Angela Locke is a poet, novelist and journalist, living in the Lake District. Her six fiction and non-fiction books (Chatto & Windus, Souvenir, Sphere, Talking Books etc) have been translated all over the world. She worked as a scriptwriter for BBC TV, and broadcasts widely. Angela has a Creative Writing MA in Poetry and Prose, and divides her time between writing, teaching Creative Writing and running international Writing Retreats, particularly on Iona since 2000. Her first book, Mr Mullett Owns a Cloud (Chatto & Windus) was republished in 2006, her novel Dreams of the Blue Poppy published by Robert Hale in 2007, and her new travel book On Juniper Mountain, about her journeys in the Himalayas, was published in May 2010 by O-Books in the USA, Australia and UK.

Commissions include a poem about Herdwick sheep for HRH Prince Charles, which appears on his website, a film In the Mind of Man, and a poem for a Landscape Project along the shores of Derwentwater. As a Writer-in Residence for the Writing on the Wall project, she had eight poems published in the book Writing on the Wall.

Angela is the founder and current President of the charity Juniper Trust www.junipertrust.co.uk  which works to build schools and basic facilities for the poorest communities across the world.

More details on her website at:

Sacred Earth

The humanity of Earth
is a woven part of our consciousness,
and of her Nature. Without us,
we would not ‘know’ that Earth is,
and Earth could not know herself.

She sees herself in our eyes
as beautiful. We stand
on the seashore and watch the waves
and know we are alive, and Earth through us
knows her aliveness. We know the morning
birdsong and the secret night,
and we give Earth back her treasures.

So life dreams itself
and we dream Earth in this unimaginable
Universe, where infinity waits for us
to find ourselves.

Maybe we are Earth’s senses, cells
on her surface that tell her what she is like;
where trees are, ravines
and deep secret places,
white snows, eagle nests, flicking
rainbow fish in deep waters, how it feels
to walk barefoot on her rain-drenched grass.

We sing the song of Earth
with our everyday being. Be careful.
We are singing her dream back to her.
We may sing her to sleep, or death.

Rose and Stone

IONA 2000

these are life forms
the rose petal and the stone

rose petal pliant in the wind
easily bruised
it dies after a day’s life
delicately veined, its heart’s colour

drawn into its centre
open to the universe
it scatters scented messages for the bee

the bee does not come to the stone

stones are hard, unyielding
if they give off scent
it is a distant air tang of the salt sea
in sun they hold heat

while petals wilt
beside me on the grass

our life is caught between them
the petal and the stone

not so short as a flower’s life
not so long as almost eternity

days and nights and seasons
aeons and epochs
deep deep time

these mark the turning of the stone
on the sea’s bed

a loving and a working
in the deep slow time of the world
turning, caressing,
the sea’s fingers
on the seeming unchanging face of stone

until the sea finds

stone stone,
pebble pebble
tiny grain of sand
sand to atom atom to proton,
into the secret heart of Creation

where God may be

so we turn and turn
the atoms of the world in the sea’s hand
in the wind’s hand in form and gravity
and fire
atom and atom
so we love and from our loving
from the drawing of the deep earth place
some god some creator
some mathematician
some star magician
draws down

the beginning
of the rose


Midnight on Iona

Midnight hypnotises cats into slow walking.
Their eyes glittering in the half-moon,
they chirrup beside me. Puddles wink,
and one shrill shore bird squeals
like a bat in the dark.

The old, slow sea sighs onto sand, and back.
Mercury, quicksilver, is so silky around black rock
there seems no contact, no wetness, metal fingers
stroking a tune on the land. A sharp tune, a song,
sings the silent night to sleep with old tales,
as the moon goes behind a black cloud tower,
a whisper of orange diffused in the sky.

We know mountains are out there, beyond this little sea,
pale with snow, crofts where there is dreaming of tomorrow.
But for now, bats tumble and that solitary bird
cuts holes in the darkness with its call, and I am not afraid.
Walking alone under this luminous sky,
stars tremble over the sharp-cut nunnery,
its gable end black in the pale night.

All are sleeping but for a few yellow windows.
I am nearly there, nearly there at the point
where the world is turning, and yet is still.

Dawn Meditation : Himalaya

Dawn over the sacred lake
a boat is a dark crescent drifting
mist rolling up like silk
reveals reflections of mountains painted with fire

we can never hold these images
in the unmoving water
they melt away the universe flows on
only for one breathless second it seemed
we were not transient beings
in a passing world
but held the stillness
in our hands

Sea House, Hahei, New Zealand

An ounce of azurite will do it. Michelangelo knew
what put divinity into a painting,
what gave it back to God; the Madonna’s robe
gleaming with the light of blue angels,
an ounce of more-than-gold, painting
the sea’s perfection. This oyster of a bay,
green-lipped, has a pearl set
within its curve; a peak of carved wood,
a house rearing proud as a ship,
listening long to the heartbeat of the sea.

Ancestors have landed in this place,
put a hand on a map and said: This will be
our coming home, our marae. Children and grandchildren
will grow in this good place. They will dream of it
when they are away, this sea house shining in the bay,
dream of laughter and the sea’s whisper.
A poem of the sea will come into their minds
like a slow joy, and they will remember how they woke
in early dawns and heard the sea’s thrum, and knew
they had come home.

Whale experts are concerned that noise pollution in the oceans is shutting down the whales’ long-distance communication systems. To me, this seems a paradigm for our own fragile state as we cling, increasingly disorientated, to our beautiful planet. Our understanding of the sacred, our deep awareness of the mystical power of Earth, our tribal wisdom, is threatened by the busyness of our lives, the ‘white noise’, the stress, the pollution. In these poems I am trying, in my own inadequate language, to express some of what we do not have words for, something that may be lost, some otherness we need to honour, to celebrate and to protect. It is that ‘ghostly language of the ancient earth’ which Wordsworth understood so well, which the Druids celebrated on sacred Iona, which the Maori inhabit in their marae, which the Tibetans enshrine every day in their sacred rituals, which native peoples everywhere still have ‘whale language’ for. It is that still spirit, the numinous, which links us to the mystery of Life.
Angela Locke
Cumbria 2011

Whales off the North beach: Iona

Companionably, quietly
They come together in blue water,
Black, glossy tails glinting in sunlight.
Unhurried, exactly equidistant,
They stroll the sea beyond the black rocks,
Where surf threshes the edges of land.
Even across the distance of the bay
I hear them, their inaudible
Whale language.
Their presence fills the bay with silence
And deep speech.
I am drawn into the circle of their being,
Aware of stillness,
Creation weaving its web,
The rub of particle and molecule
Between sea and land,
The endless sexual game of thee and me
Between edges, and frontiers, the journeys between,
The journey the sea makes, its language,
How we share its tides in our gut,
How these black-tailed whales sing our songs,
Dance our dance.

We wave to one another
In our steady progress,
Me in the hayfield above the machair,
They in their own place,
Effortlessly, peacefully
Cutting diamond water, while
simultaneously ruminating on the state of the world,
and rewriting Hamlet for whales.

Manawatu Te Ra
A Maori speaks for the World’s tribe

The word is in the wind. She hears it.
I do too, this Maori blessing on the day,
echoed in her rituals of grace,
her tobacco, the different coloured
cloths – the green, the white.
Om mani padme hum
Here too is the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus,
here the Tibetan spins the prayer wheel,
Prayers, invocations. Fly up above the river
into the Great Sky. She is like the earth,
listening to trees, speaking in Earth’s language;
the blessings of the day are written in her blood.
But something else. A move to spirit, to stand, listening:
Manawatu te ra. The Maori woman
stands in the heart of the day, her tribe
circling about her, protective, those ancestors
bringing wisdom to the wheel; the prayer wheel
for the Tibetan, the fastness of mountain.
Here the Maori weave flax into sacred pouches,
honouring punamu, holy jade, stone, Earth.

Dreams, death, birth.
Not only in the wind, but in the silence after,
the spirit wafts about us, singing tribal songs.


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