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Morag Smith is a Cornish poet, painter, writer, and performer. She graduated as a mature student, last year, with a first in Creative Writing from Falmouth University, and won the prize for best dissertation. Zen Buddhist practice is at the center of all her work. She writes for peace, equality, and enlightened awareness. As a New Traveller, she has brought her children up, close to nature, sometimes living in houses and at other times in trucks and caravans. She writes about her own experiences, within a ravaged landscape, and bears witness to the poverty of the people, who mined metal till the Cornish mines were closed. Her first book, Spoil, was published by Broken Sleep Books in October 2021. She is now finishing a book, Oceana, about plastic pollution in our oceans that is a collaboration with the painter Yasmine Davies and the Clean Ocean Sailing charity. She is working on a novel for young adults, Blametaker as well as two books for children, Boy on the Hill and The High-flying Skydiving Chocolate Robbery.


Morag Christina Smith, aged…..52…fingers all tied together; knotty apron strings that dangle children over the edge of the world. Only me holding them, one for every finger, some are dead.

I was born in the woods in Cornwall: a Heligan baby, back when the gardens were still lost. When I was two, the government stole my brothers, and sent them to Australia, to be slaves (a disease, particularly Cornish); and London, to yearn for lost siblings, a life’s work. I was left behind, having a different sort of blood, but poverty robbed me of my birthright: the furious sea, the keening of the gulls, the darkness of the woods. Where could I go?

Trailing torn roots, dropping my Celtic soil into an Anglo-Saxon world, muddying its wall-to-wall carpets with my peasant’s shoes.  I was different, a world apart: worried about nuclear war, the rights of animals and humans, scribbling poems in exercise books. I made my own clothes, wore boots for kicking back. Ran away with the gypsies as soon as I could, to the sweet steam of horses on frosty mornings.

I came back to Cornwall in a van when I was twenty-one. I had two small children but I wanted six, inspired by the reading of my childhood: 5 Children and It, Little House on the Prairie, Narnia, Middle Earth, Earthsea. This was where I had gone to escape the aggressive Essex town I grew up in. I wanted my kids to have each other, have fantastic adventures together.

I’ve lived in Cornwall ever since. In houses, caravans, trucks. I’ve brought my children up by myself. They are my community, though now it’s spread across the world.

I’d been a self-employed odd-jobber for years. Supporting my art with cleaning, gardening, and teaching. I’ve made films, painted pictures, performed poems, produced puppet shows, given Falmouth murals, welded sculptures, concreted statues, painted stages, illustrated books, sewed costumes and clothes.

Four years ago, I went to the University to study Creative Writing. It was wonderful. I learned so much: what a noun was, where to use a comma, how to edit my poetry, how to bring a book to print. I won the Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival’s Shorelines competition, which introduced me to Falmouth Poetry Group and the local poets who went to it. University gave me the experience of being immersed in a community of writers, I loved my teachers for that. I came out with a first for my degree and a prize for the best dissertation of my year.

I emerged from academia into the fear of contagion. A world changed, where plans to promote my soon-to-be-published poetry book, Spoil, at festivals, was no longer possible.

So I bought a truck and spent last summer converting it into a mobile home and study for me and my youngest daughter, Betty. Now Spoil has been published by Broken Sleep Books I want to travel to all kinds of communities, reading and running workshops around the themes I investigate through the poetry: my relationship and connection with the land: her rock and her history, my history, Cornish post-mine-poverty, New Travellers, prejudice, and the Bal Maidens. In Spoil I challenge the boundaries we put up that separate us from the earth and from each other. My workshops encourage participants to break down what divides them from their planet and experience her as a part of themselves. Writing into this experience and taking away with them relationship and responsibility.

I love to perform my poems for a live audience, I feel so connected, It’s so direct. I want to help keep poetry live by organising safe, well managed events. Going to communities and groups, using their venues, Reading from my book and creating an opportunity for local artists, poets and people to also share their work.

At the moment I am working on a new poetry collection called Oceana, a collaboration with painter Yasmine Davies, and the Clean Ocean Sailing charity. The poetry is ready to turn into a book now, we are self-publishing so that all the money can go to the charity. I will be taking the poetry, the book and a range of workshops around its theme of ocean plastic pollution to as wide an audience as I can reach. Running solar powered events in rural outdoor locations, at festivals, or in schools, arts centres, or village halls. Setting up beach cleaning groups and putting participants in touch with the work that COS do. Inspiring people to join in and do what they can to heal the planet. Again, breaking down the illusion that we exist separate from the ocean.

I use poetry to help people forge a new relationship with water in all its contexts, within and without.

When people acutely realise that what’s hurting the earth and the ocean hurts them, then they are driven to relieve that pain, then they will protect and care for it all newly.

I am a Zen Buddhist, spinning the world in the palm of my hand, connected to all that is.

I am the brave, I am the strong, I am Traveller, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend. I am the writer, the secret painter, I am the film maker, the poet, and the welder. I’ve seen a loophole, a crack in the structure, follow me people, I’ve found a way out.

I am Joshin, which is Japanese for Pure Heart. I was given this name by my teacher Tenkai Roshi, when I received the precepts from him in 2011. I study with him in the North of Holland in an international temple called Zen River. As a student of Zen Buddhism I can trace the lineage I belong to right back to the Buddha himself. Zen underpins everything else in my life, the realisation that I am a part of everything and everyone, drives me to find ways to establish equality and peace for myself and my fellow human beings. I am convinced it is the answer to the problems of the world, the teachings show ways we can bring about world peace, end hunger and poverty, and evolve ourselves spiritually. I work hard at my meditation practice so that I may be more effective in what I do. I hope one day to have my own temple and teach Zen full time. I am working closely with Jitei White who runs the Zen Peace Center in Lancaster. I will be moving to Lancaster in the Spring and together we will be growing the Sangha and beginning to build the temple. Love, Peace, and Gassho –Joshin

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