writing on the wall logo

Gerry Loose
renga report




Housesteads renga note

We are seated on a fine-crafted wooden platform under a bright sky with fast moving clouds. There is a clear view of small hills and valleys to the south. To the north, at our backs, are the foundation stones and footings of a fort. Behind that is a wall running from coast to coast, east to west across the north of a small country. Built as a barrier to deter the people
from another, smaller country, further north, from cross-border raids and as a statement and consolidation of empire, it's now in disrepair, with whole stretches in ruins.

We are here to make a collective poem. We have come from all quarters, both sides of the wall and further afield, gathering, like the garrisoned troops
before us with common purpose. Our purpose is the antithesis of theirs. They held (and were held) by force of arms. All poems speak for life; recognise
no boundaries.

Those troops, from Algeria, Turkey, Syria, Gaul, Morocco, at the edge of empire, look over our shoulders, jostle our elbows as we write. As we breathe clear air they exhale. We remember their dreams for them. We scrutinise their stonework. We make close observations of the local plants and safely grazing sheep who never glance up at the lit clouds. We spend the entire day in their company, breaking bread with them, sharing our hot drinks, fleshing the poem.

By the day's end, packing the platform, we've come to a surer knowledge of that hilly landscape in its sweep and its particularity of tiny herbs. We've located commonality with the soldiers: their dreams become ours; our spans the same. The land and its poem remain - memories of laughter in summer and cloud shadows, as if in time-lapse photography. In the funnel of days, our poem states, simply, we were here.

Gerry Loose