Twenty-first Century Soul

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Integral practices for soulful and creative living

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TRAILS is a beautiful new publication from Raw Mixture Publishing: a collaboration between poet Steve Thorp and artist, Elaine Johnson. You can buy a copy in the Raw Mixture Shop now. More recently, Sarah Jewell has put a number of the poems from the pamphlet to music, and these will be performed by the Songlines Choir at their summer performance on the 19th July at The Nave in London. This four-part pamphlet weaves words and images in ways intended to surprise, challenge and even delight. The theme at the heart of Trails, is the price paid by young girls whose eyes and fingers were ruined by years of work in the English Lace-making industry in the 19th Century. Elaine’s evocative three-dimensional piece, ‘Tell me’, was the starting point. Steve’s words echo the work and suffering that was punctuated by the simple, repetitive tells sung by these forgotten workers.


A lacemaker’s prayer


A film of early dew

sits on cobwebs, lingers.

Spiders make the lace we make

without the ruin

of human eyes and fingers.


Trudge and trudge

(sometimes skip to whispered tells),

walk out at slated dawn,

return to muffled bells

at dusk – un-slaked, bloodied, worn.


A flex, a frayed and

tattered stitch. An apron,

bib or bonnet, laced

to hide my shame

and my clouded, fearful face.


In winter, I never see

a glimpse of day.

May the good Lord

keep me safe till waking spring –

I whisper this and pray.


Elsewhere, the words are woven through the images on the page - as in the triptych of ink images in part two. The poems throughout are short, pared down and stark; their meaning sometimes hidden in the images that accompany them. Amidst all this, there is hope and a depth of spirit that weaves through Elaine’s sculptural piece, ‘Fearing’.      


The fearing


From the beginning of an emotion to its gestalt is only

a moment in a life

           Stretched out, it is perceived


At the end of the thread is the fearing

           (no wonder

           it is so often

           turned from)


To smoothly trace a line from stimulus to response

takes sacrifice, a clench of courage

and an investment in the self that


           can only be taken

           when push comes to shove

           and freedom calls


And most often we fail,

and most often we live with a ragged blanket

wrapped around ourselves.


Poems © Steve Thorp, 2014.

trails-image-3 trails-image-4 trails-publicity



Fearing (detail) by Elaine Johnson

Tell Me (detail) by Elaine Johnson

trails 9780992864729