Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Seasonal Spotlight (4): Christmas Greetings!

'And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night...'
Luke 2:8

Happy Christmas!
Nadolig Llawen!

Snowy hillside near Hay on Wye, Wales, UK

Creature Feature (12): A Pond Seal? [Gulliver's Travels]

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 of Gulliver The Sun

Monday, 21 December 2009

Creature Feature (11): A River Seal?

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.

Poems on the Web (4): Ghazal Page Color Radif

The Color Radif Challenge issued by editor, Gino Peregrini, is now up on The Ghazal Page. You can read the issue here, and find my poem, Ocean Blue.

Beautiful Birds (16): On the 'Gyr' Day of Christmas...

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.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Seasonal Spotlight (3): Mince Pies and Dylan Thomas

A Mince Pie Afternoon

(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!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Poetry Matters (13): TIPS Xmas Special

(on Hay Bluff

I have been greatly enjoying the festive poetry selection in the TIPS for Writers (74) 'Xmas Special' anthology, edited by Wendy Webb of Norfolk Poets and Writers.

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.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Festive Matters (1): Reading Material

The Misty Cuillin, Skye*

Are you after some holiday reading material?

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.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Poetry Matters (10): Featured Poet on 'Quill and Parchment'

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

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.