Fungal Architecture

This poem was written for the Hot Poets participation project, linking poets & scientists together to imagine a better possible future. During a six-week programme a group of poets were tasked to research the spark of an idea with a positive environmental impact, then connect with a scientist working in that area to find out more. While researching mycelium and mycorrhizal fungi I came across Andy Adamatzky, Professor of Unconventional Computing at UWE, in my hometown of Bristol. I knew my poem had to be about his fascinating and mind-blowing work with fungal computers and the Fungal Architectures research project.

Fungal Architecture

I’m dreaming of sipping tea
in 2053
dirt under my fingernails
from digging in the musty shroomy earth
nutritious leafy loam.

Rain pitters on the window
and my sensory home knows
warms up just a little
dims the light down as I doze.

This building has mycelium ceilings –
tiny interwoven filaments
fungal threads that twine in tree roots
and through my mushroom walls.

Mycelium is free and shoots up fast
this house was bloomed in just two weeks
grown in a single monolithic piece
from fungi bound on frames of wasted cellulose –
discarded food, biomass
banana skins, coffee grounds, orange peel
and other stuff too tough to eat.

My clean home breathes, body warm
and nestles in within the trees –
smells of creamy stroganoff
I breathe it in deliciously.
Nearly sentient, this wall can feel my touch
when I lean my palm upon its velvet skin.
On the edge of thinking
my unconventional shroom computer
not quite conscious, makes smart decisions
senses when my hormones are out of whack or I am full of stress
filters air, nourishes, adjusts my meds.

We can quickly grow more homes
sustainable, living suedey rooms that gently biodegrade –
no chems, no trails – just slip away
decompose beneath our feet
when the need has gone.

Outside, wild boars forage at the tree roots
for truffles which are
talking to their mycorrhizal cousins.
My home is grown on mounds of
yesterday’s land, filling our futures
with soft-edged places
symbiotic relationships
within these mycelium walls.

Writing a bio

It’s a bit fraught, isn’t it, writing a biography?

First person, third person?
Too self-effacing, too egotistic?
Too tongue in cheek, too earnest?

I’ll be one of the scratch poets at the wonderful Tonic spoken word night next week – they offered a bit of advance promo if I could supply a short bio. So I dashed this one off in a few minutes.

It feels OK today. Maybe I’ll hate it tomorrow.

Beccy Golding is a late bloomer, discovering her identity as a poet in her 50s, currently exploring all manner of poetic possibilities to see which hats fit best. A lot of her stuff is about women and ageing, family and loss. Someone recently described her poems as creating a “physical, visceral, slightly weird sense world.”*

* The fabulous Chris Redmond of Tongue Fu spoken word project said this about my poems, as feedback at our end-of-course online showcase a few weeks ago. I scribbled it down, I didn’t ask if I could – I’m assuming he won’t mind.

Poetry as mindfulness, poetry as noticing

The state of ‘poet’ currently feels like a perpetual state of noticing – noticing what I see and naming it, noticing what I feel and naming it, noticing thoughts and following them until they dwindle or reach a conclusion or until I notice something else.

The noticing is about ‘being here’, being mindful of the moment I am in and how it feels. I am doing this from time to time, when I can, but it is certainly not a constant state of being – my mind wanders; I realise I have missed crucial plot points or conversations, or that I have been paddling about in an imagined future, or misremembered past. And sometimes I become aware that this is the case.

I enjoy noticing thoughts I’ve been having all week, or for months, sometimes for years – finally noticing them enough to articulate them in words, or into an image or feeling made from words. I find external prompts and exercises in workshops and courses are often a great way into these for me – also an amazing way into fantastic worlds and creative scenarios my brain makes for me like a ribbon unravelling, without any prior notice.

A while ago I was writing reviews of shows and gigs for South Bristol Voice and found this to be very useful practice for noticing – from neighbourhood pantos and community theatre to folk gigs, to full-on theatre performances and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, to touring musicals and the Welsh National Opera at Bristol Hippodrome (spoiler – opera doesn’t do it for me) – and I got better at it the more I did it, noticing music and how my body reacted, noticing the judgments that were happening under the surface that before I might not have been conscious of, and trying to capture an honesty and clarity about it all.

Mindfulness as a route into clowning and fooling with Holly Stoppit and Franki Anderson has been a crucial part of developing my noticing skills. Using the breath and other mindfulness techniques to get in a headspace, taking the time to register and recognise my thoughts and feelings, and physical sensations, in the moment –- and acting on them – voicing them – moving into them.

It’s a raising to consciousness of all the things that are going on – how does my body feel, react? Noticing me, my, mine – and also observing out – like a painter who captures scenes that may not be considered beautiful – or word sketching of nature and non-nature, reportage of the world around me.

How can I capture these things that have been captured before, through my voice, my senses and mind?

– light on water
– fluffy white clouds
– vistas
– the beauty of nature
– the love of family and friends
– the down days

I have to start by really noticing how they make me feel and following the threads of thoughts that arise.

Here are some of the daily poems that I’ve written and posted on @FridayIsPoetsDay – some of the ones that come particularly from moments of noticing. 

Documentation & the important role of notebooks

This documentation appeals to me, daily poems mostly informed by my daily life… perhaps this documentation is instead of a diary? I am writing it – it happened. Maybe some day someone will notice or be interested that I did those things.

Beccy Golding, July 2021

My daily poems on Instagram as @FridayIsPoetsDay often capture thoughts or moments from my day, though not always. It feels like documentation through poetry.

Documentation works for me as a way of noticing that I have really done stuff, achieved things – it’s easy for me to not notice or feel like I haven’t done anything positive for weeks on end – seeing lists ticked off and spreadsheets full of entries is like a metaphorical ding, ding ding.

pile of multi coloured and different size and shared notebooks, lying on a green carpet

The use of notebooks is instinctive rather than a calculated decision. Something about the size, shape, colour, texture, the line spacing etc tells me what the notebook’s job will be. This is probably why I have a drawer full of unused ones and yet still buy more. Notebooks in shops are so alluring and full of positive potential. I haven’t found exactly the right use for the ones in the drawer yet but they wait there patiently, full of hope.

I am a natural documenter, taking notes & snaps, keeping lists of quotes from family, friends & colleagues, etc. This is the instinctive administrator in me – my Radical Admin. I have tried to drop the impulse to be the archive keeper too – now it’s easier not to keep ticket stubs etc when sales are online, which helps. For nearly two decades I was the keeper of the family photos and paperwork, after my folks died, but more recently I’ve been able to share that role with my brothers, and discard stuff I’ve held onto since my parents’ deaths at the turn of the century.

Ways I am documenting my poetry/DYCP year:

colourful print outs of spreadhseets, lying aon a gree carpet

Excel spreadsheet

Recording aspects of DYCP grant

  • recording time spent, with categories such as courses, shows, mentoring etc
  • budget & money spent
  • list of donated prompts and when/if they’ve been used
large black scrapbook with colourful pages showing at edges, lying on a green carpet

Scrapbook

Black, with white pages & additional multi-coloured pages inserted, A3

  • quick-reference guide and thinking-dump,
  • lists of short-form poetry rules
  • tips for ways into writing
  • list of bubbling thoughts so they don’t get away
  • brainstorm of Things That Have Given Me Ideas
  • some poets I have seen live/enjoyed reading
  • Instructions For Being A Poet & rituals for writing
notebook with black rubber cover and rainbow page edges, lying on a green carpet

Notebook

Black rubberised cover, rainbow-edged pages, A5

  • practical
  • recording thoughts and themes
  • to do lists
  • diary of the garden retreat
rainbow sequineed notebook lying on a green carpet

Notebook

Rainbow-sequinned, A5

  • recording mentoring sessions with Anita and related To Do lists
  • rainbows if stroked one way, silver if stroked the other
  • reminds me of an amazing sequinned jacket Anita owns
a pink cardboard folder, open to pages of typed writing, lying on a green carpet

Folder

Pink cardboard, A4

  • print outs of poems I’ve been working on
  • previous life as a folder for meeting notes when I worked at The Spark – still says that on the front and spine
3 black notebooks with red elastic page marker, lying on a green carpet

Notebook x3

Black n Red, red elastic, B5

  • all numbered, about to start #4
  • each page is numbered with space for date
  • contents page at front
  • I really like this size and format – these are my favourite ‘proper’ notebooks for doing ‘proper’ stuff in – I have a stack of 4 new ones, still wrapped, ready and waiting
  • notes and writing from writing courses
  • some free writes
1 green and 1 balck diary, both with stickers on them, lying on a green carpet

Diaries x2

Moleskin 18-month weekly notebook / diary planner, A5

  • dates of the week on left, lined page for notes on right
  • this format really works for me – my brother showed me his and I liked it
  • currently on crossover between July 2020 – December 2021 and July 2021 – December 2022
  • stickers my own
colourful A5 notebook embossed with Moomin images and landscape

Notebook

Colourful, Moomins-embossed, A5

  • Christmas gift from my son
  • notes from clown courses & fooling sessions
Black, orange and red covered A4 notebook, lying on a green carpet

Notebook

Easybook small squared paper

  • irregular morning pages/free writes
  • small squares & close spacing make pages look satisfyingly intense when complete – takes a perfect 20-30mins to write one page
  • tried to replace, price on Amazon £51
bright blue A4 exercise book, lying on a green carpet

Notebook

Blue Silvine lined exercise book – one of a multi-coloured bundle of 10, used mainly for work, A4

  • first-draft poems rough book
  • poem-a-day roughs

black notebook with red ringbinding and coloured page dividers showing on the right side, lying on a green carpet

Notebook

Wire-ring bound, black plastic cover, multi-coloured curved page dividers, lined, A5

  • unused as yet
  • purpose undecided

Notebooks x3

White/black/green velvet, A6 (not pictured)

  • live beside sofa and/or in bags for quick random thought-capturing
  • more useful if a pen is kept close by

See also…

  • desk drawer full of unused notebooks…

Poem for Jen Bell

In one of our regular FB Assembly morning gatherings  – a wish swap hosted by my friend Jen Bell – her wish was for someone to write her a poem. I asked if it should have a particular theme and she said:

“Can it be somehow about the importance of caring about yourself, even when it’s hard, or you don’t feel you know how? Or even if it has to be a kind of secret?”

With massive thanks to Holly Stoppit for teaching me the hand-on-heart technique and showing me where my vulnerability lives.

Poem for Jen Bell

The kitten of self care
is all black fluff
and light as a feather
it can sit in the palm of your hand

you can schmuzzle your face
and breathe it in
sea side and citrus
cut grass and raspberries

it hides in shadows
and when it feels the need
it will hunkerdown
wiggle its back end
and surprise you with a pounce
of soothing songs
pink pad massages
whisker tickles for butterfly kisses

when you are resting
it will curl into your collarbone
and purr with your breathing
breathe into you comfort
til you feel its tiny heart slowing
secret existence
special only for you

sometimes like magic
you will ride on its back
you tiny, it giant
galloping to vistas and forests
volcanoes and caves
and shimmering soft beaches

self care is not just roses and wooing
begging forgiveness for years of neglect
Grand Canyon-sized romance
Here is a secret – with thanks to the wise fool who told me

this kitten of black fluff
lives in a nest
of feathers and dewdrops
safe in your chest

lay your hand on your heart
– lets do it now –
rest it there lightly
close your eyes for a moment
pause there with stillness

think kindly of this silly wee cat
as it wobbles about
wide eyed at the world
yet curled up in a ball
in a nest of your ribs
doing it’s best but a little confused

this is Schrödinger’s kitten
both inside your heart
and here in your hand

say in your mind, if you like
hello kitten
send it an awww
love it for it’s foolishness
doing what it can
in an incomprehensible world

and then if you’re brave
make a tiny shy stroke
with the velvet paw of your thumb

tilt your head to one side
soft focus your eyes
maybe you’ll chuckle, maybe you’ll cry
maybe after a while
you’ll use your whole hand
to stroke your tender fragile feline heart

you can take this action while resting
and in public places
only the others
with heart shaped kittens will notice
your actions and nod in recognition
and if you have a sudden jolt of tension
of fear or of grief
whisper
it’s OK kitten
I am here, we are here
together, inside and out

the rain may racket on the window
thunder may rumble
but we are safe for now

And when you drop your hand
that touch lingers on
paw print imprint
pouncing gently when you need it
light as a feather

black fluff kitten
surreptitious thumb stroke
self gift of radical cat care