Annette’s poem Slant has been awarded 3rd place in the Basil Bunting Competition 2015. The poem has strong West Cork connections as it was prompted by a local stonemason’s demonstration of his craft. His working in stone called to mind Basil Bunting’s mason in Briggflats. The title is a reference to Emily Dickinson “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”
Do it slow and do it right, he was told
made him keep a rolled newspaper
under his arm to steady him as he tapped,
sent him for stout to keep the dust down.
No apprentice now: carpentry is dry work,
stonecutting’s wet and out in all weathers.
Inside, he’s all day standing,
puts down matting for the cold coming up.
He scratches a line in the raw slab:
Valentia slate, every bit as good as marble,
angled like the headstones
he adds names to in the graveyard.
He likes a mallet carved from apple root,
turns it a tenth of an inch as he taps,
uses round-headed chisels to stop the wear,
guides the blade like part of his hand.
He cuts in a V to the centre of the letter,
so the shadow can show up the words,
gaining depth as he goes.
In a hundred years you’ll still read it.