Category Archives: Special Feature

The High Window Resident Artist: Penny Sharman

The High Window‘s  resident artist for 2020 is Penny Sharman:  She was  was born in Oxford and brought up in Burford in the Cotswolds. She ventured north in the late 1960’s and has remained in love with the Pennines where she lives. As a poet, artist, photographer and complimentary therapist she seeks new ways of being creative. She is inspired by art and natural landscapes and has a surreal approach to her work. She has an MA in Creative writing from Edge Hill University and has been published in many magazines and anthologies. Her pamphlet Fair Ground (Yaffle Press) and her collection Swim With Me In Deep Water (Cerasus) are available from her website: pennysharman.co.uk

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Here is Penny’s introduction to her latest feature:

‘I decided to start my second feature with a poem by Sylvia Plath, which I had never
read before. I love her images of moorland, so similar to where I live near
Saddleworth Moor. I love her metaphors evoking aloneness and dark thoughts.
I have tried to evoke some of her emotions with my photographic art works and
inserting her voice with extracts from her poem. I have also included two of my
poems that I thought suitable for this project. Personally I can’t wait to go out
walking into these landscapes in better weather!’

Here is a link to Wuthering Heights on an Owen Sheers programme with video
and her poem being read out loud. https://youtu.be/pTI5niPUVbU

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WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Sylvia Plath 1930-1963

The horizons ring me like faggots,
Tilted and disparate, and always unstable.
Touched by a match, they might warm me,
And their fine lines singe
The air to orange
Before the distances they pin evaporate,
Weighting the pale sky with a soldier color.
But they only dissolve and dissolve
Like a series of promises, as I step forward.

There is no life higher than the grasstops
Or the hearts of sheep, and the wind
Pours by like destiny, bending
Everything in one direction.
I can feel it trying
To funnel my heat away.
If I pay the roots of the heather
Too close attention, they will invite me
To whiten my bones among them.

The sheep know where they are,
Browsing in their dirty wool-clouds,
Gray as the weather.
The black slots of their pupils take me in.
It is like being mailed into space,
A thin, silly message.
They stand about in grandmotherly disguise,
All wig curls and yellow teeth
And hard, marbly baas.

I come to wheel ruts, and water
Limpid as the solitudes
That flee through my fingers.
Hollow doorsteps go from grass to grass;
Lintel and sill have unhinged themselves.
Of people and the air only
Remembers a few odd syllables.
It rehearses them moaningly:
Black stone, black stone.

The sky leans on me, me, the one upright
Among all horizontals.
The grass is beating its head distractedly.
It is too delicate
For a life in such company;
Darkness terrifies it.
Now, in valleys narrow
And black as purses, the house lights
Gleam like small change.

‘I come to wheel ruts, and water
Limpid as the solitudes
That flee through my fingers.’

‘And their fine lines singe
The air to orange
Before the distances they pin evaporate,
Weighting the pale sky with a soldier color’

Sky Ladder

Each metal rung I climb into white sky and there’s nothing but mist, fog of a lifetime.
Each solid brick that holds this escape to heaven knows the weather around here.
I guess someone prays for sun, the warmth on skin and inside hearts, all the smiling
children somehow by innocence take one step at a time with adventure in their eyes.

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Burning clouds

MAKING A WINTER COAT

I am bringing these things to you,
memories from the stone house
where we walked out from doors to moorland.

I, a child of violet heather who gazed over
the backs of sheep, who saw big skies in small shoes,
where light expands forever in skulls.
All the potions and herbs were gathered
into a pouch, a daily duty like baking bread.

I, a child am bringing these things to you.
When time came to knit the fur from heather buds
and sheep tufts, to card and comb them
by hand and fingers, it was always in the light,
the spotlight on bog pools full of rain.

Here was the act of making the coat,
the girl to woman, the waking nights of visions,
the seeing of dark sky, Orion’s belt, the Bear,
stars to pluck, to pull down knowledge,
to weave them as jewels into fur and skin.

I, a child, weave yellow gorse flowers,
cotton tops, black juniper berries,
to proof the coat, to grow me,
to humanise me into new skin.
Here then, I bring my coat to you.

First published in Penny Sharman’s pamphlet ‘Fair Ground’ Yaffle Press 2019

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Under heather

‘If I pay the roots of the heather
Too close attention, they will invite me
To whiten my bones among them.’

MAY

I think it was a week in that solitary month,
the usual greening affair in the hedgerows,
the milky flowers of hawthorn, blood on fingertips
from a shock of thorns.

May’s my time of hope when heat reaches my bare feet.
Yes, I think it was that one-week in a solitary month
when green became black and tongues stretched
all the way down to pebbles on Trearddur Bay,
cuckoo spit everywhere as friends turned into harridans
and the stupid moon broke her promises
to love and hold hands with our hearts.

Oh bloody May—no shape, circle, pyramid or oblong can fix
this dirt in my bones; like fallen chicks we are no more.

By Penny Sharman

Dead matter

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