Mavis Gulliver

The new Featured Writer is Mavis Gulliver with her poems in Slate Voices: Cwmorthin & Islands of Netherlorn   published by Cinnamon Press and co-authored by Jan Fortune.  The book is divided in two with Jan Fortune’s poems on Cwmorthin in N. Wales in one part and Mavis Gulliver’s poems on the slate islands around Islay in the other part.  It is a wonderful evocation of those places and the presence of those islanders – slate workers and their families – who left long ago, taking with them a way of living and even of speaking that has gone forever. Some might well say their lives were too harsh and so are glad their harsh existence is over but they lived and loved on the islands and it should not be forgotten.

isle of easdale

While this book was in the brewing my own What the horses heard was being written too and so I heard stories from Jan Fortune about her exciting adventures with Mavis researching the islands. It made me really envious. What a rich store of poems abounds on those out-of-the-way and mysterious places off the coast of Scotland.

This is a really beautiful book and Mavis Gulliver has evoked  stories of the islanders in simple language (always the most powerful) that tells their stories while seeking to re-imagine the times in which they lived.  For me one of the most vivid pieces is Catherine McPhail, Remembering 1840 which is about Catherine’s grief for the death of Janet, her daughter:

I wrapped her in my shawl – my Sunday best,
no matter that I’ll miss it when the wind
blows from the North with ice upon its breath


… to think on that – her lying there alone.
I fell down on the slate, the cold, hard slate
and prayed and waited for my man’s return.

Searching for Janet follows the poet’s search for Janet, in Kilchattan Kirkyard on Luing:
I tread between lean and list
of weathered slate,
gravestones scabbed and scarred
with lichen growth, circles and rings
isle of slates
In  Remnants, Mavis writes,

chink as thin slates snap,    
clatter of unstable scree,                        
thunder rumble on the shore
when slate is turned and tumbled
and the backwash
                drags and rolls.

You can read more about Mavis Gulliver and her other writing for children here. Her next collection, Waymarks,  is due out from Cinnamon Press later this year.

About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
This entry was posted in Mavis Gulliver. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Mavis Gulliver

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Fascinating subject material. Enjoyed the poems.

  2. Lovely. Thank you for sharing those, Becky. The pain of Catherine at her daughter’s death is all the more unbearable for being so understated, Mavis.

    • mavisgulliver says:

      Thank you Lindsay. Am I right in thinking that you were at the Tyn y Coed course when I was working on the poem about Janet? I went twice so can’t recall exactly who I met on which.

      • I went twice as well, Mavis, so it’s not easy. But I think I must have met you on the March 2012 course, and you and Jan were talking about your slate poems, so I think you were working on it. When I get some time, I’m definitely going to read more as the snippets here are very moving.

  3. mavisgulliver says:

    Hi Becky, thanks for this, just dashing out so a quick comment – slate islands of Netherlorn are just off the mainland south of Oban, not near Islay – if it matters. Perhaps it doesn’t. I think the failure to be precise about the location in the book was a fault. I’ll post a link on my Facebook page tomorrow. Not today as I’ve just got a poem on The Stare’s Nest and it’s only for today so have posted about that.

    Thank you for the link to my website too. You’ve done a great job and I’ll be rushing back from my errand to re-read it at leisure. Love from Mavis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s