ordinary’ experience. IShe feels that it is important to be receptive to all the sensory components of language and that poetry should appeal to the ear, as well as to the eye and mind, engaging both heart and intellect. She is a strong believer in an enthusiastic stimulus to poetic composition.
Although writing largely for pleasure, with some competition success, Helen has from an early age had poems published in a variety of reputable publications, including more recently, Forward Press, Acumen, and of course, now, Indigo Dreams Publishing. She has also contributed to several anthologies of the Devon-based Moor Poets.
Helen regularly reads her poetry at public venues, and has participated in a number of festivals, including Dartington’s Ways with Words.
She has enjoyed pursing her own academic interest in literature in an MA examining the Gothic fiction of Mrs. Radcliffe, and several years ago, completed a PhD thesis on literary Romanticism and (the embarrassment of) religious ‘enthusiasm’. She has recently adapted this thesis and had it accepted for publication as a book. Helen finds historical periods and people imaginatively engaging and so the experience of people from different times and places is another powerful source of inspiration in my poetry.
Helen is inspired by the challenge to connect with place and person in different contexts, in different ways, and simply celebrating in words what it is to be alive and aware.
‘Catching Light’ is her first published collection.
Skirrid Fawr, Blaen Penant:
names speak land’s history,
its foldings, fractures and collisions,
slow moulding into shapes
the mouth and mind can hold.
Ice scours the rock face,
chisels consonants in skid
and glitter ground to scree – Skirrid
tumbling to Fawr,
and in tear-scarred, seeping caves
a rush and slide
to vowel pools and openings.
Blaen Penant: crumbling walls
once raised and stacked
on turned land, now
a name alone, name
haunted by the moan
of air in blind stones
rubbed to friction by the winds
in breath of fricatives
and hiss of sibilance.
Labour carved its syllables,
the muscle haul and working hands
heaved rhythm, measuring
the steps and runs of speech,
landscape’s swoops and arches
following its cadences.
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£6.00+ P&P UK
PUB: 4 JANUARY 2016
Earth Time, Devon
Tunnel through Devonian time
in sunken lanes where red earth
packs the piled stone of old walls,
stains the fleece of grazing sheep,
deepening the warmth of hill
and banks of streams
sharp on their limestone beds.
Climb up from the deep combes
as time unfolds its strata,
leads you out into the sky
through mist and thinning grass,
Return to emptied spaces
where the rivers rise,
birds spill their sad cadences,
see the frozen statements
of our molten origins
where heat of ancient turbulence
has sculpted history
in fists of granite dark against the sun.
Each night sleep loosens thought’s mooring,
casts the mind adrift
in the warped cask of dreams,
onto the stealthy flood of memory.
From the trees’ mass owl calls
rise like smoke shapes from the dusk,
blow their spell in stillness feathered
with forgotten sounds that drift
from the abandoned caves, stir light
in strewn embers from the distant day.
They float us to the forest edge,
where, through its shifting screen
we glimpse fire blaze again, tools gleam,
mouths shape the syllables of speech,
move in command, or love.
Sometimes a ragged wind
buffets the mind’s journey,
beats the torn sail in the face,
troubles with strange currents,
till coming back along the night dark lane,
the eye is guided by a moving light,
the ear arrested by the hushed rush
of a swan’s smooth flight
that, like a greeting from lost gods,
unfolds calm in turbulence,
carves a steady furrow
through imagination’s wandering,
ploughs the swan-road
back to the ancestral hearth.
(after j.a Baker’s ’The Peregrine’)
Watch until the watcher
becomes the watched,
until the follower
becomes the followed,
to the stillness of a pool
silvered by the wind,
or a stirring grass,
or a waiting peregrine.
Camouflage with stubble
and with cloud,
or, newt-like, breathe
through your skin
and the colour of the day.
until a watchful presence
shades to invisibility,
and lose the world again,
and lose yourself.
Melt through the dividing line
of land and air,
revolve the distances,
flow and shift
from field to sea and sky,
dissolve into the deepest centre
of a falcon’s eye.
The Monk’s Path
On Easter Saturday
we went in search of ancient crosses
printing the steps of the Monk’s Path
scattered over moor’s
We followed their directions,
arms pointing East-West;
when we met them close up,
studied their scarred faces,
rubbed their broken arms.
They had been uprooted, robbed, scourged,
left for dead in tombs beneath grass
in rustling kitsvaaens of heather.
Seasons had grown over them;
they had grown blind with time.
Then feet had stumbled on them,
eyes had found,
hands had rescued them,
clamped and splinted broken limbs,
set them upright to bisect the sky,
shred drifting clouds,
sometimes a little skewed
but sturdy in their granite plinths.
inscribed with lichen, moss,
they hold out their arms,
link to each other over tramped miles,
point out and forward,
lead the eyes over the horizontals
to unclimbed heights
The poems in ‘Catching Light’ affirm and encapsulate the beauty and variety of natural landscape and evoke the distinctive spirit shaped by different weathers, geology, wildlife and human influence. They also celebrate the spirit of literary creativity in attempts to identify with the energies and visions which have driven the writing of various writers and artists within different historical and cultural contexts.
“Catching Light is a collection that I will keep and treasure. It is extremely good; each poem has a special quality. I hope that these poems get the attention they deserve.”
“Catching Light pulses with the natural world; vivid and stirring. Helen Boyles has a keen eye for capturing the beauty of the present moment, as well as the ability to transport you through time and history. A delightful read.”