Elizabeth Rimmer was born and educated in Liverpool and moved to Scotland in 1977, where she lives beside the river Forth. Poet, gardener, river-watcher, and grandmother, her roots are Catholic, radical, feminist and green.
She is inspired by weather, landscape and tradition, the work of craftsmen, gardeners, foresters and musicians, and writes about language, legends and heritage.
Her first full collection Wherever We Live Now was published in 2011 by Red Squirrel Press.
The piece featured below is the opening poem, which gave the book its title.
Visiting the Dunbrody Famine Ship
Grief bubbles like rosin out of the pine
they built these stacked bunks from -
one to a family, and bring your own bedding,
each adult's life packed into no more
than ten cubic feet, says the ticket, including
utensils for eating and drinking.
Bad enough in fine weather, queuing to cook
in their cold half hour on deck, but in storms
battened under hatches, chewing raw oatmeal and biscuit,
sweating, vomiting, pissing in the dark,
and the smell of loss and fear. The actors recall
a good captain, five deaths only the whole trip.
It's the lists that really hurt. The database
remembers everyone, keeps them safe by name,
and age and occupation, by ship, and by landfall.
I look for my Foleys, Richard and two daughters,
my grandmother's family, left Waterford
in 1873, and lost at sea, still lost.
It's the way they tell you, as if they know
it's you, crying in the dark for your mammy,
and the sweet taste of new milk, and sunlight,
and just to be still. They know those names mend a link
in the chain that leads us back to our dead,
and makes us whole, wherever we live now.
Award-winning film-maker Alastair Cook used this poem as one of his FilmPoems Filmpoem#17, which you can see here:
Alastair Cook's Videos
Her poems have been widely published in magazines such as Poetry Scotland, Northwords Now, Gutter, Stravaig, Eildon Tree and DarkMountain. This poem was published by Eildon Tree in January 2012,
Marrying A Selkie
He knew she had this other life,
one doesn't get, and never sees,
but he finds the traces sometimes -
a strand of seaweed in the shower,
the smell of salt, a silver scatter
of scales like sequins on the floor.
Women need a break sometimes
from all that domesticity.
He does not wonder where they go,
imagining their hair let down, their sleeves
bunched loosely up above their elbows,
bare feet dabbling in some rock pool.
No harm ever comes of it, his meal
will be on the stove to greet him
with the smell of herring, and the warm
fog of drying shirts and sheets.
He does not think he disapproves,
but all the same, on moonless nights
he thinks of women knitting, trays
of tea and scones, with rhubarb jam
blood red on flowered saucers,
and the sound of heads, soft-thumping
into baskets, while the needles click.
More recently her poetry has reflected a growing interest in the philosophy, psychology and spirituality of ecological movements, and she is particularly interested in the mythology of women in connection to the earth and to nature. She is an active member of The Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and helps to edit its on-line magazine Stravaig. Her blog can be found at Burned Thumb This poem was published in the DarkMountain anthology 4 in 2013.
Explaining a Few Things to Neruda
You will ask why my poetry
speaks of leaves and green rivers
and that family of goosanders
spinning and diving and drifting downstream
on the ebb tide this rainy morning.
Where are the unemployed? you ask,
the litter, the broken windows,
graffiti curse-words and allegations,
the lost generation, the hope of revolution?
You will ask why my poetry is so pretty,
all those woodlands and winter skies,
when jobs are scarce and art is strangled
and freedom is bought and sold with oil.
In those fields we have no lapwings,
no hares, a stillness of yellow rape,
and wheat after barley after wheat.
The skylark song is quenched in rain.
The moon rises over green absence.
Once there were bitterns in those reeds -
salmon, kingfisher, tufted duck,
children at the village school – all gone.
We wash the guilt of extinction off our hands.
Oh, see, the blood of extinction on our hands!