Tag Archives: Mary Palmer

Jay Ramsay, a Tribute

by Verona Bass

verona bass croppedI knew him as Jay, although he tried to revert to being known as John near the end of his life. I have a book of poems by him acquired in 2008, with an inscription addressed to me: ‘for Verona. In your heart’s life and dreaming, warmest and best, Jay. Waterstones. (9.10.2008)’

The title of the collection is Out Of Time, which seems poignant now that I know that he ran out of time on 30 December 2018, just over ten years later.

On the dedication page are several quotes, all of which now seem prescient:

Time becomes more and more dreamlike. It’s often only possible to know something happened or somewhere was visited by seeing the marks I made … (Kurt Jackson, Sketchbooks)

This is journey without distance, to the place you never left. (Tom and Linda Carpenter, Healing the Dream)

How we imagine our lives is how we will go on living our lives. (James Hillman, Healing Fictions)

Jay (or John) influenced people both by who he was and how he wrote. I didn’t know him well, and didn’t often see him, but it doesn’t take that much time for someone to have an impact. He seemed kind, had an instinctive understanding of the human condition. He was a performer of great power and presence with a quiet authority. They say he was a healer. He practised psychotherapy. He conducted teaching sessions to encourage creative writing, and it is here I encountered him in a day of in-depth writing at Hawkwood College in Stroud. I booked to attend a longer course with him, somewhere remote, which he had to cancel because of his father’s illness.

In Out of Time, there are poems about his father: ‘Driving Home on Christmas Day’ and ‘Golden Leaves’. In the latter one he describes sweeping up golden leaves on the garden path in the last light of day, with his father indoors, ‘wondering if you can see me’ … It was a task, a duty, but an act of devotion for his dad, and it begins, poignantly:

I was in the darkness, Dad

and you were already in the light.

One of my most telling encounters with him was when we both tried to offer support to a fellow poet and friend, Mary Palmer, before she needed to go into a hospice. It was a short but sympathetic overlap.

These moments are the stuff of what makes us human, what informs the transactions we regularly make as we navigate the currents carrying us through life. Jay’s flow has entered a different realm but we will feel the ripples in the wake of his passing.

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Pilgrimage by Jay Ramsay

9781906900540.jpgThis Friday 20 April we’re publishing a major new work by Jay Ramsay, to coincide with his 60th birthday. It’s called Pilgrimage – a journey to Love Island. The Love Island in question is Scotland’s sacred isle, Iona, so the new book will be big brother to Mary Palmer’s Iona (Awen, 2008).

Jay will be reading from the book at Hawkwood College, Stroud, on 20 April as part of an event with Andrew Harvey on the theme of sacred activism (8 p.m., £12/£9).

The FREE LAUNCH PARTY for Pilgrimage is on Wednesday 25 April at Black Book Cafe, Stroud GL5 2HL (7.30 for 8 p.m.) and includes poetry by Steve Morris, Polly Howell, and Gabriel Millar and music from the Day Jobs. Everyone is welcome!

Pilgrimage is available to order from the Awen website. Here’s some info about the book from the back cover:

In the summer of 1990 Jay Ramsay set out on pilgrimage with an interfaith group from London to Iona. The result is his most ambitious book-length poem, an astonishing tour de force in the tradition of Wordsworth and Chaucer. Epiphanic, conversational, meditational, psychological, political, it divines ‘the cross’ of spiritual and ecological being in Britain’s radical tradition, as symbolised by Iona as the crown of the Celtic church and the direction that Christianity lost.

Constructed as a series of 25 ‘days’, the narrative builds symphonically like waves of the sea up to its visionary climax. Full of stories, reflections, memories, and images, Pilgrimage is above all a love poem, an invitation into the greater love that is our true becoming where we can find the God most personal to all of us – alive in the heart of Life.

Pilgrimage is an important outpouring from one of Britain’s leading poets wrestling with the Christ story, the human story, and the story of where we need to go as a species. Travelling with Jay is never anything less than a journey into the past, with adventures in the present, and visions of hope for the future.’ Martin Palmer

‘It is strange and beautiful how everything he passes comes into colour, into focus – is born. And I ran along after him and listened as he changed the colour of the sea and broke down doors.’ Peter Owen Jones

 

 

Reviews for Mary Palmer

Poet Mary Palmer has two collections published by Awen – Tidal Shift,  and Iona.

Reviewing Tidal Shift, Helen Moore said “Throughout we experience the communications of a compassionate heart – sometimes burning with fierce irony, elsewhere disarmingly tender – yet steadily maintaining a courageous gaze in the face of others’ suffering.”

It’s a long and detailed review for Caduceus which can be read in full here – http://www.natures-words.co.uk/Review and concludes “At the end of her life, Christian faith and love have become Palmer’s main source of nourishment. However, her concern remains predominantly with others – the poet’s often fragmentary utterances are epitomised by her desire to extend a ‘Lifeline’ to those she’s leaving behind: “I believe in going/ the oyster way/ in weaving meaning/ around the grit/ in leaving you/ a rope of pearls.” But ultimately, I feel her courageous surrendering to death is the greatest gift she offers her readers – “give yourself/ to the surgeon’s knife/ let go/ an outpouring of love/ your miracle.” ”

Geoff Hall says the following of her work “Her poetry eroded the boundaries we allocate to things like spiritual and physical, sacred and secular. She knew there were no such divisions; no duality in her understanding of the world.”

And

“Mary’s Celtic spirituality meant that she was connected to the earth as well as transcending it. Her word images are metaphors which point beyond our experience of the world around us, to capture a moment, a brief moment of bliss. They are pointedly sensual and I’ve noticed that mystic poets (St John of the Cross comes to mind) always seem to stir the most sensual images and translate their meaning from the here and now, to an eternity of bliss.”

You can read his blog post here – artsmentoring.co/art-and-spirituality/mary-palmer/

Find out more about Iona here – .awenpublications.co.uk/iona.html

find out more about Tidal Shift here – awenpublications.co.uk/tidal_shift.html

 

Mary Palmer

Geoff Hall remembers poet Mary Palmer

“It’s 7 years since our friend Mary Palmer left us. She died from cancer a day after my birthday in 2009. We were both born in that most glorious of years, 1957. I was 10 days older than Mary and indeed still am!

I met Mary through some mutual friends and somehow we hit it off. Maybe being born into a year of National turmoil – there was a National Strike in ’57 – meant we shared something in common. It’s interesting that we are both poetic souls.

You can read the rest of the post here – http://artsmentoring.co/art-and-spirituality/mary-palmer/

Mary Palmer’s biography and bibliography are here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/mary_palmer.html