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  Top » Catalog » Pages » Webzine
October 09: On the Origin of Species, a new poem by Alan M Kent

How did we evolve, to become we;
    us lowly Indo-European, West Britons
    who stanked delirious, across the still-warm
    bubbling mass of Europe
    to end up on these catacombed chaotic Cassiterides,
        which we call home.

I mine you for knowledge,
    just like you on HMS Beagle,
    wanting to dig and wedge out by spade and gad
        that newly-found sturt of rock-locked DNA.

    We've come through though,
just like your Galápagos finches.
We dart, like them, praying,
that we will survive the struggle,
and that those less suited will not make it.
    As you say, Charles, just nature's way.
Those who survive, leave their inheritance traits
for the next generation of us.
    You know them already: saffron, song and 'Wozon boy?'
But yes, environments change over time, and
so we form new varieties, new species.

    Is that why we stoop?
Centuries of crouched down in adit or shaft.
    Is that why our hands are rough?
Millennia of hauling packed nets up from the deep.
    Is that I why we speak funny?
Clanking out g'eat aeons of gaking and gabbling.
    Clicky tongues and clicky-handedness
        that are dabbered right through our souls. 

    And there is weirdness. Oddities.
    Things you can't explain.
When selection said, your tongue will die,
    we at once accepted it.
        Saw the last of the species rot and die
        to become a plaque in Mousehole.
        This was the genus named Pentreath.
    We wrote it off.
        Brought in antiquarians
            to catalogue the way we'd named the earth,
                just so we could move on, and forget.

        But no.

We jumped,    
        made a regression,        
                    did not follow type,
and evolved once more, regurgitating that tongue,
to make it chewable again.

And though our tongue had grown in new ways,
it still felt natural, right, inherited.
We chitter now like your finches Darwin.
Our jaws sound words like Caragarooja,
     as if giant tortoises grinding their beaks
        and straining to sing in male-voice choirs.

    So, still here, despite…

…all those processes to make us unstable,
to help us fail to transmute,
so that  even beneficial design,
periodical annihilation
would be covered in water
even like Noye's flood
in Gwryans an Bys.

Natural selection then.
There's where we belong t'be,
    sat like some marine iguana
        – amid the foam and froth –
            upon our ancient rock of Celt.

Salt upon our hardened, calloused skin,
    – we wait patiently –
        for the next sturt of DNA.


Alan M. Kent was born in St Austell, Cornwall, in 1967. He is a prize-winning poet, novelist and dramatist and author and editor of a number of works on Cornish and Anglo-Cornish literature, including Looking at the Mermaid, a Reader in Cornish Literature 900–1900, two anthologies of Anglo-Cornish poetry, Voices from West Barbary and The Dreamt Sea, and an acclaimed translation of the Cornish Mystery play cycle, The Ordinalia. Three of his  plays are published by Francis Boutle Publishers: Oogly es Sin, The Tin Violin and Surfing Tommies.

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Regular Cornish language classes with Mick Paynter.

London. The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery permanent exhibition of women in medicine.

First Sunday of every month, Redruth. Shout with the Red River singers.

Second Wednesday of every month, Luxulyan. Prys Ton – Cornish Music Session.

Until 6 January 2018, Southend. Exhibition – From Mile End to Mayfair: The East London Group & their contemporaries.

until 17 December 2017, Bow, London. Exhibition – The Working Artist: The East London Group.

20 October 2017, Penryn, Cornwall. Cornish songs from the Red River Singers at the National Dialect Festival 2017.

20–22 October 2017, Penryn, Cornwall. National Dialect Festival 2017.

25 October 2017, Bangor Universoty. Cyflwyno The Old Red Tongue / Introducing The Old Red Tongue.

2 November 2017, St Columb Major, Cornwall. Hark! A talk about Cornish carols by Sally Burley and Hilary Coleman.

9 November 2017, Bodmin, Cornwall. Talk by Paul Holden on the architect Richard Coad.

16 November 2017, Liskeard, Cornwall. Paul Holden gives the Inaugural George Vaughan-Ellis RIBA Memorial Lecture.

26 November 2017, Heartlands, Cornwall. Red River Singers at the Weekend Market.

29 November 2017, London. Paul Holden talk on Princes to Paupers: portraiture in the Lanhydrock photographic collection.

14 December 2017, Bodmin, Cornwall. Shout at Picrous Night.

22 December 2017, St Day, Cornwall. Carols with the red River Singers and the Carharrack & St Day Silver Band.

24 December 2017, Tregajorran, Cornwall. Christmas Eve carols in the Square.

29 November 2017, London. Paul Holden talk on “Estate Mapping at its Finest”: the Lanhydrock Atlas, 1696.