May Day Letter

Dear Catriona

I awoke this morning thinking about you, as I’ve done on most May Day mornings since your departure on May Day thirteen years ago. Of course you’ve never really gone away, as I still think of you a dozen times every day, recalling our conversations and the times we shared. Your voice, your laughter and your presence are as familiar to me in imagination as ever they were in life, and though I wonder whether one day my recollections of you may start to slip their tethers, right now it feels as though you’ve only just left the room. So here I am again, writing to you to tell you how much I miss you still, holding on and bringing you back by dint of that trick of conjuring a greatly missed presence through the art of remembering and storytelling.


We shared a love of storytelling, you and I. You had great skills for taking histories and weaving them into narratives, including the magnificent feat of reimagining my late father into your suite of poems, The Mare’s Tale. You and Trevor were such friends. Only a friend could have taken his recollections and forged them into something as moving as you crafted to accompany the drawings I made in an outpouring of grief for him. Peter often says that my grasp of facts can be somewhat interpretive, but it can’t be denied that I learned much from you, a master of the art of how to take chaos, to face it down, to order it and bend it into shape until it becomes something fine. And now I do the same, ordering the tangle of memories and loss, until the next time I get caught out and have to start the process all over again. I know now that while I breathe there will always be the imminence of chaos, and the repeated processes of gathering and curating memories into stories, ordering them and making sense. It’s a bit like tidying drawers that have become muddled with too much stuff rattling around!

Jack died a couple of months ago. Another thread broken. He was a young dog thirteen years ago when he lay across your legs while you were quietly dying in your bed, softly calling his name and curling your fingers into his coat for comfort. And just ten days ago, Pip Koppel, who gave Jacket-the-puppy to us, died too, at the home she shared with us for a year while we looked for a house here in west Wales.


When my grieving for you was at its most raw, Peter and I were living with Pip. She often noticed and asked me what was wrong, though I could never explain because at the time I had no words for what I was feeling. So she took me into her pottery workshop and together we threw clay and made things, and sadness was pummelled and beaten and reshaped into vessels.

Dec11 011.jpg

With Pip gone, the list of those I miss grows longer. I keep making art. They hold those I’ve loved closer to my heart, these stories, paintings, drawings and reinventions. Chaos into order. Pain into creation. Darkness into light.


I miss you still. With all my love, Clive







7 thoughts on “May Day Letter

  1. Oh, I didn’t know about Pip! I’ve been too busy, I suppose. I am sorry; I’ve often thought of that day at her house. Well, this makes me miss the dead I barely knew and those I never met.

  2. A very moving piece Clive.
    Also, I am very sad to hear of Pip Koppel’s passing. As I write this note I am glancing up to my treasured painting that you did of Arenig in which the foliated jug that you produced with Pip is featured. I love telling visitors the story of James Dickson Innes and Augustus John who loved this mountain. I will now emphasise Pip Koppel’s contribution.
    Difficult times Clive but the memories of those dear ones who have left us last forever.

  3. Clive, I’m sad to hear that Pip is gone — what a beautiful and poignant picture that is, of her and Jack. So long as we can create, and remember, these dear ones are with us, and we have the chance to give them new life by sharing them in stories with others, as you do all the time. Thank you, and I am sorry for this grief and loss, but know it myself: it’s part of the privilege of living on.

  4. I’m so sad to hear that Pip has gone too, a little woman with a huge heart, and such a character, I’m glad to have met her, she was so welcoming to us, making huge homemade pizzas in that unique kitchen studio, I remember our lunches there so clearly.
    I wish I had known Catriona, as she was so very special to you, a wonderful kindred spirit who gave you memories of joy even though you still grieve. You’ve been given that bitter sweet pill of loving and losing quite a lot lately, you must wonder if it will ever cease. Thinking of you both ……xxxxL

  5. Dear Clive
    There is a time, when so many of our loved ones are gone, that one begins to feel guilty of being alive. But you and Peter still have each other.

    And, while you still live and remember all that are gone , they are still alive in you. And in all of us who have read your stories about them, and seen their photos, and their videos, and read their texts, or admired their work thanks to you.. So, you see, while you share them with us, you keep them alive.

  6. Very sorry to read about Pip. Yes, the list of those we miss grows longer. This I know so well. Let us write, make art and music, and make sense of all of this as we remember all those who have crossed to that other room.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s