Andrea Porter joins seven other poets to explore in words an object at the Scott Polar Museum for the exhibition - The Polar Muse

Andrea has written three beautiful poems under the broader title Inua for 'The Polar Muse' exhibition, which opens on the 24th September 2014 at the Scott Polar Museum in Cambridge.  Inua means 'possessor' - the soul or spirit - and these poems implicitly ask the question how can a landscape be 'discovered', when it is already known.  

In her work the male domain of Antarctic exploration is interpreted through the role of Inuit women.  They, she suggests, are the true explorers, who have no need for cartography and conquest., the land already mapped in their souls.  Who and what is possessed?  

Andrea explores how she found the story she wanted to tell here in a blog post for the Museum.

A Seam of Survival

By Janet Hujon

This poem was also published in The Shillong Times in 2012.  Janet, a Cambridge writer and Khasi from the Himalayan foothills of North East India which she describes as a 'helpless beautiful green corner of the world, that is slowly being asphixiated in a web of lies'. This poem is a tribute to the people captured on camera by Bruce Letwin working in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya.  Janet's first book of poetry 'Vessels and Visions' has been produced in collaboration with the painter Gail de Cordova.

I wonder if … they ever look up at the distant patch of sky
That cloudy mist of marble that soon slips out of sight?
I wonder if … the echoes of games they once played overground
Seem suddenly loud within the dark that wraps them underground?
And when they settle down to sleep, do nightmares haunt their rest?
Or is their slumber so profound
gift for the weary as it is for the just.

But then we’re told they’re lucky
Lucky enough to be small

For only supple limbs and joints
Can nimbly tackle twists and turns
In low-roofed airless caves
Whose weight they sense
Whose power they know.

No longer are they strangers
To the flexing of the earth
Which crushes if you’re lucky…
Maims if you’re not.
Daily goes this army
Where adults fear to tread
An untrained band of children
Just doing what they’re told.

But don’t you see they’re lucky
Lucky enough to have work
In these uncertain times,

In this worrisome age?
What would their plight be
If perhaps they’d been born
When the wealth of the earth
Is exhausted, sucked dry
Reduced to a scratch
In the bedrock of memory
Barely alive until birthed into speech.

So every new dawn they descend into night
Feeling their way into the womb of the earth
Where day after day they chisel and hack
At rock-solid walls, compacted vaults
Layered remains of primeval groves
That were deep and alive once long long ago.
No more will our forests break naturally down
They are dying to the dirge of the droning chainsaws
Sharks ruthless and frenzied in rich hunting grounds
Indiscriminate in slicing and tearing of flesh
With little regard for the difference between
A venerable elder or the sap-rising young.
The work of millennia undone in a day
A canopy benign slowly ripped into shreds
By those who can’t wait to gleefully seize
The fire that’s trapped in bituminous layers.

Laden with coal that is mined in the hills
Trucks cavalcade down to faraway plains
Juggernauts plying at their masters’ behest
Flatulent, distended, belching black clouds
Blackening our views, burying tomorrow.
Fires in factories they roar and they rage
Drunk with a sense of omnipotent power
Forked tongues of flame they lick the plate clean
Panting with greed still asking for more
Matters it not that in far distant hills
Is heard the hushed echo of another treefall?

Back in the hills other fires are burning
Glowing not leaping, red not enraged,
Caressing away the sharp bite of winter
Patiently cold in the encircling dark gloom.
Out-spreading fingers, brown, blackened palms
Tingling alive over well-tended embers
Comrades are squatting in circular huddles
Workers united in a fleeting coalition
Where friendship is free and ties are not binding.

Removed from the ground in a foreign air space
Cushioned in comfort a group sits, reclines
Fresh from a meeting with rituals replete
Unspoken thoughts, telepathic communion,
An imperceptible nod, a surreptitious wink
The deal has been struck, the proceedings are closed.
The world is their oyster, the promised land calls
The malls are well-lit, the hotels they are swanky
Where reality charms, rubbing shoulders with dreams
Uncaring of nightmares that are spawned underground
Where the integrity of labour strains hard for a meaning
Where the unknown, uncared mine a seam of survival
So a self-chosen few can live it up there.



So sometimes  I think
Now wouldn’t it be better
If the tiger returned 
In the dead of the night
He’d lick the wound clean
He’d flesh out the cut,
He’d bring back to life
Fallen heroes who served
Though all that they did
Was to stand tall and wait.

With ironic reference to a Khasi legend where a tiger almost successfully foiled mankind’s effort to fell the Great Tree whose spreading branches blocked out light from the sun and plunged the world into darkness.  All day men hacked away at the trunk but every night the tiger returned, licked the wound and healed it once more.  The tiger was betrayed … but that’s another story.

She has never had children


‘It is the curse’, they darkly say
But had I not been born
No one would have known
No one would have had to mention the curse

I look like my mother
And my face reveals no trace of my father
I am the innocent child of a crime
Committed by two young people
Many, many years ago.

It was never my fault and that the gods knew
I have been spared twisted limbs
And a disfigured face
I have not been branded by the mark of Cain
My teeth have not been set on edge
By the sour fruit my parents bit into
When they no longer could bear the ache of desire
When the bloom of her womanhood
Melted into the dark attractiveness
Of her clansman whose fine features
Sharply etched in virile confidence
Proved altogether irresistible.
They shared the same ancestral mother
Only as siblings could they have belonged to each other
It was when natural instincts prevailed over law
That the blood of the clan from then on
Flowed polluted and sluggish.

I was told my father came to see me
And that tears welled up in his eyes
When my baby hands reached out to him
I gurgled at the stranger
That was the closest we got.

My mother never found anyone new, but he did.
She too was beautiful.
The ceremony of their marriage was held far away
Safe from the reach of damaging revelation
The happy bride was never told about the skeleton in the cupboard
About me.
She never had children though she did try at first.
For years she was made to feel inadequate
Every woman after all is meant to bear fruit
But those who knew said it was the curse
That had caught up with my father
The only way he could have laid it to rest
Was by telling her about me.
But he chose not to
He found it easier to live with a lie
Than to sleep with the truth.

February 6th 2014 - UK

by Tony Goryn

There is virtually no good news to tell
while this continuous battering by wind
and rain blocks roads and cuts off villages.
Coastal lines are undermined by huge swells
of unbridles power, yet to break.
Unchained they charge repeatedly against
rock, both man-made and previously laid
down; plain floods reclaim Somerset's Levels.
Strategists sip filtered coffee behind
Bristol desks, their boots pristine, their pages

blank; as empty as politicians' words.
So this sustainability concept,
as far as can be seen, has transmuted
there and in London Town into an absurd
'so it goes'.  Two pairs of new boots charade,
point fingers and quickly leave; clean clothed;
seen on parade. There can be no respect,
except for those who stay aboard, low paid
and honest.  Sand-bags shifted, pipe-lines laid
by these and volunteers, day after day.

In the twin Cities of power and wealth
empty suits waddle about wondering
what comes next.  Caught in a worry-flurry
each wordy one seeks not solution
that is sustainable, one that defines
what to protect and what to abandon;
but instead to cover their tracks, hurry
to find or hide blame, the thrust depending
solely on preservation of the self.
'We did all we could'; the result belies.

Pack of Lies

by Dave Pescod

Dave studied printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London but he has always written, starting with jokes for tv and radio. His first collection of short stories ‘All Embracing’ was published by Route in 2012, he lives in Cambridge.

Pack of Lies.jpg

I was studying graphics, planning my final exhibition and working in the print room when a stressed technician moaned about a student coming in late. 'He gave me a pack of lies, and then he expected me to drop everything.' I took his 'pack of lies' and ignored the rest of his rant. It was perfect for my uneasy relationship with advertising and marketing, after recent bad work experiences in Soho agencies. I designed the pack in a couple of days, satirising the ad world with copy on the pack of how kids could start with 'baby fibs', before graduating to 'genuine guaranteed lies.' I screen printed a hundred and stacked them up for my degree show, comfortable in the knowledge that I was going to do an MA in printmaking at the Royal College of Art and wouldn't be telling any whoppers to earn my crust. Mind you, I would discover the fine art world is riddled with fraud and lies, and fortunately my 'packs of lies' sold well in gift shops and galleries.  More ...

Lies Packs.jpg