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Zoë Brigley: The first winter in the US, we are living on the edge of the world: the mountains in Pennsylvania. Most days it is just the snow and me. We don’t have any children yet, and every day, when my husband goes to long hours at his new job, I sit and think about the baby I miscarried when I arrived. But I can’t seem to write about it. I am surrounded by snow, but I am reading about the sand at home, Minhinnick writing: ‘An unknown but suspected world:/…the silken run of sand./Once the sea’s cold level covered all/This hollow place: silence like a great stone/Rolled over the world.’1

I cycle into town through the snow, my legs bitten with cold under silk stockings. Occasionally a bear lumbers into town too, then back into the forest again.

Sometimes we meet friends in Zeno’s, a cellar bar, and drink cheap beer, and dance drunkenly to the fiddle player’s tune. Sometimes I give palm readings. Here is a long lifeline! See! Two children at least. We talk about everything. Losing my virginity was awful, says one friend. When I ask him why, he just repeats, It was awful. Another friend asks me what love is. I say, I’ll never be submissive, but I think love means having to submit to someone. Someone says, Everyone needs love. And there is so much more of this drunken talk before they throw us out.

The pavements are like glass. Someone slips on the ice and hits the back of their head on the concrete. We walk home singing through the night, until we part ways. Goodnight then! Goodnight! And then we are alone, my husband and I, placing our feet carefully on the crust of snow on the field, hardened and icy, the smell of skunk like a brewery on the air. It strikes me then how sad and beautiful the snow is, like death falling down sharply over the mountain town, everything barren and blank. Nothing but snow, its powder stretching over everything like a desert, the town like a forgotten city covered by sand.


RM: Part of my writing creates a bestiary of sand. People are important but so are conger eels, lizards, roe deer, dolphins. As to botany, I wonder how many flowers have names in two languages that celebrate virgins, vipers, devils, thunder? There is nothing like ancient botany for encouraging superstition, itself part of myth. When I climb Cog y Brain, supposedly the second highest dune in western Europe, below me, if the tides are right, is Tusker Rock. Close by were transported those megaliths that became Stonehenge (if this is wishful thinking I don’t care).

I concoct my own lore involving these within a context of history, geology and climate change. Vikings, the Irish, Barbary pirates, wreckers, thousands of shipwrecks, American GIs, Paul Robeson, The Excellents, Italian cafés and millions of fairground trippers and caravanners have contributed to the myth.


KE: The years go by, and you survive, falling from book to book, learning to fly. Working in factories and warehouses, months on the dole. Finding the words in Taliesin and Blake, Hopkins and Hughes, and what’s this? Minhinnick? A poet from my own town. Small blessings, hints and clues.

LSD opened a whole new library, and I was first at the door, as often as possible. Ah Descartes, what a mistake we have made, following you. Matter is not fundamental, and

1. The Robert Minhinnick poem is part 2 (‘Cwm y Gaer’) of ‘On the Headland’ which appears in Life Sentences (Poetry

Wales Press, 1983).

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