Seal pup in its natural environment on a Scottish skerry Summer 2009
No sooner had I blogged about the seal in one of our local rivers here in South Wales (here) than David told me he had heard an even more extraordinary story about a seal pup who appeared in a pond in Benenden, Kent, some 18 miles inland from Rye, in the south of England.
Rudolph aka Gulliver, the Christmas seal pup... on the BBC website
Photos: we watched these seals in Scotland in July, during a summer holiday. They knew where they would find fish scraps from the local fishermen!
Yesterday morning we heard the exciting news that a rare bird, a Gyr Falcon, had been spotted in our part of South Wales. Well, yesterday evening we read that a seal had been sighted in the River Neath. It had actually been spotted at about 11am, yesterday morning, Monday 21 December.
It is not unusual to see the occasional seal around our Gower coast (designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), but I don't think I have ever encountered a seal in a local river before.
View across Swansea Bay, with Mumbles Pier and Lifeboat Station in the foreground and the snowy hills of Exmoor in Devon in the distance
Magpie: Snow Visitor in our Street
Forget the partridge and the pear tree! There is great excitement on the Gower Peninsula, here in South Wales, UK, as a Gyr Falcon has arrived. It has been sighted several times. I believe this is a first for the Glamorgan area.
Falco Rusticolus: what's in a name? The falco bit of the name refers to falcis or 'sickle', on account of the hooked talons. Rusticus means 'rural', and colore apparently means 'to dwell' in this context. The name in Welsh is Hebog y Gogledd.
Less than 200 sightings have been recorded for Britain as a whole, with figures for Ireland standing at less than 150. The Gyr Falcon is a Schedule 1 Part 1 bird.
It is only just under a year ago that there was such excitement over the arrival in Britain of a Snowy Owl (seen e.g. at Sperris Croft, Zennor, Cornwall on 28 December 2008). I wonder what Christmas visitors will accompany Santa in 2010. Presumably the icy weather is a strong factor in the arrival of these unusual creatures.
(Do please let us know if you bake special biscuits, cookies or cakes at this time of year!)
I wonder if you have read 'A Child's Christmas in Wales' by Dylan Thomas. I love the illustrations in my copy by Edward Ardizzone. The descriptions are wonderful: why not add a pinch of the following to your Christmas reading recipes:
'Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others, ... the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself...' Dylan Thomas
P.S. Steven of The Golden Fish has posted a wonderful James Joyce description of the rich and regimented fare of Christmas Past: do take a look, and keep an eye open for the wonderful seasonal painting at the end of the post while you are there!
The anthology has an all-colour cover, featuring a barge in autumn, pictures of James Knox Whittet's winning anthology, 'Fires of Memory' (of which more in a future post) and Peter Smith's collection, 'Poems for Peter'. It also shows the cover of the 'Live Canon Emerging Poets Anthology 2009': my renewed congratulations to Wendy for taking the second prize in this esteemed competition.
Subjects in the anthology range from traditional Christmas themes (hence my sheep photo, in case you were wondering, to complement the Haiku by Jean Cooper on p.12), with 'Mary's Song' by prolific small press supporter, Joan Sheridan Smith (p.26), to 'Ye Olde Yorkshire Pudding' by Bernard M. Jackson (p.17).
Forms are wide-ranging, and include free verse (if this statement is not a contradiction in terms!), for example 'The Night Before...' by Alison Chisholm on p.31. I spotted examples of Tanka, Haiku (including a link to Claire Knight's poem* that won First Prize in the Haiku Section of the New Zealand Poetry Society Competition 2009) and Cinquain. Sonnet forms include Wendy's invented form, the Brentor Sonnet, 'Wishful Thinking' by Peter Davies; and my poem, 'Poltesco', in the Cornish Sonnet form. Dr Marc Latham's poem, 'Hiking Hadrian's Wall at Summer's End' is a colourful ('cerulean', 'green', 'gold[en]', 'yellow', 'emerald' and 'blue') Folding Mirror Poem, a form invented by Marc.
I am delighted with this anthology: thank you, Wendy, for another great publication.
* One of Claire's Haiku features in the 2010 Snapshot Press Haiku Calendar. My copy arrived today: you can order one here.
You might like to visit my Scottish selection of books here on my Land&Lit blog.
Do let me know if you have any favourite wildlife/natural world/poetry/heritage books to recommend to fellow bloggers.
*My poem about a Ceilidh on Skye has been published in 'By the Winter Fires', a 2009 anthology edited by Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams Press. The first print run has sold out, but orders are being taken for a second run, I believe.
My thanks to Sharmagne Leland-St. John for publishing two of my poems and for inviting me to feature as the guest poet for the December 2009 issue of 'Quill and Parchment'.
Special thanks go to Sharmagne for granting me permission to post a guest password to allow readers of my blog temporary access to the issue. My thanks, too, to Kay Weeks for conducting the interview. Please feel free to follow this link here.
You will then be asked to enter the following words as they appear below, which will allow you to read the journal for the next few days:
NAME: december PASSWORD: wolf
I came across Sharmagne and Quill and Parchment as a result of taking part in the 'Empty Shoes' project, under the editorial aegis of Patrick T. Randolph. 'Empty Shoes' is available on Amazon. Profits from the anthology (which includes my poem, 'Stranger') go to help those who are hungry and homeless.
I only discovered very late in the day that NRAS has designated 2009 as 'The Year of Rheumatoid Arthritis'. It is a shame that so many months have gone by, but good nonetheless that there is this opportunity for heightened awareness and for the sharing of new initiatives.
On quite a different note, but still on the subject of special years, I see from the RSPB/RSPB Cymru that the countdown has already begun for 2010, the UN International Year of Biodiversity.
If this all seems a bit far removed from the average person in the street, or even the birder in the hide, I wonder what ideas we could come up with to increase the impact of the initiative at a local level - or in a way that has relevance for those we encounter via the virtual world of the web.
I was delighted to learn that Mark Cocker had won the £2000 New Angle Prize for East Anglian Literature, awarded by the Ipswich Institute for a book 'set in or influenced by the East Anglian region.' Many congratulations to Mark.
If you have not read this remarkable book about corvids in their natural habitat and a man's desire to chart their lifestyle, I would highly recommend that you add 'Crow Country' to your Christmas wishlist. You will find details of it in my Amazon 'Buy a Book' sidebar on this blog (you may - or may not - have to click p.2, as the order is random, I think, and seems to change!).
Meg Rosoff took second place and the late Roger Deakin's book (already on my list to read), 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm', was highly commended.
P.S. Friday: I have just watched BBC Autumnwatch, and enjoyed seeing the Norfolk footage of Simon King with Mark Cocker, watching the amazing dawn and pre-roost dusk spectacles of the airborne corvids.
P.P.S. Tuesday: I have just been enjoying pictures of large numbers of Lesser Snow Geese in the air over on the Rock Paper Lizard blog. Do take a look. I have also greatly enjoyed the article in The Observer on the phenomenon of bird watching. Thank you to Matt of Polyolbion for pointing this out. There are a number of bird books mentioned in the article: my Christmas wishlist is about to multiply!
We had a very blustery ride over to Porthcawl last Saturday for the annual South Wales Writers' Day, organised for those who care to come and, in particular, for the members of the four Ready Writer groups along the M4 (Porthcawl, Llantrisant, Blackwood and Swansea). The groups are associated to the Association of Christian Writers.
We had a Gower theme this year. You can read more about 'A Gander's Tale' on my Land&Lit pages here, and on the Ready Writers blog here. The book can be purchased or downloaded here.
We met in The Rest Hotel, a large building high up on the cliff above Rest Bay in Porthcawl. It used to be a respite care home. Florence Nightingale was consulted about the design way back in 1871, when there was talk of a new convalescent home for the area. You can read more about Florence Nightingale and the hotel here.
The Poetry Society's Centenary 'Knitted Poem' will be on display in Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre from 10am to 4.30pm until 19 November 2009. The poem can be seen in the Centre's theatre, where visitors can walk around it and appreciate its full glory.
The 13 x 9 metre, hand-knitted version of ‘In my Craft or Sullen Art’ by Dylan Thomas was unrolled at the British Library in London for National Poetry Day on 7 October.
Alex set up the PoetCasting project in April 2007, with support from Ignite! and NESTA. Poetcasting has received funding from The Arts Council England since July 2008.Ignite! promotes creativity in learning and encourages creative development in young people. Initially a pilot project at NESTA, Ignite Futures Ltd. now exists as an independent and not for profit organisation.
Alex, poet and podcaster, has been dubbed the ‘one to watch' in the art world by judges of the Women of the Future Award. Alex was awarded the Booz & Company Art and Culture Woman of the Future Award, and was the youngest category winner when she was 20 years old. The award was for her work in conceiving and launching PoetCasting, which showcases poets who share the medium of the internet as a place where poets can be read and heard.
David has developed a number of (audio-visual) Podcasts for teaching purposes, and was interested in the applications of audio poetry. I was particularly impressed by the range of poets represented by PoetCasting. I enjoyed listening to the poets reading their own work. It was especially good to find the familiar names of fellow bloggers, Susan Richardson and Matt Merritt among the cast of those who had recorded work for the project. The Dylan Thomas Festival is dedicated to the memory of Aeronwy Thomas this year, and I was delighted to read that Aeronwy features on the PoetCasting iPod Shuffles, alongside the voices of more than 160 other poets.
PoetCasting is an amazing initiative. Do go and discover more if you find that Alex is visiting your area.
Looking up to the Great Glass House Autumn Light - or is it more like Winter?
Above and Below: a splash of colour
A surprise visitor in the Great Glass House...
Looking down on the Tardis
I was inspired by Steven's terrific display of autumn 'fireworks' at The Golden Fish, and decided that I should post a few autumn photos of my own.
I was not expecting to see the Tardis on this visit to the botanic garden, although it has a habit of popping up in unexpected corners in our neck of the woods, as much of 'Doctor Who' is filmed in or from Cardiff.
The photograph below shows a previous appearance in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The wonderful lettering behind it is the back of the huge poem by Gwyneth Lewis that adorns the outside of the building.
I have been making bookmarks for my Coastcard online shop. I use my own designs, which I print on photographic paper. I trim and laminate the bookmark, adding a tassel and beads. I am experimenting, and at the moment I thread one home-made bead between two spacer (bought) beads. I mould my beads from Polymer clay, which I then bake and varnish.
Some bookmarks will have short poems on them. I am making a few Christmas designs, and hope to put some of the bookmarks on my online shop site soon.
I designed the puffin picture from photographs taken at the Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve last Easter.
Work in progress: a selection ofCoastcardbookmark designs (Please click on image to enlarge)
Below: some of my beads...
P.S. Speaking of feathered friends (but not the Puffins, of course, who have left our shores), you might like to read about the RSPB Feed the Birds day on my Land&Lit blog here.
Joanna Lumley is taking part in Words for You, a project promoting a 'record' (according to The Daily Telegraph, 8 October 2009) for a charity, I CAN, that is set to take 'Shakespeare and Wordsworth to the top of the charts'. Lumley reads Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, and Honor Blackman represents Wordsworth with 'I wandered lonely as a cloud'. They are joined by 25 other readers. The album has a classical backing track.
Lumley is the Founder Patron of the Born Free Foundation. You can visit the Born Free site here, and read about Richard Bonfield, the new Poet-in Residence. Many of us know and love Richard's eco-poetry work (mentioned in The Independenthere) from his appearances over many years in magazines like Reach Poetry, published by Indigo Dreams Press (ed. Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling).
I have just heard from the editor, Patrick T. Randolph, that Empty Shoes, the new anthology in aid of shelters for those who are hungry and homeless in the USA (which includes my poem, 'Stranger'), hit number 4 yesterday on the Amazon.com Hot New Release List. At the time of writing it is in at number 7 in the category marked as 'Inspirational & Religious' literature.
Ruins of Ruthven Barracks near Kingussie (sorry - no Polar Bear pics!)
Mercedes, the only UK's Polar Bear, has just moved from Edinburgh Zoo to a The Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie (home of some of my ancestors!) in Scotland. You can read about Mercedes here. Soldiers from 75 Engineer Regiment and the Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers volunteered to build the enclosure with its viewing platform, road and its car park, reducing the cost from an estimated £300,000 to £75,000.
My copy of the winter edition of TIPS for Writers (ed. Wendy Webb) arrived last week. I am delighted to mention that the magazine has received an award for 'best UK poetry magazine' from the Writers' Grand Circle Awards 2009. Congratulations to Wendy!
The latest issue of TIPS (issue 73, Winter 2009) is dedicated to the memory of Dylan's daughter, the poet Aeronwy Thomas Ellis. The cover sports an image of Aeronwy's last book, 'Shadows and Shades: Selected Poems', which is available from Poetry Monthly Press (ed. Martin Holroyd).
TIPS 73 contains the text of an interview with Aeronwy, shortly before her death. The original TIPS TOP 20 questions were devised by Norman Bissett, and I adapted them for Aeronwy. You will not be surprised to learn that Aeronwy's 'Laugharne years' - 1946-1953 - are mentioned.
Congratulations not only to Wendy, but to Peter Davies, Norman Bissett and Bernard Jackson, who shared the readers' vote for their poems in TIPS 72. Many congratulations to James Knox Whittet for his clean sweep in the Pamphlet Competition.
It is good to have the chance to re-read Part I of 'Surface Trilogy', a Folding Mirror poem by the creator of the form, Dr Marc Latham. It is a very visual poem, packed with possums, blossoms, sharks, damselflies, coral and vipers!
I am particularly interested to find details of Wendy's new Brentor Sonnet form, with its split lines [6/7 and 13/14] 'for visual and sound effect'. Brentor, 'a hill transfigured in the mist' on the edge of Dartmoor has a chapel perched on the top of it, and was a favourite haunt of some of my Tavistock-based relations in the early 1900s.
Geoff Stevens (ed. of Purple Patch) is due to adjudicate the current Norfolk Poets and Writers' TIPS Pamphlet Competition. The closing date is 31 October 2009. The specified styles are (a) blank verse, (b) max. 2 verses of tetractys poems - and (c) simple rhyming quatrains. Further details of the competition and all TIPS activities and opportunities can be sought from Wendy via the email on her TIPS for Writers blog - here.
P.S. I have just been reading the Anniversary Issue of The Pages online magazine, which also mentions Wendy's competition and Marc's Folding Mirror Poetry. Do have a look at this enterprise from Wales: the link is here.
I have been sent the url for a brand new online international literary review, based in the USA and France, Cerise Press. Do take a look.
The editors are Fiona Sze-Lorrain (Greta Aart) Sally Molini and Karen Rigby. The magazine is packed with literature and art. I particularly enjoyed the feature entitled 'A Life in Poetry: Ted Kooser' by Sally Molini and Ted Kooser.
The editors write,
'contributors (poetry) for this issue include Tess Gallagher, Eleanor Wilner, Robert Kelly, Ray Gonzalez, Laura Kasischke, Patricia Fargnoli, Natasha Sajé, James Harms, Karen An-Hwei Lee, Diane Gilliam, Forrest Ganders, Ted Kooser, Thomas Lux, etc.
Translations include works by Akhmatova, Madelshtam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Apollinare, Hai Zi, Abdelwahab Meddeb and Pura Lopez-Colomé. We also feature photography, art, essays, reviews and fiction.
Please feel free to spread the word to fellow friends, writers, photographers and artists.
Our 2nd issue will feature on 1st November. We are currently reading for Spring 2010 issue.'
I think I was sent the details because my poem, 'Stranger', appears in the same anthology, Empty Shoes (ed. Patrick T. Randolph, Popcorn Press 2009), as Greta's poem, 'Petit Déjeuner'.
Fellow poet, Rachel Fox, and I have been swapping our poetic/photographic/poetic greetings cards.
Rachel sent me a set of her ten poetic postcards in exchange for a (rather eclectic) selection of my Coastcard items. It was Rachel's idea, and we both felt that it would be an interesting and experimental venture. Who knows where it may lead...
I promised to mention the swap on my blog. Rachel's cards can be purchased from her website: www.crowd-pleasers.net. Let me give a few more details:
A set of ten costs £3.50 via PayPal (I assume for UK sales)
The cards can (sometimes) be bought from the following outlets, though Rachel suggests that it may be best to buy direct from www.crowd-pleasers.net if you would like to have 'all the set'. Outlets as follows:
Loch Croispol Cafe, Bookshop and Gallery, Durness, Sutherland Oathlaw Pottery and Gallery, by Forfar, Angus Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton's Close, Edinburgh Tarts and Crafts, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire The Forest Bookstore, 26 Market Place, Selkirk The Windsor Gallery, 61 Perth Road, Dundee Unique Arts, South Square, Thornton, Bradford, West Yorkshire Wisecraft, 10 Lower Mill Street, Blairgowrie, Perthshire Word Power Books, 43 West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh
Rachel's cards are (in non-metric measure) approx. 6"x4"
I really like the fact that they are made on recycled card, and printed in Rachel's home locality.
You will find Rachel's email on her site, if you have any queries.
All cards (image, design and poetry) are the copyright of Rachel Fox.
The postcard set comprises ten poems. Most of them are in an American Typewriter-style font.
The sisters said it best - on 'estuary sand-coloured background'
Crowded out - on indigo/grey, with a lighthouse
Save the trees (or else) - green background of birch trees
Free at last - sand-coloured, with a balloon
And so it goes - interesting and unusual shot of a car on mottled jade background
Pluses and minuses - this witty and pithy poem is hand written for maximum impact
Happy new hope - pink background, with handprint overlay
Significant other deceased - pearl grey 'sky' background
Diving - set against calm blue waters
and my personal favourite,
Auchmithie road - muted brown background, with the words superimposed on a cliff edge scene. This poem has a liminal 'feel' to it. It was the one that particularly resonated with me, living as I do, high up in the clouds on the edge of Swansea Bay. Rachel's poem refers to Auchmithie near Arbroath on the Scottish coast.
Rachel's poems use rhyming quatrains and couplets. Most poems are not 'end-stopped', which gives them an open feel, and perhaps encourages the reader to add his or her own interpretation and ending.
Would I enjoy sending these poem cards to friends? Yes, indeed I would - and I have already done so. I feel they are good value - barely more (for a pack of ten) than one would pay for a single cup of quality filter coffee in town. They would make an unusual and welcome Christmasgift.
DYLAN THOMAS IN WALES VISITING AMERICAN STUDENTS PROJECT SPRING 2010
Dylan Thomas in Wales is a 12-week literary seminar offered by Knox College (Illinois, America), in cooperation with the Carl Sandburg Birthplace (America), The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine (Wales), Cross-Cultural Communications (New York), and in association with the Welsh Assembly Government in New York. At Knox College, students will study the life and literary works of Dylan Thomas; in Wales, they will study the impact of Wales’s natural history and cultural dynamics on Thomas’s work.
To launch this new and exciting Project American poet Robin Metz and Swansea poet Peter Thabit Jones will give readings of their poetry and talk about the Project.
Plus songs about Dylan Thomas by Swansea’s singer-songwriter Terry Clarke
at the Dylan Thomas Centre
7 p.m., Friday 4th December, 2009
Various events will take place at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, and there will be cultural and educational visits to places connected with Dylan Thomas, such as The Boathouse in Laugharne and the newly renovated Dylan Thomas Birthplace at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea.
Robin Metz Peter Thabit Jones
Robin Metz has received the Rainer Maria Rilke International Poetry Prize for his book Unbidden Angel (Cross-Cultural Communications), the Literal Latté International Poetry Prize (NYC), the Marshall Frankel American Fiction Prize (Other Voices), and 14 additional international awards. His play Anung’s First American Christmas received four “Top Ten” citations for its 2009 world premier (Theatre Building Chicago). His poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in numerous national and international journals, including Paris Review, Epoch, International Poetry Review, Rosebud, Fourth River, Oberon, Writers’ Forum, Abiko Quarterly (Japan), New Welsh Review (Wales), The Wolf (UK), Van Gogh’s Ear (France), NewFront (Nepal), The Seventh Quarry (Wales). He has presented his work in more than 70 US cities and in 23 nations (most recently Kosovo, Cuba, India, Wales, Nepal). He is co-founder of Chicago’s acclaimed Vitalist Theatre company and Director of Creative Writing, Knox College, whose literary magazine, Catch, has won nine national and international awards.
Peter Thabit Jones is the author of nine books of poetry and one book of stories. His first American book, The Lizard Catchers, was published by Cross-Cultural Communications, New York. Whispers of the Soul (a bilingual English/Romanian book with New York’s Vince Clemente) was published in Romania in summer 2009. His new verse drama, The Boy and the Lion’s Head, has just been published by another Romanian publisher. The editor and founder of The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine, he co-authored (with Aeronwy Thomas, Dylan Thomas’s daughter) the first-ever Walking Guide of Dylan Thomas’s Greenwich Village, New York, 2008. A dvd, based on the Guide and filmed in New York, will be available in 2010. He and Aeronwy toured America in 2008. The tour, organised by his New York publisher Stanley H. Barkan, saw them give readings and talks from New York to California. Peter returned to America twice in 2009. His poetry has been translated into twenty languages. He will visit Catalonia, Chile and America in 2010.
I have been longing for the revelation of the Poetry Society's surprise knitted poem. The knitting was carried out 1000 heroic members of the Poetry Society as part of the centenary celebrations. It seems to me that this poem is not only a suitable poem for writers everywhere, but it is also a fitting tribute to the poet, Aeronwy, daughter of Dylan Thomas, who died earlier this year. The unveiling took place outside the British Library yesterday, and the poem was presented to the Royal Festival Hall today.
Did you take part in the BBC poll of favourite poets? You can read the results here, and I feel there are one or two surprises. You can discover the favourite poet of a number of celebrities here.
Those who follow my blog will know that puffins are probably my favourite bird. They float around in 'rafts' on the sea, looking like small jewels or beads in a necklace. They are often referred to as the 'clowns of the air' because they look so comical when they fly. I took a number of photographs, trying to capture their different poses: I hesitate to say their 'expressions' because this is a word I associate with humans. I hope you like the result!
Puffins seem to have been in the news a bit these past few months. I blogged about the rare sighting of the Tufted Puffin a couple of weeks ago.
[Ed.- you will find a link to that post from this one! You might also like to see my puffin bookmarks in this post].
I have now been given an unidentified newspaper clip about 'the oldest known puffin in Europe'. The bird was ringed back in 1975. Another puffin found in the same vicinity of Rough Island, part of the Shiant Isles, off Scotland had first been ringed in 1977.