‘I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world…’ So wrote Rainer Maria Rilke, in his ‘Book of Hours’, and this epitomizes the experience of the last couple of years for me. I have crossed several borders – county, regional, national, international – and one quality they seem to share is, the closer you get to them, the more they dwindle, even disappear. The same with places (that horizon, that hill, that view, the light at the end of the track) and people. Intimacy dissolves boundaries. We have more in common than in difference. On a subatomic level where one thing ends and another begins is a debatable point. Is there no separation then? In terms of our shared humanity and interconnectedness to all life on Earth, I think not. The nation is a state of mind. Borders fascinate me – they are often places of creative tension – but they are invented constructs, however permanent they might seem. Hadrian’s Wall is an impressive feat of engineering, of human will and effort, but it’s a line in the sand of time. Walking it over a week, from coast to coast, made me appreciate the achievement but also acknowledge the futility. You cannot keep the ‘other’ out, however much you try. It’ll find a way in, as the remarkable Sycamore Gap exemplifies. Nature loves to cross the lines we make – cats or crows don’t care. And I find crossing borders a liberating experi- ence – a chance to shift one’s paradigm, even if the grass is the same colour, the sky just as blue or overcast. Walking between the worlds is something of an artistic practice for me – the cross-fertilisation of different modalities, the bridging of hemispheres, the synaptic leap in the moment of inspiration. Borders blur in the open mind, dissolve in the open heart. We open our gates to the shunned pariahs of our conscience and consciousness. Our exiled sovereignty returns home.
These poems have been inspired by my visits to Scotland (field-trips researching the folk traditions of the Borders; walking the West Highland Way solo, wild- camping as I went; and then as a guest of Hawthornden Castle); to Ireland (where I rode the Wild Atlantic Way on my motorbike with my partner, Chantelle); and to North America (where I undertook a road-trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway from Rhode Island to Asheville, North Carolina, with Debbi, my American friend and her family); and to wanderings nearer to home, in the Cotswolds and Welsh Borders. They offer a ‘body scan’ of my bardic life, in this moment, a ghost trace that will fade, as I release it and let it go, a prayer cast into the dark.
Kevan Manwaring Stroud, Midwinter, 2015
(Foreword from Lost Border, published by Chrysalis, 2015)
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