Greenwriting by Katy Bentall
Poems and prose, drawings and paintings by Katy Bentall
A 192-page book chock-full of Katy Bentall’s poetry, prose, and artwork about quotidian, seasonal, and creative rhythms in the Polish countryside.
Today on my ridge walk I go as far as the river, turning off down the secret path. I am going to see Peter’s boat. There it is, like a crocodile. I think twice before stepping onto it, but if I am to get close to the water without my feet disappearing into the squelchy grey mud, I must.
Sitting in the boat, leaning over and watching my reflection; taking off my shoes and walking back barefoot. That’s me.
And barefoot goes Katy Bentall through Greenwriting, a collection of her drawings, watercolors, poems, and prose-poetry dispatches from this patch of the Polish countryside.
Greenwriting unfolds from room to room in Katy’s wooden house, climbing the staircase between the boiler in the basement and the atelier under the roof. From the vantage of her patio and a ritual footpath, Katy explores the landscape around the house, which is tucked against the base of an escarpment between riverbanks and orchards thick with neighbors. And she whisks the reader to the marketplace in town, where we meet mainstays like Pear Man and Oregano Lady, Thyme Lady and Honey Man, purveyors of produce and snippets of local news.
The result is an intimate mapping of a small world richly populated by rooted locals (some booted, some hoofed) and wayfaring seeds and birds; and the contemplative diary of a poet-artist transplanted from England seeking to closely observe and document the lived environment around her.
Listen to Katy Bentall in conversation with Dobromiła Dobro about Greenwriting, on Radio Kapitał (Warsaw), recorded on the back porch of Katy’s house amidst an audience of jubilant birds.
Edition of 500; 2nd printing of 500 (forthcoming, Oct 2023)
192 pages, paperback, 10×14 cm, color offset, sewn & glued
Printed on Arctic Munken Print Cream 115 and Pure Rough 300
Designed by Pilar Rojo and Stefan Lorenzutti
Afterword by Louise Steinman (listen to Louise read the opening passage of her afterword)
Katy Bentall is an artist and poet. She is the author of five zines: Pear Man, Ribbon Lady, The Fleur, 2 Tomato Ladies, and the forthcoming Tale of the Sea Stick (Punnet Press, 2020–2022); and two artist’s books, Positions and Pracownia (Salix alba, 2017 and 2020). Greenwriting is the result of Katy’s two-year collaboration with Bored Wolves. She divides her seasons between the countryside of eastern Poland, where she collects sticks, stones, and seeds, and the East Anglian coast (UK), where she collects flotsam and jetsam. She is currently at work on Promenade Pearls (Bored Wolves, 2023), a strolling study of the port town of Felixstowe, England.
Something of May (an extract from Greenwriting)
May strings its sentences together as if it was making a daisy chain. Summer comes in the least expected moments, when no one is looking, or can’t as it is raining and raining. Then the rain stops and on looking out we see that everything has grown so big, so lush. But the white blossom still speckles the Skarpa and I go to pick a few twigs to put in a brown teapot. They look pretty on the blue-checked tablecloth beside a china cup and a book.
The patch close to the fence is now a blanket of yellow dandelion heads. The single flower that I was drawing two days ago is no longer single. There are three. I know what I want to paint next. Dandelions gone to seed. A light-greyish watercolor wash for a background and with pale white paint and pencil-mark circles for the seed heads. With each passing day, the May daises grow taller, but still they are nothing more than pin-top buds at the end of spindly stalks.
The long skinny man is up on the ridge pulling his small cart behind him. He comes to gather the flotsam that seasonal flooding has washed up onto the low fields. The waters have only recently receded and the river is still swollen. Its banks are just beginning to reappear and take back their shape.
Today on my ridge walk, I go as far as the river, turning off down the secret path. I am going to see Peter’s boat. There it is, like a crocodile. I think twice before stepping onto it, but if I am to get close to the water without my feet disappearing into the squelchy grey mud, I must.
Sitting in the boat, leaning over and watching my reflection; taking off my shoes and walking back barefoot. That’s me. Hearing the nightingale singing in the willows and the frogs croaking loudly in the reeds. (At night, you can leave your bedroom window open and listen to the chorus and smell the thick scent of growth because there are no mosquitoes. Yet.)
Eeyore’s broken home, a big bundle of dark-colored flotsam sticks, lies tangled together on the ridge slope now, a fragment of a scene from a Caspar David Friedrich painting.
As I reach home, the rosy campions catch my eye. Pink dots in a green sea. We share a conversation. In comparison with them, I am a pale thing.
Pear Man’s Roses (an extract from Greenwriting)
Every autumn, an old gentleman brings a box of smoked pears to the market in Kazimierz. They are dark, wrinkled things that he sells by the kilo, known as a Polish Christmas delicacy and always difficult for me to resist.
That is why I call him Pear Man.
He sells fresh pears, too, in late summer, and a variety of other seasonal fruits: cherries, apples, red currants, gooseberries, and raspberries. (He rarely comes in winter.) Sitting in the open-booted back of his car, he places his boxes directly in front of him on the ground so that you have to lean down to pick up what you want to buy.
I have a secret. A secret rose moment that’s taken me all this time to write down exactly as it happened. It’s about the worst thing I can remember ever (not) doing: not buying Pear Man’s roses.
One August, he brought to market a bunch of huge dark crimson and yellow blooms. As with Thyme Lady, I think that all he had wanted to do was share—the smell—and not watch his roses die in his own garden. But they were already wilting and the petals were dropping one by one onto the stones below. I looked at them for quite a long time and sensed that Pear Man was observing me observing them. That’s how it goes with market sellers. They study you carefully to see if you are interested in anything they have for sale. There is a certain discomfort in this—in knowing you are being so closely watched.
A fleeting thought crossed my mind: even if I were to buy these roses, the blooms would probably fall apart the second they were lifted from the pot. So, I walked away without them. I felt bad at the time. I still feel bad. I can’t imagine anyone else would have bought them.
And to think. I could have dried those petals, pressed and then arranged them in a lovely composition to hang in a frame on the wall and call Pear Man’s Rose Petals.