Rachel Lumb

Rain Stone


Be glad of these freshwater

Each pearled droplet some salty old sea-bullet

Air-lifted out of the waves, then laundered and sieved, recast as a soft bead
and returned.

And no matter how much it strafes or sheets, it is no mean feat to catch one
raindrop clean in the mouth,

To take one drop on the tongue, tasting cloud pollen, grain of the heavens, raw

Let it teem, up here where the front of the mind distils the brunt of the

©Simon Armitage 2010

Poetry and the written form has always been
important to me as a way of expressing my thoughts. From my own youthful angst
scribbled down in fountain pen over drawings showing anger and frustration to a
search for someone who communicated similar feelings and finding the words of
Sylvia Plath at that point so inspirational, her words scratching and eating
away at your soul, experiencing a similar exasperation and dissatisfaction.
From the emphasis on the inside when young, in my later years I have gone to
the outside to unravel and reveal thoughts through metaphors associated with
weather, land, sea and sky. This shift has been apparent through the words I read
and the drawings and paintings I now create allowing the elements to be a
vehicle for a more emotive communication.

Poetry is so poignant as a distinct body of
words whittled down to its barebones revealing so much force. It is similar to
a painting or drawing that with a few strokes or marks, enough is said. Not
easy to do in either art form.

The reason why I have chosen the poem
‘Rain’ by Simon Armitage is because it brings together my interests of walking,
running, the outdoors and the arts.  The
Stanza Stone poems are carved into rocks and stones along a route over the
Pennine watershed and are all related to water. The poem, Rain, is on the
Pennine Bridleway at Blackstone Edge, somewhere I go when it’s sunny and I need
an easy walk with a magnificent view. It is fresh and wild and to the west the
view reaches past Manchester to the Cathedral in Liverpool; to the north Hebden
Bridge and the moors towards Howarth. You can walk all the way to Stoodley Pike
for views down the Calder Valley along the track following numerous reservoirs
with splendid names such as Light Hazzles, Warland and White Holme.

first I wasn’t very happy about the fact that this rock star poet can just come
along and carve his words into our landscape. One of my favourite and regular
places I walk is to Ladstone Rock at Norland. Here, names have been carved into
the rock for centuries. Some are scoured into the rock with whatever has come
to hand; some are carved with beautiful precision and skill with a copperplate
style showing care and determination. Each name, date endeavouring to make a
mark like graffiti artists on walls in towns and cities today and each showing
a sense of individualism and a sense of belonging to a place. Surely, this is
how it should be, not a premeditated dominance by one person. 

However, when I read the poems and saw them
in situ I was convinced.  The lettering
is carefully carved with a lettering style that reflects in some way those on Ladstone
Rock, not too elaborate but connecting to tradition and heritage. The inside of
the letters are gold which reflect the light and the flow of the lines reflect
the grain of the rock. When there, on your own reading the words, they enhance
the feelings inherent in the place, the drama and detail.

The poems have a ‘northernness’ about them
with the words he uses and the observations and detail on life that I feel are
particular to the north. His stanza stone poems are about are about our
landscape, a harsh Yorkshire landscape dominated by the Pennines. They are so
intuitive and have enabled me to think about the varying states of water within
the landscape in a new and contemplative way. I like the way his reflections on
the land are engulfed within memory and inner feeling in a distinctly no
nonsense northern way. It is the words themselves that reflect my upbringing,
reminding me of older relatives and the idiosyncratic terms they used like ‘teem’,
‘strafes and sheets’.

I have always been interested in the idea
of realising a sense of place, of finding one owns heaven, a place to be (a
glass of Sauvignon Blanc always helps). It relates to my feeling of belonging
and awe in certain places that link with memory, familiarity and
spirituality.  I think these poems allow
me to ponder, reflect and be proud of my place within this Yorkshire landscape.
These places are raw and wild and clear the mind from the stresses of the everyday
taking you far away to somewhere else, as do these poems….. if only for a
little while.




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