In the morning the sun rose in the East and lay
Pale and delicately formed, tentatively
Regarding the tasks for the day.
Wakening, warming gently, watching attentively.
Then, growing in strength and sullenness
Swelling, reddening and ageing,
Began to dry, to burn and scorch;
Settling finally in a deep burst of anger in the West.
Our new project Necklace of Stars is our first project under the restrictions of lockdown, so our usual workshops have been replaced by phone calls and emails. We’re working with older people in Derbyshire to make a collection of poems, writing, songs themed around lullabies and the night sky. These words will be recorded and exhibited in conversation with a quilt that is stitched with stars.
Lullabies often explore themes of safety and danger. The hush-a-bye baby has the cradle rocked gently by the tune of that old song, but then the cradle falls. In some of the poems that are starting to emerge, there is also a hint of danger. The bursting anger of the sun. Beyond the safety of our walls during lockdown lies threat — and yet those safe walls hold us in, can become prison-like.
The writers have all used their words to stretch out beyond the limitations of four walls, to dream of the wide world, floating like seed heads beyond all restrictions, or else travelling in memory to other times. Because of lockdown, and the sunny weather, there’s time for some people to really throw themselves into this work:
“I’m delighted. I’ve been out all day in the garden photographing flowers to inspire my writing. But now — I’m knackered!”
Liz Jennen’s embroidered star square, and fabric ready to be stitched.
Above and below, we have two poems from the growing collection — one a whole lifetime, told in the rising and setting of the sun, the other a lullaby of pure delight, a celebration of sunshine food:
Hush little baby don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna make you a plantain fry,
And if that plantain fry don’t please,
Mama’s gonna rustle up some rice and peas.
And if rice and peas don’t have appeal
Saltfish and ackee will be your next meal.
And if saltfish and ackee comes too slow,
Mama’s gonna pick you a ripe mango.
And if that mango’s not your wish,
Mama’s gonna make you a breadfruit dish.
And if that breadfruit dish is raw
Mama’s gonna find you a nice pawpaw.
And if all this ain’t got what it takes
Mama’s gonna fry you some jonnycakes.
And if even jonnycakes make you frown,
You’ll still be the fattest little baby in town.
Necklace of Stars, quilt in progress, samples by Lois Blackburn and Liz Jennens.
Todays blog was written by Philip Davenport, lead writer arthur+martha
A Necklace of Stars is a collaboration between housebound, isolated older people in Derbyshire, arthur+martha, Arts Derbyshire DCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service.