Somewhere Else Writers (SEW), January 2020 Sophie Livingston

Sophie Livingston

A piece of Cirencester history inspired this month’s Cirencester Scene poem. Alexander Neckham was abbot of Cirencester Abbey from 1213, and the poem was written by Sophie Livingston to mark the Abbey 900 celebrations in 2017.

She said: ‘It is a bit of an intellectual subject for a poem, but I was fascinated by the way he writes about nature from a pre-science, Medieval perspective. He gathers what knowledge he can about the world, and it all has equal value – myth, direct observations, traveller’s tales and religious texts. What’s more, for him everything has meaning because everything reflects God. It inspired me to spend an afternoon in Cirencester Abbey grounds just making notes of all I noticed. This poem is the result.’

Sophie was a journalist for 15 years. Her poetry has appeared in the literary magazine ‘Graffiti’ and the online poetry magazine ‘I am not a silent poet.’ This year she was long-listed for the Mslexia women’s poetry prize. Her short stories regularly appear in magazines, including Woman’s Weekly and The People’s Friend.

Sophie’s poem can be found on cirenscene.com and looking at latest posts

To discover more stories and poems search somewhere-else-writers.org

Cirencester Abbey Grounds 

Gathered together,
velcro shoes on
slabs, hop-scotching
the line of a lost church,
her mother texting
from a bench,
marked with the name of Herbert Stack,
who died
in 1976.

Perched on the playground fence,
a fretwork of boys, like birds,
while on the ground
a kneeling man
with spanners
grubs about the see saw’s base.

Gathered together,
a bench chained to a tree,
where Leo still loves Channelle
in marker pen,
a man runs panting with his dog,
past the succinct, disrupted graves
of Thomas Fox and Captain Day,
and others stacked against the shed,
and Players Gold Leaf on the ground
says Smoking Kills and UK Duty Paid.

And Alexander Neckam writes of fish
Impregnated by the air,
Earthquakes made by giant winds that
Roar in caverns underground.
Oceans higher than their shores,
So only God may keep mankind from flood.
Nine hundred years of thought ago – an abbot’s Wikipedia.
On this patch of grass, his desk, his walls,
His universe,
Where God’s code lay in letters,
Or a bend of light,
A blade, a gem, a leaf unfurled.
All meaningful,
He makes a poem of the world.

Gathered together,
the 417 roaring to the traffic lights
and through the arch, in winter light,
like stars of ice, the floating leaves ignite.
A pelican bleeds her young to life,
and she-bears lick their formless cubs to shape,
RC loved DR in 1829
carved it deep on Spitalgate,
and someone says ‘F… Nitrogen’
gathered together,
seems to mean something.

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