Mound of Down Minotaur – #lettersfromladyn

The mound, we could say, exists in its mounding. This is to think of it not as a finished object, standing on foundations and set over and against its surroundings, but as a locus of growth and regeneration where materials welling up from the earth mix and mingle with the fluxes of the weather in the ongoing production of life. The mound has not turned its back on us, as we might suppose, hiding secrets within its dark, enclosed interior that we can discover only by tunnelling in. On the contrary, it is open to the world. As the ever-emergent outcome of the interplay of cosmic forces and vital materials, the mound is not bulit but grows.

extract from chapter ‘Round mound and earth sky’ from ‘Making‘ by Tim Ingold

MoundofDownPerduranceFor various reasons, I am not doing my usual round of the Mound of Down today, despite the weather being glorious here. Instead, I am considering it as an anthropological proposition. I might have overstated the case when I said that Tim Ingold had covered all of my favourite things in his ‘Life of Lines’ volume in an earlier post.

It seems that my current fascination with anthropology á la Prof Ingold continues with an earlier book – Making‘. I had been slow to read this because of the title (it doesn’t mention lines or being alive) but, in fact it is the backdrop to the ‘Knowing from the Inside‘ work. But more importantly there is a significant part of a chapter on…MOUNDS.

Of course, the Mound of Down is not specifically mentioned – but it is, to be fair, a poster child for perdurance – and of not coughing up much in the way of archaelogically sound information about what the hell it was/is actually all about.

And, of course, it is always work-in-progress. Yes, like it’s brackets – the Down Cathedral and Inch Abbey – it is a little bit fixed in place by our attempts at preservation. But, unlike both edifices, it is a growing thing. How strange it would be if we found that the Cathedral had an extra layer of bricks that nobody could account for in the time between they were and weren’t there. But it would be much stranger if we came back to the Mound – even after a short absence – and found that it was absolutely the same as we left it.

I wrote the below a couple of months ago. I think it will have been May because of mention of burning gorse.  Speedwell (veronica) appeared in the burnt places quite quickly. I also notice – this is in general – that the Mound of Down tends to spit people out. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had about how it should be a big tourist attraction in the town but I always get the sense that the Mound is not over welcoming –  siphoning walkers off by a new gate this season.

It is, I am sure, labyrinthine in its history. It has to be, whether abandoned stronghold or other lost earthworks, because it has centuries of all things of this local world tamping it down, shaping it, mounding it. I’m always surprised – perhaps I’ve said this before – that it’s never assoicated with those that are rumoured to live in mounds.

Mound of Down Minotaur

Everything moves in circles here.

Ariadne keeps count of the turns
with different coloured threads.

Growing by burned gorse
blue veronica. Orange tips

and their black-lace ladies fly
above unconcerned. Who knows

what moves below the surface
of these ancient earthworks.

People come here once, then
don’t come back. Mean to,

ought to, but somehow
don’t make the journey.

Except Theseus who wants
it to be a tourist destination.

He needs it clear of menace –
means to get to the bottom of it.

He beats back the overgrown paths,
but they are moats and lead back

to their openings:
first a small descent,

then spit him out,
and he must start again.

Advertisements

Minotaurs, Writing advice from Mervyn & the GoodCop/BadCop routine – #editing #lettersfromladyn

The Minotaur was shut up in the labyrinth, a vast area with many corridors and passages, in which anyone who entered got lost, because it was impossible to find the exit. (Greek Mythology, Marilena Carabatea)

Sometimes editing can feel like that, I think. The minotaur (not the Greek myth) that moves through the work in ‘Night Divers’ is a conversation with a creation/a riff of Mervyn Sweet, a friend of mine whom I had met through the QUB Creative Writing Masters.

His minotaur, as I experienced it, represented the beauty, the strength, the contrary straight-to-blunt-talking worth of spending time with creatures who have been designated to dark places who appear in this bad light, bad eyesight also a factor, to throw shadows of monster heads in vast hotel corridors and then on closer inspection you realise you recognise that face…

His minotaur (released from the labyrinth) had a tendency to turn up unexpectedly – maybe will again, always delighting on being in daylight and asking me a question, which I have now come back to explore much more thoroughly, about the quality of conversation that can be had in the deeper layers of the realm of the, for want of a better word, beast.

That meeting point of truth and beauty that is experienced as relief – release even – though it might not be what people are hoping you are going to say and, maybe, lacking in the nice poetic arts. This is the kind of editing that can capture a person for a long time, wandering with only a thin line for company, not with murder in mind, just an exercise in courage.

Sunday morning sermons with Mervyn

This is what a friend of mine called our regular meet-ups when we had the time for it after the QUB Creative Writing MA ended. We met, shared work – I expect I did a lot of the talking. I loved Mervyn’s work, still do – I run quite a few of his riffs in my head often. And a good share of his, for want of a better word, pre-occupations – not just the minotaur – got into me. There wasn’t any sermonising.

It’s just that what Mervyn said generally met my ears as solid good sense and I always came away feeling the world was back on its right axis after meeting him in the way I think a lot of writers feel when they meet up with kindred spirits and have the writing chat. It was a kind of sustenance through the non-writing week, and I miss it very much.  Some of the conversations, not so much altered, as made me much clearer about my own writing preoccupations.

More general writing things I often remind myself of and tend to attribute to ‘a friend’ when I repeat them are, as follows:

(1) Even if a bit of writing doesn’t work out, you don’t know what gateway it might be to something else. No writing is wasted (but, just to be clear, it mightn’t be going anywhere either).

(2) Editing is as exciting as the first write – because in the process of editing you tend to actually find out what you are writing about.

(3) Atrocious things are no subject for ‘good poetry’ (ie who wants to be saying ‘wow what a perfect sestina’ when they are reading about the depths of human – or other – suffering – write the perfect sestina if you can/must but don’t expect me (ie Olive) to be congratulating you on your craft on the occasion.)

(4) My personal favourite – more life commentary than advice which came from my first introduction, as it were, to the man himself and contibuted in spades to my liking him a lot –

It’s doing it, getting out into the deep water and staying there
Right up to where the sharks tear your b*&^cks off
And what’s worse, you have to thank them for doing so.
“*

(* Edited – Very sad not to be able to ask permission to use this – but hoping it’s okay).

The Good Cop, Bad Cop Routine

“Usually two different cops do that”

Or on being Theseus and the Minotaur at the same time when approaching your writing…

Or otherwise, I’m thinking of adding a category for film clips that run in my head as a response to writing questions (that are also for the most part in my head – hence this blog).

A useful blog by author Jan Carson on editing (find HERE) reminded me of how much I love the ‘Bad Cop, Good Cop’ scene in Steve Martin’s ‘Pink Panther’ – I am laughing still and what I’m laughing about is that this is sort of how it is in my world when it comes to getting to the bottom of who’s at fault for what’s not working.