In spite of the lethargy brought about by the aftermath of lockdown, causing a torpor in the poetry circuit… and then a sort of sleepy unlocking which, for me, has been a long and puzzling affair, 2022 was a very good year for a poetry project, which is truly embedded in the core of my being as a poet. This is my cycle of poems La Loba Speaks for Wolf, which was released in February 2022 by the excellent Bx3, part of Burning Eye Books.
The publication date, March 31st, was timed to coincide with International Lobo Week when, in 2002, 11 captive-born lobos (known as Mexican wolves) were released into the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona for the first time since they were almost eradicated.
I have been writing poems for La Loba, the mighty and irrepressible wolf woman legend,, for a long time now. She is an archetypal character who has seized my imagination with a wolf-like grip! You might say she walks beside me and draws me back to my true nature which, in turn, draws me back to the foundational strength and peace we can find in wild places.
I'm lucky enough to count Dartmoor as my home. I’ve been around its tors and valleys for 30 years. A recent influence has been the photographs of Paul Harris from Glavind Strachan Photography. Paul is a moor man through and through. His photography of Dartmoor is , as it reveals the rugged and pristine landscapes in a new way, which is totally engaged… and enthralling.
Black-a-Tor Copse - Glavind Strachan Photography
Paul and I met up to hatch a plot to make a poetry film of Wolven, the first poem I wrote specifically for the La Loba sequence. Based on a wolf's howl, it was haiku-like, therefore short. We felt it would be a good starting point. On a cold (but not bitterly so) day in February, we met at Bench Tor at dawn. With the help of Paul’s innovative vision and his sensitive approach as a director, the short video (featured below) leapt into life.
Dartmoor Pony - Glavind Strachan Photography
The costume I wore for this wolven adventure was multiple layers of velour, tweed, fur and sacking and, in spite of this (or possibly partly because of it!) the whole morning is best described in three adjectives – affirming, exciting and fun. If you're a creative person who is need of inspiring new portrait photos, or an interpretive visual of a piece of work, I can't recommend Paul highly enough. As you can imagine, this wasn’t going to be the only time I would work with Paul. So… when the book was released and bluebell time came around, there was the ideal opportunity to mark all that blue and green with something less… well, furry!
I'd just completed my poem, The Forest Crier’s Call, which had appeared in embryonic form - just five fragments I placed at the beginning of the book as a tiny prologue, or ‘calling on’ song. In the true spirit of calling on, there was more to come and this little piece fleshed out into something which, I hope, has a longer reach and more impact. This Forest Crier piece is a thrown voice, as are all the poems in La Loba, so I bought myself a town crier’s hat, dressed myself as the antithesis of the town crier – the forest crier – and headed off to a bluebell wood near Okehampton to meet Paul. I replaced the bell of ye olde traditional cryer, with an etheric-sounding Koshi wind chime. I was nervous, as I hadn’t had time to learn the new lines of the poem properly, but Simon Williams, my partner in rhyme, accompanied us to the spot, where we recorded the piece. He was carrying a large whiteboard, with the poem written on it in broad felt tip. Here, in a totally bewitching valley of bluebells, a second poetry video was born. The experience could not have possibly been more magical.
These two videos were a really exciting development at the close of an eighteen month period, where I struggled with some physical health issues. Paul’s input into the project proved invaluable... and it has helped to keep the flame of La Loba alight.
I mustn’t forget my book launch – La Loba Speaks for Wolf in The Glade at Dartington, where Paul took some beautifully atmospheric photos and three of my creative colleagues and friends, Jade Moon, Kimwei McCarthy and Simon Williams, helped to make the evening unforgettable.
It doesn’t matter so much if a show you planned to do was put on hold for reasons of lockdown... then other distractions, if exciting new collaborations like my two wild and wonder-filled films emerge. Working with Paul has been an important landmark in my La Loba project… and a turning point. I hope to be stepping out into the woods with a new more resonant voice, and a poetry show I've been yearning to release for a very long time now. It will happen, before the bluebells are spread out over the valleys of the moor to dazzle us again.