Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

A chilly New Year's Eve at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Happy New Year!

I am hoping that Mistlethrush will confirm my identification of a little dabchick in the foreground. We felt so sorry for the ducks. (Click on the photo to enlarge).

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Greetings!

Composite 'card': the chapel at Bethlehem near Llandeilo, Wales, UK. (Click to enlarge).

For many years it was possible to have Christmas mail franked with a Bethlehem postmark at the local Post Office.

the star shines
cattle call
a baby cries

© Caroline Gill 2008

Friday, 19 December 2008

Who's dreaming of a white [stoat] Christmas?

Right: Mount Grace Priory, Yorkshire
(in the care of English Heritage)

Top: through the arch
Lower left: even the pheasants are looking for stoat holes ... or rabbits! (click on photo to enlarge)
Lower right: are there any stoat prints in the mud?

'Slowly the moon takes her brush, and drips
midnight tips on two stoat-like tails.'

Last couplet of 'Mount Grace Priory: heads and tails'
© Caroline Gill 2008
Poem published in 'Tips' (ed. Wendy Webb)
Issue 68 (September/October 2008).

Early birds listening to the 'Today Programme' on the BBC before 7am this morning will have heard the report about the resident stoat population at Mount Grace. The stoats are predicting a cold winter: they have turned white for Christmas!

Read the full story in the Darlington and Stockton Times.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Calling Fair-trade chocoholics ...

The deadline for the Divine chocolate/Christian Aid poetry competition is approaching fast ...

The President, the Poet and the Performers

Poet, Elizabeth Alexander is to read at the inauguration ceremony of President Obama, who was seen recently with a copy of Walcott's Collected Poems.

P.S. Just for those who can't resist a catchy tune: There's no one as Irish as Barack Obama. The Corrigan Brothers (aka Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys) starred on the Late Late Show on Irish TV on 7 November 2008. Irish American Democrats have invited the band to play at the inauguration party on 19 January 2009. The Guardian ran a feature on Obama's Irish lineage back in 2007.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Barlow's birds

A Christmas stocking idea!

Snapshot Press publish an annual Haiku calendar. If you would like to order one before Christmas, there are only two more days to go!

Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku can also be ordered from Snapshot Press. The book was written and compiled by John Barlow and Matthew Paul. Sean Gray was responsible for the illustrations and Stephen Moss wrote the foreword. Twitchers will find themselves ticking off 131 species if they hurry to enjoy a Haiku breath of fresh air.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Red alert: polar bears in at no.9

The WWF has issued a list today of its 9 most endangered species. The site has a 'Take action' box to encourage people like us to 'speak out for wildlife and wild places' worldwide. I guess this means that those of us who write should 'speak' with our keyboards and pens! How many of the animals in the danger list can you name correctly?

Congratulations, Wendy!

Wendy (left) and Caroline outside the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea
Summer 2008

Well done, Wendy!

Wendy Webb, editor of 'Tips', the magazine of Norfolk Poets and Writers, has won a 2008 '1st in Class' Writers' Grand Circle Rosette award from the Writers' Grand Circle (WGC) for her small press magazine. The WGC is an organization that 'developed from a successful writers' group formed in 1971.'

Monday, 15 December 2008

Birds and Bierds

The rule of three?

I am always interested to find new bird poems, and today I came across a review by David Barber (poetry editor of The Atlantic) of Flight: New & Selected Poems by Linda Bierds. I thought Barber raised some interesting points about the constantly changing relationship between science and the arts. I particularly noted the mention of the famous Keats and Newton discourse on rainbows, the reference to Poe on 'vultures' and the CP Snow allusion.

I also liked the red cardinal on the tree in the picture accompanying the review: it reminded me of one of the pictures in my childhood set of pelmonism cards and of how hopeless I always was at that game!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

I remember, I remember ...

Left: 'Brek-ke-ke-kex-koax-koax' (the frog chorus in The Frogs, Book X, Aristophanes - in translation).

Daisy Goodwin and Jeremy Paxman are joining forces with fellow poetry aficionados, under the aegis of the BBC, to encourage teachers in schools to breathe new life into the practice (N.B. I avoid the word 'discipline') of learning favourite poems by heart (N.B. I prefer to avoid the word 'rote').

The feature (livelink above, The Daily Telegraph, 16 Nov 2008) set me thinking about my early - and later - school experiences. Alas, I am not renowned for my memory in an 'examination' kind of way; but I have tried to think of a mixed bag of poetic pieces that I learned (often only in part) at school. All these have travelled with me over the years, bringing a great sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

After 'Incey Wincey Spider', the first poem (or song) that I remember learning in its - albeit short - entirety at school was 'Four ducks on a pond' by William Allingham. Sections, and sometimes quite small sections, from the following literary pieces followed. They have been treasures in 'my memory bag' ever since. They are presented in a rough chronological order of learning, rather than in order of preference.
  1. The Lady of Shalott
  2. Flannan Isle
  3. The Frogs Aristophanes (in translation ...)
  4. Macbeth
  5. Antigone by Sophocles (in translation ...)
I have two questions in mind:
  1. What poetic pieces will our school leavers of today - or tomorrow - take with them?
  2. What poetic pieces travel with you from your school days?
A final thought: it must be quite hard (I would imagine) for today's youngsters to commit pieces of contemporary literature to memory, since we now inhabit a world in which rhyme, alliteration and 'even scansion' are not as popular in poetry as they once were.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The President reads Walcott

'... sinuous swans ...'
Derek Walcott, Omeros XXXVIII, III

I had the privilege of hearing St Lucian and Nobel poet Derek Walcott at the Guardian Hay Festival the summer before last; and was captivated by his outlook on the world, and particularly by his book, Omeros which I bought in The [excellent!] Poetry Bookshop in Hay.

Here in the UK rumours currently abound in the press regarding the identity of the Poet Laureate Designate. Poetry, it seems, is equally alive and well on the opposite side of the Atlantic. I am grateful to the Poets who Blog site for pointing me in the direction of an article on CityFile about US President Obama reading Walcott's Collected Poems - thereby presumably encouraging others in the support of poetry.

I have already mentioned my early love of the tales and travels of the Greek hero, Odysseus. Omeros as the name implies, is another epic poem about the web of human existence exemplified in sea travel and culture: indeed it is - in my humble opinion - a singularly fascinating 'take' on Homer's Odyssey. It is more than that: it is a new and unique work in its own right (though I use the word 'new' advisedly as the book was first published in 1990!). The poem makes use of the engaging Terza Rima form of chiming verse, a form used effectively by Dante.

My copy from Hay came for good measure with a news cutting inside the cover: 'Hustling Homer' by Oliver Taplin, who was reviewing a production of 'The Odyssey' (Walcott style) at The Other Place in Stratford. The production was, apparently and appropriately, 'a cyclopean feat of poetry'!

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