Karishma Sangtani

Clay sculpture in response to Jane Routh’s ‘Wind and woods’

Watch Karishma Sangtani’s response to Jane Routh’s poem ‘Wind and woods’, from Listening to the Night

Response to ‘Wind and woods’ by Jane Routh‘ – https://youtu.be/vuRcdzgBaTA

Wind and woods 
by Jane Routh 
gusts battering the Little Wood in full leaf 
heave sway and rollback    heave sway roll back
yet inside it’s quiet    mosses yielding to the foot 
leaf litter, mole workings, sweet smells of decay 
                      (rot, fungus and toadstool) 
wind roar smoothed by the canopy 
to a sound like little waves hissing over sand
quieter still late October after sharp frost 
hazel leaves yellow against blue sky 
and you yourself the only wind – 
make the smallest perturbation of the air 
and they let go all at once puttering to the ground 
(somewhere behind you another leaf fall 
startles in the silence)
millions over the years and more millions
one    settling furtive on the woodland floor 
leaflets crumbling to leafmould, stalk 
black and stiff – still there after rains, after snow 
after more rains, after windflowers and grasses 
here and there bluebells – you’d not notice it come June 
its length pimpled with tiny white specks 
swelling a little    you’d notice 
nothing of this    membranes rupturing
and the millions more millions
of spores surfing the breeze    to settle 
and fail – most falling on grass some falling on tarmac 
some on roofs on brambles onto oak leaves
and some on top of a passing wagon 
which reverses down a track then turns across the wind 
so they’re lifted up and off again   free 
to re-settle their invisible deadliness 
on the clean new leaves of a sapling ash – 
a self-seeded adventurer 
which had been     heading for the sky 
From Listening to the Night  by Jane Routh (Smith|Doorstop, 2019) 

We asked Jane Routh to respond to Karishma’s sculpture and how she came to write ‘Wind and woods’:

“How pleasing to hear/ see a poem has a life of its own and can spark creative work in a different medium! Using film and duration that’s defined by music and reading seems to ensure you the viewer stay focussed on the maker’s process – quite different from how a poem is offered to its readers.

What sparked the poem itself? I wrote it in 2016 after finding the first signs of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus on a young tree here; I notified the Forestry Commission, sent details and photographs – it was the first reported from this area.

After generations of ash trees and falling leaves, the poem tracks the ash die-back fungus at work – growing on stalks of fallen leaves then sending out spores the following summer. It was fuelled by anger about the then Prime Minster’s assertion that fungus spores simply blew vast distances over here from Europe against the prevailing winds. The first infections were at the ports in the south east: not only were we importing diseased nursery stock (our bio-security is dreadful), the lorries that brought it were driving through the source of infection… which is why a ‘passing wagon’ comes to be spreading spores in the poem. We ourselves have done far more spreading than the wind. (Do I have to say David Cameron sparked that poem?)

I think Karishma Sangtani has also researched Hymenoscyphus fraxineus in detail. (Either that, or we have delightful serendipity at play here.) In her making process, the first glaze she mixes to pour over her clay is purple. The first sign of infection you see on an ash twig is a purple diamond-shaped lesion where it entered a leaf axil. Then, as the tree seals off the infected tissue, the twig takes on orange colour – the second glaze we see poured is an orange one. I’ll be looking at twigs in future and wishing their colourations could be un-poured.”

Pages from Jane’s notebook commemorating the ash tree in question

More from Karishma Sangtani