Pratibha Castle’s award-winning pamphlet A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) launches 28 February, 2022. Born in Dublin, Pratibha Castle lives in West Sussex. She had childhood successes as a writer – won a national Cadbury’s essay competition at the age of nine; wrote, directed, and took part in a play presented at her current school. But her confidence was shattered by an incident with her father who made her rip up a school essay revealing her parents’ employment as live-in cook and butler. It was only on her mother’s death that she returned to writing at the age of almost sixty, studying on a BA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. In 2011 she graduated with a first-class honours degree.
Early on, she had a passing love-affair with poetry through the works of T. S. Eliot, poets of WW1 and E. E. Cummings. She rediscovered poetry while studying on the BA, although at that point, and on a subsequent Creative Writing MA, her priority was prose (a novel set in 1960s Notting Hill and India). It was 2019 before Mary Oliver’s passing redirected her gaze towards poetry, both the reading and the writing of it.
Music, dance, writing, art, drama, crafts, cooking, gardening. Throughout her life, Castle has been involved in creativity of one sort or another. Her work as an holistic therapist and facilitator of meditation and healing retreats for women sensitised her to both her own and others’ emotional lives, a quality resonant in poetry described as being ‘of the heart’. A love of music – she played piano, guitar, auto-harp, trained as a classical singer at the now defunct Trinity College of Music – informs her love of rhythm and sound.
Joint winner of the Hedgehog Press Competition Nicely Folded Paper 2019, her work appears in Agenda, Dreich, HU, Raceme, London Grip, Saraswati, Reach, Dawn Treader, Blue Nib, Panoply, amongst others. Winner of the NADFAS poetry competition 2009 (age range 13 – 17), long-listed in The Bridport, and Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize 2021, and the Gloucestershire Poetry Society Competition, she received special mention in both Welsh Poetry and Binsted Arts Competitions, and was Highly Commended in Sentinel Literary Journal and Storytown 2019 Poetry Competitions, short-listed in Hedgehog Poetry Press Postcards from the Hedge: A Bestiary of the Night. A regular reader on Wilts Radio, The Poetry Place, her poems appear in a number of anthologies. Castle is currently completing a second pamphlet, and working on a full collection. She wonders, will she ever finish the novel?
She loves period dramas, spicy food, long walks in nature, the ocean. Sweetly scented blossom. Tchaikovsky, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills and Nash. She also loves to converse with animals and birds, but has a hard time with the heron who swoops out of the dawn, hopeful for a snack of carp. Most of all, she loves poetry.
A Celtic Spell
He kept watch outside the back door from a skeleton forsythia choked past hope by an alpha jasmine. Buffed his beak on a knuckley twig, flounced his tail, bounced down onto the terrace for a wary recce. Gran told tales of Celtic lore, of a blackbird’s luck, how they augured weather, death. In a clutch of days, he wheedled a cranny in my heart. His mystic whistles wooed me, swelled my chest with an ache to shout out secrets. When I hipped a basket to the carousel, he flustered back into the bush. I pegged out socks, a tea towel, baby vest. His onyx eyes, kohled with gold, reminded me of you. Discovering his taste for mealy worms, I bought a tub, ripped off cardboard, bubble wrap, prised open the lid, scattered desiccated corpses. He scrutinised my every move, his tail flick the black fan flirt of a señorita. He fluttered to the worms, bobbed his head from side to side as if negotiating traffic, gobbled. A sparrow came. The blackbird chased him off. The sparrow’s hen risked a peck and scarpered. So did a wren. He greets me now with a chuckle, and a whirr of wings. When I dribble out his feast, he quivers on a flower pot, trumpets a salute, swoops in to dine. The forsythia is showing shoots. I miss the wren.
Waves suck in, spit out, yank you off your feet, pummel empty of breath, thresh you into the shingle. From your mouth, a bubbling plea, heart-pound shout gobbled by the swell. Brighton pier-posts sway, watery smear, crab fluxes into sand, bathers a jungle of blurry legs, blasted-speaker mumbles, squeals. Breath wrung out of you the way your mother’s tough love wrung out the sheet she scrubbed rinsed scoured till her hands were scalded red with washing soda, effort. Puddles on the draining board, the floor; faded pink and gold flamingos on her apron, soaked through to the quill from all that splish splash sluice to erase a stain stubborn as sin coaxing and crooning, the salt tears she wept throughout, parching her to a whip of winter skirmished kelp, did little to appease. And the blight of that day lingered. A haunt in her eyes you puzzled over, like the blood on what you’d thought a blameless sheet.
I choose a druid oak to oversee your journey, rest my back against its gravelled spine, sense its heartbeat syncopate with mine. A winter past we savoured wine sparkled to rubies by adder tongue flickers in the grate, crackling bark, guzzling; the relics, bone chips of log, and ash silky as the apple blossom talc you loved. Next day, you watched me fork the log’s dregs beneath your favourite David Austin. Your last choice patience, you rest now beside the grate in a copper urn. Dawn sweeps away the night as I gather ash and chips in a shovel arthritic with rust, cradle your pot, pad a Gretel trail of golden dapple to your guardian tree, sprinkle ash about its knuckley roots, lift my head to the echo in a blackbird’s eulogy of your song.