Tuesday 10 April 2012

Postcard 82: Changing Tack

Laugharne, home of Dylan Thomas

I have left South Wales and am now living in Suffolk, UK. Thank you for reading this blog, which I may update from time to time, but meanwhile you can follow my wildlife and literary endeavours at the links below ...

Monday 21 March 2011

Postcard 81: a gnarled oak ~ James Brush

My thanks to James Brush, who sent me this beautiful chapbook of 'Haiku-esque' micro-poems all the way from Texas, USA. The blue edge is just a Photoshopped background to ensure that 'a gnarled oak, 2010' shows up on my page.

James prepared this exquisite collection of micro-poetry himself under the aegis of his Coyote Mercury Press, and I feel very privileged to be the recipient of a hand-crafted limited edition.

The poems were apparently largely the fruit of James' perambulations, often with his dogs, in his local area. James re-casts his familiar landscape in a new guise, capturing those little moments that can so easily pass us by: 'it's about actively trying to re-see' the world around him, he explains.

The collection is divided into four seasonal sections, each prefaced with an accompanying photograph. Birds wing their way into a number of these pages. We encounter 'Hawk and Crow' in the Spring poems; 'Purple martins' streak through the Summer; the telltale sound of the 'Chicka-dee-dee-dee' permeates Fall (our UK autumn) - and fogbound mockingbirds and wrens make their entrance in Winter. 

James' world seems a tranquil place on the surface, but there are little ripples and ruffles, ensuring that a sense of reality is never far beneath the surface. We note the gathering of clouds, a 'broken bird nest', 'a barbwire fence', the short span of the dragonfly ... but despite these little hints that there are cracks in the ice, the writer conveys a serene and compelling acceptance of the world in his view.

The poems are exquisite little jewels - or perhaps 'breaths', in the language of Haiku. Thank you, James, for sharing this universe in microcosm.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Postcard 80: Thoughts sparked by Gray and a Country Churchyard

Cambridge, where 'Gray's Elegy' may have been composed

'The curfew tolls the knell ...' 

Many of us can recite this much of Gray's 'Elegy written in a Country Churchyard'. How many of us, though, know anything much about the background to the poem? I was delighted to read the interesting feature by Carol Rumens in her 'Poem of the Week' column in 'The Guardian'.

In my mind's eye I do not see Cambridge, a place I know well, for it was my home town for five years. Instead, I picture a rural churchyard, full of greenery and perhaps dominated by a large Yew. This may be because the driveway up to my childhood home ran alongside a scene such as this, and childhood impressions are etched deep in our psyches. The view below captures something similar, although it is in a completely different part of the country. 

A Country Churchyard
This is actually the churchyard (and a beautifully mown one!) at Vowchurch in Herefordshire. It has nothing to do with Gray, but it represents the kind of place I associate with the poem.

St Bartholomew's, Vowchurch, Herefordshire
Vowchurch has interesting literary connections of its own. We visited it once on our way to the Hay Festival (on a rather round-and-about route).

As you approach Vowchurch from the road . . .
Lewis Carroll, of 'Alice' fame, was really Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. His brother, Skevington Hume Dodgson, was the incumbent here from 1895-1910. Their father, Charles Dodgson Senior, was an Archdeacon. You can read about the family on this site.

This beautiful part of Herefordshire, Golden Valley, is also associated with another Lewis, namely C.S. Lewis, creator of the wonderful 'Narnia' stories.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Postcard 79: Puffins on the Yorkshire Coast

Checking out the best nesting site ...
Those of you who visit my blogs will know that I can never resist the opportunity of posting a Puffin! I took this photograph (the one below is an enlarged detail of it) at Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast two Easters ago. It never ceases to amaze me that Puffins, who nest in sandy burrows on the island of Skomer off Pembrokeshire (almost my neck of the woods), choose these exposed ledges of limestone when they fly into these more northerly nesting sites.

Gannet and Puffin: share and share alike
My Puffin poem, 'A Chink in the Sky', based on my observations of the Bempton Puffins, has just appeared in the first Writelink competition anthology, 'A Pocket Full of Spring Fever', which is now on sale here.

Friday 12 November 2010

Postcard 7: Aberglasney, The Garden Lost in Time

Strange Seasonal Mix

Autumn Colours

November at Aberglasney, the garden lost in time
and home of the poet, John Dyer,
Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK

'Hear the thrush, while all is still,
Within the groves of Grongar Hill'
John Dyer (d.1757)

Back in June 2009 (what a long time ago!), I decided to post occasional seasonal pictures of Aberglasney, the Garden lost in time, once home to the poet John Dyer. Dyer was the subject of one of Wordsworth's Sonnets. You can take a look at those first seasonal photos here. My photos for Spring 2010 are here.

I was in the gardens again last weekend, and thought it was about time I caught 'Autumn' on camera before the gales blew the leaves off the trees. We knew we might see some early Daffodils in bud, as they were there in November last year. Sure enough we were not disappointed. There were also some Primroses.

I see I try to take the following shots for my 'Seasonal Spotlight':

  • The House at Aberglasney (partly open to the public, often with exhibitions)
  • The view from Aberglasney to Grongar Hill (the view from my favourite seat)
  • The Upper Walled Garden (with Celtic design flowerbeds)
  • The stream in Pigeon House Wood
  • The Cloister Garden
  • The stream in Bishop Rudd's Walk
I'm afraid I failed to take a photograph of the stream in Pigeon House Wood this time. My back was turned as I was intrigued by the new bit of garden - and the fenced-off garden path!

By the time we reached The Cloister Garden, it was virtually closing time (4pm in the winter season), so we hurried on to the exit. I will post an old photo of the stalactites.  

So these are my Autumn 2010 photos (with the exception of the stalactites):

The House at Aberglasney (partly open to the public, often with exhibitions)

The view from Aberglasney to Grongar Hill (the view from my favourite seat)

The Upper Walled Garden (with Celtic design flowerbeds)

The new garden: the stream in Pigeon House Wood is behind us, i.e. this side of the rope
The Cloister Garden: stalactites in the Cloister

The stream in Bishop Rudd's Walk

Invertebrate Life
  •  Back in the summer, Aberglasney was a riot of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. They were a joy to behold. You can see photos by clicking here to visit my Wild and Wonderful blog.
Pond Life
  • We have seen newts and an eel here (but not at this time of year): my photo of an eel at Aberglasney is here)
Bird Life: on previous occasions we have noticed these birds ...
Garden Plants
  • Old fashioned rose (the summer scent has gone, of course, but the top photo shows the hips)
Wild flowers - seen last summer
... and finally, happy memories of those lazy, hazy days ...
For Aberglasney's literary links (Wordsworth, Gillian Clarke...), you may like to click here. I hope you have enjoyed your virtual visit to this wonderful garden.

* * *

Postscript: for any who follow this blog and have been wondering where I have been, the answer is probably over at one of my other blogs. I may not post every day, but I enjoy 'mixing and matching' ...
Do pop over to these and take a look ...

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Postcard 77: Thank you for voting!

Mother and Pup

I have just heard that my poem, 'The Wishing Woman of Seal Bay' (a Lilibonelle) has been awarded First Prize in the Writelink 'Grape and Grain' Poetry Competition. 

The judge was Jenny Moore, (Winner of the Divine Poetry Competition 2006, runner-up in Mslexia Poetry Competition 2007, Winner of Best Devon Poem in 2009 Plough Prize). 

Thank you to all who voted or left comments.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Postcard 76: Save my Seal (please)!

Mother and Pup, photographed near St Davids a year ago
This is the last call for any kind person to cast a vote for my seal poem (a Lilibonelle) about the Pembrokeshire coast. My poem has been submitted to the Writelink Grape and Grain Poetry Contest.

You can cast a vote here (and you will find other contending poems by following the link below my poem - 'show all poems'. You may prefer to vote for these instead - or as well). 

The polls close on 30 September, so the clock is ticking!

Friday 10 September 2010

Postcard 76: Not quite Moby Dick...

Heading back to Greenwich on The Thames Clipper
from the O2
(May 2010)

It was only yesterday that I was blogging about my early visits as a baby and toddler to the squirrels in Greenwich Park. I have been back to Greenwich many times, and feel a strong connection with the area. I love to take the Thames Clipper from the London Eye, and approach Greenwich by water. You get a good view of the Naval College, the Maritime Museum and the Park, with its Meridian. Sadly the Cutty Sark is not on show at present, but restoration work is underway. However, the current headline story relating to Greenwich concerns not a small grey mammal but a Leviathan-sized skeleton.

Drawing out of Greenwich
on the Thames Clipper

The Moby Dick-like tale relates to Bay Wharf in Greenwich and the recent finding by archaeologists, working for Pre-Construct Archaeology Limited, of a colossal North Atlantic Right Whale from north Atlantic waters, probably in the areas between Spitzbergen and Greenland. I am grateful to the History Blog for alerting me to the sad, sad story of this 200 year old headless corpse of a creature that died at some point between the age of 50 and 100. The remaining skeleton weighs in at 60 tons and is a mere 52 (Imperial) feet long. It seems to have fallen foul of whalers and their harpoons. Whales were prized in the 17th and 18th centuries for their oil, and the word 'right' in the name indicates that whales of this species provided quality oil for lamps, soap-making and industry. Whale bone was used for corsets.

Can a sad story like this have any kind of happy ending? Please note, I have NO wish to endorse the killing of whales. Those who follow my blogs will know the immense pleasure I get from watching creatures like Basking Sharks in their natural habitats. However, this sad mammal is already well and truly dead. DNA tests on its skeleton will help scientists in their quest for knowledge about the genetic diversity of this particular Right Whale. It will also help to fuel our understanding of the negative impact of whaling in terms of the future survival or otherwise of a particular species. Perhaps the discovery of 'Moby' will challenge us all to reconsider the part we can play in protecting creatures at risk.

The London Eye,
where we caught the Thames Clipper

'Like the creature in Herman Melville's novel,
it was a giant whale of great age.'

David Keys,
The Independent

Monday 6 September 2010

Postcard 75: Tantallon and Bass Rock

I had a 'double surprise' package last Friday. It contained the latest editions from Indigo Dreams Publishing of their magazines, Reach Poetry (issue 144) and The Dawntreader (issue 012).

Each publication contains one of my poems. 'Isabella Tiger Moth greets the Woolly Bear Caterpillar' appears in 'Reach Poetry' (editors Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling), and 'Tantallon' features in 'The Dawntreader' (editors Dawn Bauling and Ronnie Goodyer).

I have been keen to spot furry caterpillars this last year. I don't think I have actually seen a Woolly Bear. I wonder if others of you always used to look out for what we called Furry Mollies? It seems these creatures are affectionately known as Hairy Mollies. You can see my furry caterpillar page here on my nature blog, Wild and Wonderful.

looking out to Bass Rock

My Tantallon poem is about the view of the Gannets (short video-clip here) on Bass Rock from Tantallon Castle in Scotland. You can read about my visit to the castle in a previous post, here.

You can read about the history of the castle here. The staff of Historic Scotland do a great job in caring for the ruined castle site. It is sadly ironic in these days of decay to find the following quotation
on the Undiscovered Scotland site. The words were written to Henry VIII by an English Ambassador in November 1543:

"Temptallon is of such strength as I nede not feare the malice of myne enymeys..."

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this exposed spot. I wonder if you have been following Neil Oliver's (recent) second BBC series on 'A History of Scotland'.

Don't forget to let me know what you call the caterpillars! And do take a look t Crafty Green Poet's North Berwick post ... serendipity?

Friday 20 August 2010

Postcard 74: I.M. - Edwin Morgan

Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness

What lies beneath these ripples on the loch?

I am grateful to Professor David Morley and to the Weaver of Grass for alerting me to the fact that the fine Scottish poet, Edwin Morgan, died on 19 August 2010.

You can read about the poet's life here. He was a remarkable man, with a gift not only for writing but also for teaching and translating. You can read an alliterative tribute from Carol Ann Duffy here.

We all have our favourite poems, some of which seem to fit certain seasons and situations. As I thought about Edwin Morgan, my mind flitted back to happy Scottish holidays - and to Loch Ness, in particular, which I had enjoyed seeing on the television programme, 'Coast', earlier this week.

It is not surprising therefore that I have chosen to link through to Morgan's evocative piece, 'The Loch Ness Monster's Song', which you can hear in the poet's own voice on The Poetry Archive site here. It may not be the poet's 'best' poem (whatever that may mean), but it certainly highlights his dexterity with language and, in my opinion, something of our poetic and indeed human fascination with things that are perhaps 'beyond our ken'.

P.S. I had just completed this post when I noticed that a tribute from Crafty Green Poet aka Juliet Wilson had popped up in my feed. Do take a look here.