Hermanus and the Leviathan

This was a post put on Facebook - but for those who aren't on FB I thought you might like to see it too. With pictures.


Bumped into a fellow poet/friend at local cafe bar today. He'd been away in Cape Town (my favourite place in the world). He'd also had a tough time as he'd become v ill there and been in a hospital clinic for 2 weeks of his visit and was still feeling delicate. Anyway, he told me he'd spent some time in Hermanus - about 50 miles east of Cape Town - a beautiful spot that I know well. 

Hermanus is a town built on a vast bay, looking over a huge tract of the ocean. A few years ago I was there and stayed in the lovely backpack hostel, sharing traveller's tales with the usual interesting bunch of people you get at backpacker's hostels. 
Every day, I took my towel and costume, stopped off en route to the bay to pick up stuff for lunch - french loaves, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and cheeses and then walked down the spiralling clifftop path to the seawater swimming pool hidden in the rocks and swam and sunbathed and picnicked all day.

One day though I did something different. I knew that whales came to spawn in this enormous sweeping ocean bay and I wanted to see them, or at least one. It was not an option for me to go out on one of the boat trips to see the whales as I get badly seasick, even on small boats. I'd just be throwing up.  So I was resigned that I would never get a close-up view.  Also, I was there at the wrong time of year, January  The best time to see whales, I was told, was in September/October when the huge Southern Right whales come to the ocean bay at Hermanus to spawn.  However, I went to a cafe on the first floor with big windows that I'd been told about in the hostel. It was close to the cliffside promontory overlooking the ocean.  At least I might be able to see in the far distance the giant whales breaching and falling into the ocean.

Later I wrote a poem about my experience, I was so lucky that day - a poem I have performed quite a few times for events organised by Enfield Poets. My Crouch End poet friend had not heard it so I'm putting this up for you Alan. Hope you like it, it commemorates a truly magical experience for me, in Hermanus -

The Leviathan

An angel guided me the day I saw her,
the season was wrong, but my angel had other ideas.

That morning in Hermanus, my first guide
sent me to the café upstairs, its large glass windows
were open to the vast Atlantic bay.

In this bar, my second guide pointed to distant blow-backs,
as huge sea giants breached and fell, breached and fell,
tiny on the far side of the ocean.

My mind took flight, my heart on fire and
I felt favoured by the gods of the sea,
but my angel had more for me that mystic day.

Then my guide saw her – the angel-led leviathan
a sixty-foot Southern Right titan, grazing on the distant shoreline,
moving slowly towards us.

Winged feet carried me to the close-by rocky hill, to gaze down
as she ambled along, her twenty-foot baby just submerged behind.

They browsed along the rocks below and I held my breath,
counting the barnacles along her back, watching in awe
until both were out of sight.

Since that time, my memory takes flight now and then,
lifting over the swelling ocean towards the joyous breaching
and the day I saw the whale.

Anna Meryt






















Poetry Events - 13th and 17th January 2023

 There are two poetry events coming up in the next week that I and many other poets are involved with.

First a Poem-athon in Enfield


ENFIELD POETS PRESENT

A POETRY FESTIVAL

AT THE DUGDALE CENTRE

ENFIELD TOWN

FRIDAY 13TH JANUARY, 2023

  • 11.30 to 2.00 p.m. Mini Poemathon in the Foyer, organised by Mary Duggan
  • 2 – 3 A film about the New Portrait – is this Jane Austen?
  • 3 - 3.45 A film of The Lamb’s Tale featuring large puppets. Shown in memory of Debbie Dean whose project this was.
  • 4 – 4.20 As It Was. A short play based on the poetry of Anthony Fisher, produced by Holly Darville.
  • 4.25 – 4.45 The Story of the Minotaur. A short play based on the poetry of Valerie Darville.
  • 4.50 – 5.15 The celebrated poet and author Maggie Butt is giving a reading of her poetry.
  • 5.15 – 6 Hannah Lowe winner of the Costa Poetry Aware and Costa Book of the Year 2021 is giving a reading of her poetry.

Admission £6 for the whole afternoon. Tickets available from the Dugdale Centre: 020 8807 668


SECOND EVENT - TUESDAY JAN 17TH 7.30 


NOT A BAD WORD

An Evening of Poetry & Music


With Open mic for poets

 

COMPERE AND EVENT ORGANISERS:  ANNA MERYT and MARY DUGGAN

WHERE: The Harringay Arms, 153 Crouch Hill, London, N8 9QH   

When:  Tuesday January 17th 2023 @ 7.30 -9.30 pm.

Entry FREE

 Sign in for Open Mic from 7-7.30 pm.

 




 Yesterday in an Enfield poetry group event at the Forty Hall Estate,  I read the poem - The Colour of Saying - by Dylan Thomas, the most famous Welsh bard of the 20th century who drank himself to death in 1953. 

I was talking about how I grew up in Swansea not a quarter of a mile from where Dylan grew up and how my father used to read us extracts from Under Milk Wood. He had Milk Wood read by the rich sonorous voice of the actor Richard Burton on LP, ie. for anyone under 45 - a long-playing vinyl record and would often play it on the weekends, to relax after a stressful week of work as a criminal case barrister.

In our Enfield group, a discussion ensued about Dylan and it seemed everyone had a connection to his wonderful poetry.  Of course, everyone knows some of his most famous poems, for example, Fernhill and Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and Death Shall Have No Dominion. As we discussed, when you read Dylan's poetry, first listen to the sound of the words, then focus on meaning which is nebulous and open and often just out of reach ... 

Here's another of his well-known poems:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

 - 1914-1953

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971, 2003 New Directions Publishing Corp. Used with permission.

And if you listen to any of his broadcasting recordings on YouTube you'll be surprised maybe to find that he had no Welsh accent.  This is because his father - a school teacher, paid for him to have elocution lessons to eliminate the Welsh accent. In those days, the BBC required all its spoken word contributors to speak in RP ie Received Pronunciation.   Of course, the Welsh of his father's generation were definitely made to feel that their accent and culture and language were inferior to that of the English invaders.... 

Here's another quote from Dylan, talking about his first falling in love with nursery rhymes - 

'I had come to love just the words of them, the words alone.  What the words stood for, symbolised or meant, was of very secondary importance; what mattered was the sound of them as I heard for the first time on the lips of the remote and incomprehensible grown-ups who seemed, for some reason, to be living in my world.'

and

'Poetry, to a poet,' he has said, 'is the most rewarding work in the world.  A good poem is a contribution to reality.  The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it.'

[Both extracts from The Prologue in The Colour of Saying, edited by DT]