book of days

At the beginning of 2006, Linda France set herself the challenge of writing a renga verse every day for twelve months. Renga dates from 10th century Japan, when poets would gather together over tea or saki to write verses about the seasons, nature, love and the moon - the phenomenal world of change and decay.

Adapting the classical Japanese form, Linda France has created a new one, the world's first 'year renga'. Friends, walks, the weather, things seen, heard and read, became her collaborators in 365 word pictures that bear witness to the flow of things, inside and out, the numinous and the everyday.

Illustrated by Sue Dunne's striking ceramic fragments - reliefs created by casting flowers, leaves and branches found in the woods and hedgerows of Northumberland as a year unfolds - book of days is concerned with paying attention to the world, natural and man-made, its mystery and significance, in a time when the seasons are out of kilter.

Sample Poem

January

New year
old dust
new broom

     next door's bonfire
     black smoke spiralling

my sons – the pleasure
of having them both
under the same roof

     in the midnight sky where there should be
     a meteor shower – freezing fog

on the station platform
little beads of snow
as I pace up and down

     pylons fizz in the mist
     the ghost of Stagshaw Fair

halfway there
remembering I've forgotten
my walking boots

     I try to describe
     an invisible elephant

which half of me
is telling which half
of you the truth?

     I brush the cobwebs from the corners
     and wash the soot off the shelves

a day with three owls
in it – paper,
feather, stone

     sadness: not knowing
     where your tears end and mine begin

all day long the wind
argues with the house,
the trees, me

     hard to tell where the light is –
     in the frost or in the moon

over two miles away
the sound of the traffic
cleaves the stillness

     between them the rabbits and the moles
     are turning my garden into a battlefield

a rough–haired terrier
with empty eyes
tries to follow me home

     everyone in the coffee shop
     younger than me

in the Turkish
we exercise
our talking muscles

     the scrape of the shovel
     as I fill three buckets with coal

inside Abdullah Ibrahim
is playing – outside
birds are singing

     since waking up I wanted to cry –
     in the dark of the shrine room I do

to see what is true
and hold it
with kindness

     she lifted her arms and pretended
     to dance like a lemur

first tips of snowdrops
under the hawthorn
rain falling

     how many candles burned away
     as we sat at the table and talked?

tapping enough to wake me
a door or a drum
my beating heart

     I want to dive into those patches
     of sky that are the brightest blue

lichen on the rowan tree
tinged golden
by lengthening sun

     two magpies stripe icy morning light
     joy! joy! joy!

our nervous spoons skate
across the dark shine
of one créme brulee

Reviews

'a lovely little book'

Other Poetry

'a wonderful lyric volume.'

The North

'Simplicity's deceptive. Here is a gathering of verses that carry, alone and together, a whole year's work - and not only that but many an earlier year of writing-work as well - so lightly. Here is the gathered grace and strength of the spider's web that took all night to spin.'

Gillian Allnutt

'Linda France opens herself to the act of finding one image each day; within that day, recording loss and delight, allowing herself the lulls that are often enough. The form and its practice Linda has offered are a step into the poetics of the day. Take up this book and in doing so you too can take up the form.'

Alec Finlay