Thanks to everyone who checked out Damien Donnelly’s ‘Drop in‘ and my review of his ‘Eat the Storms‘. The second in the series is novelist and poet, Patricia Osborne. Here’s Tricia talking about ‘Soulmates‘ from her debut collection, ‘Taxus Baccata‘.
Soulmates Last survivors, Gog and Magog lean side by side on Tor Hill’s dry plain. Gnarled trunks, stretched girths, cracks and circles. Branches creak, royal-yellow catkins kiss, caress. Magog, shrunk with age, hunches, an old woman. Gog taller, majestic, sways sideways, brushes Magog’s bough. Sun burns strong, branches wilt, scallop-leaves scorch, earth splits. A feral flame guzzles Gog’s bark. Skeletal, blistered, bare, he’s grown his last flower. Magog stoops lower, her branches languish, crevices become cavities, she wills her earthly trunk to die so her spirit may fly with Gog.
Thank you, Nigel, for inviting me over on your feature to talk about one of my poems from my pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata‘. I have chosen ‘Soulmates.’ ‘Soulmates’ is one of my favourites and hopefully the information below will explain why.
The original spark to write ‘Soulmates’ came when my MA Creative Writing tutor told me to write four poems on ‘oak’ before my next tutorial. I was totally alarmed that I was to get four poems back to him within a week. Thank goodness for my bible, Jacqueline Memory Paterson’s ‘Tree Wisdom’ as this was my first port of call to find a story that grabbed me enough to write a poem. Well, I came across ‘…two ancient oak trees called Gog and Magog…’ ‘…side by side like husband and wife…’ (page 193). That sounded interesting to research further.
Gog and Magog are two ancient oak trees found at the bottom of Glastonbury Tor and sole survivors of the avenue of oaks planted by druids. The oaks are named after the last two giants to inhabit Britain, ‘the ancient father-god and mother-goddess of the pre-Christian pagan religions’. This story captured my muse as the trees appeared to be reliant on one another, simulating a husband and wife. I was falling in love with Gog and Magog and determined one day I’d get to Glastonbury Tor and meet them. I had the subject for my poem.
Digging further into research, I discovered Gog had been burnt down in April 2017, during a ceremony. It was believed to have been started by a lit candle or incense stick by a new age worshipper. If I hadn’t already decided I wanted to write about those trees I was now convinced. The trees are over two thousand years old with historical significance. Visitors come from everywhere to leave gifts of jewellery, precious stones, and other offerings to the two aged oaks. I cried when I read this news even though it had happened a year before I knew anything about Gog and Magog. I find it devastating that through one careless moment by a nature celebrant, Gog was set alight, leaving only his skeletal remains. I wrote ‘Soulmates’ believing this narrative should be passed down as it helps to record the tragedy and hopefully stimulate emotion in the reader.
I hope your readers enjoy ‘Soulmates’, and come to love Gog and Magog as I do.
Next week read my review of Tricia’s ‘Taxus Baccata‘.