Creating a felting inspired by a poem by Nessie Dunsmuir has been a process full of developing greater understanding and inspiration.
W.S.Graham is a fascinating poet, writing profound and exciting poetry and letters and his partner, Nessie Dunsmuir has a presence that is woven lovingly throughout his life and work. I’ve wondered about her, a quiet, supporting strength to WSG and resolved to find out a little more about her, in her own words.
I’d discovered that a slim volume of her poetry had been published, but couldn’t find a copy until I thought of The Hypatia Trust which collects, and makes available, published and personal documentation about the achievements of women in every aspect of their lives. I contacted them in Penzance, Cornwall and they have a copy in their poetry collection! housed in the beautiful Victorian mansion that is Morrab Library.
It was emotional and sensitive and I felt like I was meeting her at last, Nessie in her own words.
Reading the poem 'By the Window' created such strong visuals for me and I just had to create a felting!
By the Window
by Nessie Dunsmuir
Here by the window blackthorn and elder tree
sharpen my sight to love. The shadows of
small birds descend and raise,
clearer than print on page,
deeply forgotten colours of my stumbling days.
The Easter fields of children turn again
the legend’s wheel. The painted eggs begin
to roll our death away.
In the cold April day
each child is blessed and lies with Spring within.
Here by my head blackbird and beaded tree
borrow me back from Easter’s cross and kiss.
Bracken fronds hand me light.
My own beginning eyes
load at the sill the buds breaking to white.
I love the themes of newness, beginning, Spring, peace, love, light, reminiscence, looking onto a brighter, more hopeful world -individually to universally and the cycle of life…
I loved the imagery of Easter, children, painted eggs, a cold April day, a blackthorn, buds and flowering, the elder tree, the flying birds in the scene falling and rising and the image of the printed page…their shadows, marks and meaning… and the blackbird had to be Nessie, a female blackbird, looking out, observing….
Finding out more about the symbolism of the elder and blackthorn was fascinating, too, I’ve always known these twisted, gnarled branches as witchery fingers and that they are associated with the dark side of the year and quite sinister, however the Celts observed that this tree produced some of the sweetest berries among the sacred tribe of trees, at their most succulent and sweetest after a hard frost… the blessing comes after the challenge.
The elder too, as the Goddess tree, the Elder Mother, The Queen of Herbs, full of magical, sacred properties; a tree of beginnings and endings, of birth and death, a spirit of transformation and the crossing of thresholds…
I met the lady who bought my felting in the exhibition at The Gurnard’s Head and she told me how much she loved the poem and that her friend would too.
It felt so wonderful, knowing that Nessie Dunsmuir and her poems are here, present in this W.S. Graham exhibition at The Gurnard's Head, Zennor where she used to visit, sing and meet with friends ... and that her poems are bringing happiness to others who read them and love them.