Thinking about line
At the end of the week I’ll be venturing down south for my residency at the first ever South Downs Poetry Festival.
As someone who more often turns her head north (Yorkshire heritage, family up north, daughter in Edinburgh) approaching the South Downs feels like finding my way into another country. Exciting! I’m surrounded by maps and guidebooks, and what keeps coming back to me is the beautiful graphic showing the ribbon of the hills used by the Park Authority.
It was one of the first expressions of the South Downs I encountered when I was thinking of applying for the post. I was so struck by the movement and beauty of its line, the curved segments of landscape within that line of chalk hills and wooded heaths, it made me feel it was a place I wanted to be in. (So well done, SDNP!)
I’ve done quite a lot of thinking about line and movement. I used to dance and remember, years ago, one of my writing tutors looking at me intently as I answered his question about ‘line’ by describing line in dance. It is said someone has an exquisite line if the movement appears to continue beyond the shape made with the body. As if the echo of the phrase continues beyond the pointed foot, placed hand, or even the incline of the head.
We love to feel the echo of a line continuing in our head and heart long after we read a poem; we imagine the breath of a hill or sway of the tree line as it informs our return home, our heart still beating to the length of our stride. A lingering, longering wish to still be singing those lines where our heart has taken root, however briefly. If you’re anything like me, I can’t unpack my bag for days.
What am I looking forward to when I arrive down south? Meeting lots of poets; meeting lots of people who aren’t poets; a new landscape to lay myself open to and language to soak in. A recipe for new poems, I hope. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to opportunities to share enthusiasms – for the natural world, for writing, for journeys; for the line, however we make it.
Carol Rowntree Jones
Poet in Residence