‘At the Clootie Well’ by Lynn Valentine

Happy Sunday poetry people! I’ve had a couple of days off from posting and I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend so far. My Friday consisted of a day of reading then dinner and drinks at a friends house, which was lovely. Then yesterday, I spent pretty much all day reading again, hah! Because, why not?

As I missed two days, I’ll share more than one of my favourite poems/poets today, so sorry if it feels like you’re being spammed! Normal service will resume tomorrow.

On Friday I was delighted to receive Lynn Valentine’s debut collection Life’s Stink & Honey in the post. It arrived around 9.32am and I spent the morning feeling love, loss, yearning and hope. By the end my cheeks were damp with tears but I was in no way sad. It is a beautiful collection published by Cinnamon Press and you can buy a copy from Lynn’s website here, or via Cinnamon Press here.

Lynn’s poetry is primarily concerned with childlessness, family, her working class roots and the impact of poor mental health. She lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands with her husband, their dogs and a mountain for a neighbour but her thoughts are never far away from her adopted city of Glasgow and her home town of Arbroath (Cinnamon Press).

In 2019 Lynn won a place on the Cinnamon Press Mentoring Scheme and in 2020 won the Cinnamon Press Literature Award leading to the publication of Life’s Stink & Honey, her debut collection. Also in 2020, Lynn won the Hedgehog Poetry Press Dialect competition which resulted in the publication of her Scots language pamphlet A Glimmer o Stars (Cinnamon Press).

The poem I will share today is featured in both A Glimmer o Stars and Life’s Stink & Honey. In the former it is given in both Scots and English, so I will share both versions for you. Locals will know the Clootie Well but for those who do not, Clootie wells […] are found in Celtic places […] and are linked to ancient healing traditions. The rag or cloot is dipped in the well and tied to a tree in the hope that a sickness or ailment will fade as the rag disintegrates (Forestry and Land Scotland).

Recently all of the ‘cloots’ were removed from the site (to mixed feelings from the locals) due to some of the material not being environmentally-friendly, so if you want to bring a cloot and tie it to the tree, you must ensure it is small, appropriate and biodegradable – pure wool or pure cotton are best for the environment (Forestry and Land Scotland).

I hope you enjoy the poem, in both its beautiful forms:

At the Clootie Well

We knottit oor wishes roon the well,
tyit them a tae the trees, white fir a bairn,
blue fir a cuir. Wir nervish gaggles
ringin at corbies croakin in the auld oaks.

Nane grantit, nane lastit, the reid
runnin, the blackness takin ower
us baith. You awa by simmerdim,
me an ma belly emptie.

Noo they’re clearin the woods,
takin awa the sheets, the cloots,
even a pair o drawers.
A think the last wid mak ye laugh.

A wish a could still ca yer Mither,
see yir heid turnin roon at ma call,
some grey efternuins I dauner,
echo yir name in tae the well.


We knotted our wishes round the well,
tied them all to the trees, white for a child,
blue for a cure. Our nervous giggles
ringing at crows croaking in the old oaks.

None granted, none lasted, the red
running, the blackness taking over
us both. You away by midsummer,
me and my belly empty.

Now they’re clearing the woods,
taking away the sheets, the cloths,
even a pair of pants.
I think the last would make you laugh.

I wish I could still call you Mother,
see your head turn round at my call,
some grey afternoons I stroll,
echo your name into the well.


References

Cinnamon Press (2022) Life’s Stink & Honey [online]. Available from https://cinnamonpress.com/lifes-stink-honey/ [10 April 2022]

Forestry and Land Scotland (n.d.) Munlochy Clootie Well [online]. Available from https://forestryandland.gov.scot/visit/munlochy-clootie-well [10 April 2022]

Valentine, L. (2021) ‘At the Clootie Well’ from A Glimmer o Stars. Clevedon: The Hedgehog Poetry Press, 8-9

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