Summer: Moving, Gardens & Poetry

After 10 years in beautiful Wales I have just relocated back to Kent, often referred to as The Garden of England. Ironically, I have left behind a large and beautiful garden in West Wales, a woodland garden surrounded by ‘native’ rhododendrons, a rampage of montbretia, my own additions of clematis and climbing roses, and scores of bulbs including black tulips and aliums. This garden inspired my poetry collection, After a Visit to a Botanical Garden, (Cane Arrow Press) which was shortlisted for the Guyana Prize. The opening poem directly stems from a visit to the National Botanical Garden of Wales, where I also launched my memoir, Kiskadee Girl. In the poem I imagine the spirit of the garden,  amoral and unsentimental, wandering the garden when all the visitors have left. The visit that inspired that poem included some of the members of my women’s poetry group from Kent, and was a wonderful sunny day in which we wandered the garden seeking and finding much to write about. The poems inspired by my Welsh garden are not all directly pertaining to them, but led me in many directions historically and  metaphorically, as I came to terms with living in a new place, which for all its beauty, was a lonely and alienating experience for me, and through which gardening directly saved me from losing myself. After many years of struggling, the decision was made to return to Kent, and ironically, the garden I have now, I whimsically refer to ad ‘my backyard’ , which my fellow Caribbeans may recognise as not very flattering, conjuring images of sparsity, maybe one skinny chicken running round in a dust bowl. It had nothing going for it apart from the glimpse of a flint wall hidden behind an over large and shabby shed , with not much ground, and absolutely nothing growing but weeds. The size of a postage stamp, which the dog can circle in 30 seconds. The only consolation I had was that at least I had some outside space, as house prices in Broadstairs have risen to obscene and ludicrous heights. Over the past weeks however, I’ve managed to turn it around with the removal and recycling of the said shed, taken down one Saturday over four hours by a couple who were going to re-use it,  a frenzied digging and clearing of weeds, umpteen visits to Wickes for gravel, stones and compost, the relocation of my many pots from Wales, including a tree fern and a tradescantia from Eden in Cornwall (during a visit to see Massive Attack) and planting climbers – honeysuckle, clematis and a moody Passion flower I had for a couple of years which thankfully had decided to be moody no longer. Poetry and Gardening have both sustained and nourished me, and I look forward to re-affirming my roots in Kent. Sadly one of my fellow women poets from Kent , Hilary Drapper, who visited Wales Botanic Garden with me, and a close and wonderful friend, is no longer with us, whilst another is lost through the terrible condition of Alzheimer’s. They will both always be in my heart as will Wales and the friends I made there through poetry. This Friday I will be performing poetry with The Rockhoppers, Mel Perry and Jackie Biggs in Llanstephan, to support the lovely Susan Richardson. And on the 25 August I will be part of the Poetry Binge Fest in Faversham organised by another lovely and passionate poet Angel Cakes Dye. To add to all this excitement, the long awaited anthology in memory of Seamus Heaney, who had inspired so many of us, including my lovely friend Hilary, has now been published ! A big Thank You to Grant Tarbard, Bethany Pope, Angela Topping and Lapwing Press. Onwards and upwards, as they say.

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