“When the Singing Stopped” by Karin Mear


a poem by Rachel Carney in response to ‘When the Singing Stopped’ by Karin Mear

a cage of feathers, light as breath, a flare
amid the groan and roar, a song
flung from the womb of the earth,

spark against the fading grey, a burst
of life from fragile lungs, seam
of yellow through each day, and

out, she comes, through paint,
through chalk, through wood, glass,
clay, through dance, through words,

bright against the black of coal –
this slim figure sings on, deep
beneath the surface of the world


A note from the artist

Karin Mear, about ‘When the Singing Stopped’:

“This piece is about pit closures with canaries representing the death of the coal industry in Wales. I chose to use canaries as I was very upset when I learnt about their role, as a child. They were used to detect gases underground and the first indication that there was something wrong was that they’d stop singing.”

You can explore Karin’s online exhibition “Coal Tips and Patty Tins”, here.


Reflections on the writing process

“I spent a long time thinking about what Karin said, and then I wondered what the song of a canary actually sounds like, so I found a clip of one singing online. I listened, and began to write words and phrases to describe this unique bird and what it might represent. I was also struck by the stark contrast of yellow feathers against the black of the coal mine. As I wrote, I realised what a perfect metaphor this bird is, not just for the decline of the coal industry, but also for the fragility of what people have created since: the artwork, the craft, the determination and the sense of community that lives on in the Cynon Valley, despite the struggle and hardship this area has had to face.”


About the Virtual Poet in Residence

This poem is part of a series written during the Coronavirus pandemic, in response to online exhibitions, and blog post research undertaken by artists and volunteers in partnership with Cynon Valley Museum. You can read more of  Rachel Carney’s work during this residency over on the Poet in Residence page. Rachel is a poet, book blogger and PhD student, and she’s also spent several years working in museums. Her PhD research explores the benefits of using creative writing in art museums, and she’s particularly interested in examining the writing process. You can find out more about her work and PhD on her blog.

The Cynon Valley Museum Trust, like so many others during this pandemic, have suffered a loss of income. We are working hard behind the scenes to fundraise as well as provide options to explore the Cynon valley’s heritage, art, and culture, through projects such as this Residency. If you enjoyed this and would like to support us more, please consider making a donation. You can do so by following this link.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search

Accessibility Toolbar