Saturday 31 January 2009

Poetry Submission Poll: results time

Time is up for my blog poll. The response has not exactly been much to blog home about, but it has been an interesting experiment all the same. It certainly set me thinking about my own publication priorities and aspirations.

The results are as follows:
  • 3 voters prefer to submit to hardcopy outlets.
  • 3 voters pressed the 50:50 button.
  • 2 poets like to go for gold and grasp every opportunity that presents itself.
  • 1 poet prefers to submit to online magazines.
Books can be among our most treasured possessions, so I do not intend to comment on them here. However, the poll made me think about the magazines that come through the door. Most of us would keep a copy of ones that include our work, but what do we do with others? Do we stash them away or pass them on to our fellow writers? Do we cut out work or features of interest? Do we recycle the remaining pages?

I keep a commonplace book of snippets, articles, new poetry forms and quotations that appeal to me. This means that I do not alway feel the need to keep everything that comes my way (though I am a squirrel by nature!). What policies do you adopt? Do let me know if this poll has set you thinking.

Blog poll ... last chance!

Tick, tock ...

At the time of writing there are only 40 minutes left in which to cast your vote in my 'for interest only' poll (right). Thank you to those of you who have already clicked an option.

Friday 30 January 2009

A-Z: US National Museum of Poets

I read on the USA Poetry Foundation blog that there is talk of a National Museum of Poets. One of my favourite holiday activities (when I am not out on a headland with binoculars) is visiting places associated with poets. Wordsworth's home, Rydal Mount in the Lake District, and the Cornish china clay pits of Jack Clemo are two locations that come to mind. If you were asked to select an alphabet of favourite UK poets from any era for a similar enterprise (one poet per letter in our case, if you can manage to restrict yourself), who would you include in your list? It is quite a tough exercise: I know - I tried it. My thanks to Matt of Polyolbion for trying it, too. You will find Matt's facinating list in the comments section: do take a look.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Still time to vote!

Please cast your vote in my poll (right) if you have not done so already. The days are slipping by!

Monday 26 January 2009

RSPB Birdwatch 30

The dome at Middleton
Middle photo: redpolls

We thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the RSPB Birdwatch 30 activities over the weekend. We carried out our survey at the Middleton, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, where there was a representative from the Cardiff office of the RSPB on hand to lead guided walks and answer questions. I have submitted our official online list to the RSPB, but plan to list what I might call my 'comprehensive list' below. This is just for interest, and includes not only the birds we saw during our official hour, but also other interesting birds we spotted over the weekend. The species in my 'comprehensive list' did not need to touch down to be counted. My camera does not do justice to the beauty of the birds, but it is better than nothing. It was a real thrill to see the redpoll, and it seems extraordinary to think that only a few years ago we would have been amazed to spot a red kite! I shall log my new finds on my Birdstack (click link and look down right column).

Birds on Gower
Birds at the National Botanic Garden (this comprises my 'official list', plus extras)
  • 3 blackbirds in one go
  • 4 other blackbirds
  • 2 buzzards
  • 1 other buzzard
  • 4 carrion crow
  • 2 chaffinches in one go
  • 1 other chaffinch
  • 2 coal tits
  • 2 coots
  • 1 cormorant
  • 5 dunnock
  • 1 other dunnock
  • 6 geese in the air (could not identify clearly)
  • 1 house sparrow
  • 1 little grebe
  • 1 magpie
  • 11 mallard
  • 2 pied wagtail
  • 1 other pied wagtail
  • 3 redpoll ... and later ...
  • 8 redpoll
  • 1 robin
  • 4 other robins at different times
  • 3 stonechats
  • 1 swan in the air (could not identify clearly)
  • 1 tree creeper
  • 1 wood pigeon
  • 1 wren
Birds in Carmarthenshire on way to and from the National Botanic Garden
  • 1 red kite - in air
  • 2 little egrets
We also spotted one rabbit at Middleton! Which birds did you find?

Sites of interest:
  1. RSPB for the identification of species
  2. Katie Fuller's list (RSPB)
  3. Matt's list at Polyolbion
  4. Posting from Carol at from the field book
  5. The Guardian and RSPB 30 (video and all sorts)
  6. BBC Wales Nature Blog
  7. Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (Llanelli)
  8. Ecobirder and the golden eagle survey, Minnesota (fabulous photography)

Saturday 24 January 2009

A round of poetry news

Life in 16 pictures (see Simon Armitage above) has set me thinking ...

Postscript: please vote in my poll (right). Thank you!

Friday 23 January 2009

Birds: final countdown to RSPB Birdwatch 30

Publicity - of all sorts - for this event is coming in from all sides. Professor P. Brain has added his comments, with a link to the RSPB. I found an amazing and amusing poem to get us in the spirit for our individual 'birdfests and quests' this weekend. Thank you, Seabrooke.

You can download a counting sheet for your RSPB garden survey.
  • On another subject, please remember to vote in my anonymous just-for-interest poll (far right) about where you send your creative writing.
Right: King of the Castle (Tintagel, Cornwall)

Tuesday 20 January 2009

The future of the book ... your chance to air your views in a poll

A bookworm at Hay

The Poetry Society alerted me to the If Book: London site, run by Chris Meade. Many of us are faced with a dilemma as paper magazines become electronic. Our work is much easier to submit electronically and there can be real ecological benefits, but the whole process can seem more ethereal despite the fact that the readership comprises the world at large. It would be great to know your views, and what goes through your mind when you try to decide whether to submit to a book or hardcopy journal, or to an electronic zine. The poll (see right column) is just for interest and will run until the end of January. You can leave comments, too.

My recommended online magazines:
More online magazines at The Poetry Kit

My friend, Wendy Webb of Norfolk Poets and Writers has just started an electronic version of her popular Tips for Writers magazine (details in box below). Issue 2 is due out in February. Issue 1 carried an interview with Sophie Hannah.

Wendy Webb's Facebook Profile

My thanks to Matt of Polyolbion for recommending the following web-based magazines:
On a slightly different but related note, I am grateful to Professor David Morley for pointing me in the direction of President Obama's Bookshelf. How much can we tell about a person from the books he or she reads? What do our books tell others about us?

You might like to check out the Green Book Festival.


I discovered Birdstack today. You will see the recording widget on the righthand side of my Land&Lit blog, here. I hope it will help me to learn the names of more species of bird.

Right: through the hide at the WWT, Penclacwydd, Llanelli, Wales, UK

The President

The world is poised for the inauguration of a new US President. Barack Obama enters the White House today.

Monday 19 January 2009

RSPB 30 Countdown

The countdown is really underway for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 30 this coming weekend. There have been more UK sightings of the Snowy Owl. The Weaver of Grass has posted a fine poem about a merlin. I spotted a red kite over the weekend in Carmarthenshire, my first one in 2009. I also noticed two little egrets enjoying the flood plains by Dryslwyn Castle.

Saturday 17 January 2009

Tips for Writers: issue 70

I have just received the latest issue of Tips for Writers from editor Wendy Webb of Norfolk Poets and Writers. As usual it contains an enticing mix of challenges, reviews and poetry. I am particularly looking forward to trying my hand at Wendy's new 'Sliding Doors' poetry form. This edition of Tips includes Norman Bissett's Top Twenty questions, which he puts to Sophie Hannah in a fascinating interview. Tips supporter and adviser, Bernard M. Jackson, lists his web pages and publications.

The deadline for the Margaret Munro Gibson Memorial Poetry Competition 2009 (aka 7th Davividian) is 23 April 2009 for poems not exceeding 20 lines. The judge is Doris Corti, and the entry fee is £2 for one or £10 for six. Entrants must be 18+ and resident in the UK. Full rules are listed in Tips.

Wendy Webb's Facebook Profile

Friday 16 January 2009

Desert Island Discs: Ruth Padel

The National Botanic Garden of Wales
(Photo: Second prize in the National Botanic Garden of Wales Competition)

I am very grateful to my friend, Mary (whose photographs of a redwing appear in my previous post) for alerting me to this morning's edition of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. Kirsty Young was interviewing prize-winning poet and recent Chair of the Poetry Society (2004-2006), Ruth Padel. Padel is the great great granddaughter of Darwin, and it was terrific to hear her account of an expedition to watch tigers. I was particularly pleased to learn that her chosen Desert Island book would be Homer's Iliad: I mentioned the version by Pope in a blog entry two days ago.

I notice that Ruth Padel is judging the Mslexia Women's Poetry Competition. The closing date is 24 April 2009.

Padel's new book, Darwin: A Life in Poems (Chatto & Windus) is due out on 12 February 2009. Books of poetry on scientific subjects seem to be in vogue. Last July I enjoyed a fascinating exhibition in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which accompanied the new book by Anne Cluysenaar, Batu-Angas: Envisioning Nature with Alfred Russel Wallace (Seren).

Thursday 15 January 2009

Obama-Mentum: Call for Submissions

Can you pen a poem to celebrate some aspect of the new US presidency? Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah, professor and chair of African American studies at Western Illinois University, is calling for submissions from global wordsmiths for a new anthology.

Realated topic:

  • National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, writes for the new President (Western Mail)

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Bird detective needed!

© Mary Roberts 2009

© Mary Roberts 2009

This handsome bird was spotted yesterday by the coast in South Wales. The red markings under the wing, reminiscent of a robin (more visible in you click to enlarge), cast a doubt on my original ID of song thrush. The curving beak is fairly distinctive. I would be very grateful if Mistlethrush or Crafty Green Poet - or indeed anyone out there - would care to come to my rescue!

Tuesday 13 January 2009

TS Eliot Prize

Jen Hadfield, from the Shetland Isles, has won the prestigious TS Eliot Prize for poetry with her second collection of poems, Nigh-No-Place. The judges were Andrew Motion, Lavinia Greenlaw and Tobias Hill. I was delighted to hear that Hadfield is an advocate for the poetry of place.

Monday 12 January 2009

On your bus: the Minotaur Muse

Left: shadow

One of the first myths (after the story of Odysseus) to appeal to me was the story of Theseus - and the Minotaur who lived in the Minoan labyrinth.

My eye has just alighted on the BBC feature on 'labyrinthine' poems, which are to appear inside the Unibuses in Kent. Jeff Saward was responsible for creating the Canterbury labyrinth as an inspirational pathway. I would like to adapt the idea (since I do not have a labyrinth in my area), and have a go at trying to write a poem in motion i.e. as I walk about.

Friday 9 January 2009

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 30!

Blackbird at Aberglasney

I am planning to take part in the annual RSPB birdwatch. Take a look and see if you would like to join in, too. There might be an event near you.

Coffe slot: a short story

The link takes you to a poignant piece of flash fiction ('The Magnolia Flower' by Janylee McLinchy from Sit back for a couple of minutes - and enjoy!

Haiku in India

This link to the Times of India gives a fascinating account of the popularity of haiku in the language of Gujurati.

Thursday 8 January 2009

John Muir's view of our eco-system

The Cuillin, Skye

I am very grateful to The Weaver of Grass for bringing this Times article on John Muir to my attention. I came across the John Muir Trust in Scotland last year. I love the photographic images on the website.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Camel poems

The Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi has come to an end. Read about the popular poetry competition in which 400 entrants attempted to describe the 'beauty and origin' of the camel.

Body and soul / health and disease

I was fascinated to read an excellent entry about the use of poetry for defining health on the BMJ Group blog. Is health so very hard to define?

Of snow and ice

Ice patterns on the car

I have just heard that there is ice in the sea today at Mumbles on the South Wales coast, where winters are normally comparatively mild.

Another unusual phenomenon this winter is the sighting near Zennor in Cornwall (one of my favourite places) of a Snowy Owl.
For more icy scenes, visit the virtual polar exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum.

On The Thirty-Nine Steps

Image of The Thirty-Nine Steps

I wonder what you made of the new television version of the Buchan classic. Richard Hannay is one of my all time favourite book heroes. I was introduced to him by my English teacher at school, and have been a Buchan aficionado ever since. One of my new year resolutions is to join the John Buchan Society.

Monday 5 January 2009

Swarm: when worlds collide

Followers of my blog will know just how much I enjoyed Mark Cocker's book, Crow Country in 2008 (see bookshelf below). I was fascinated by his intricate descriptions of airborne corvids along the river Yare in Norfolk, where I was privileged to spend part of my childhood. It will come as no surprise that when I saw a TV listing for Swarm: nature's incredible invasions, I was keen to watch the programme. (BBC1 Sunday 4 January 2009 - with part two next Sunday: click link for BBC iPlayer)

In terms of photography it certainly met my expectations. We saw locusts and crabs, starlings in Rome, mayflies in Winsconsin, mice in Australia - quantities of mice - and cicadas in the USA, to name but a few examples of the swarm phenomenon. We were introduced to an entomologist who was covered from head to toe in honey bees. He had been studying the species, and knew how to behave like their queen! We saw midge cakes - or rather burgers - in Africa, which apparently are very popular in some regions, and full of protein.

I wonder what delights are left in store for programme two: rats, spiders and jellyfish perhaps ...

Thursday 1 January 2009

New Year Resolutions ...

Left: Orchid found in Trumpan Churchyard on the Waternish Peninsula, Isle of Skye.

Wales is currently under ice, so it seems a bit strange to be thinking about summer plans. However, it is always good to review aspects of life as one year turns into another. Today's photograph reminds me of last year's summer holiday, and of the abundance of wildlife on Skye. We saw seals, otter(s), an eel, orchids, milkwort, saxifrage and ragged robin - to name but a few highlights. We looked and looked, but the sea eagles eluded us.

The flowers were beautiful in their highland-cum-island setting, but we do not all live in such a natural environment. There are times when our wild creatures and plants need a bit of a helping hand. I live on the edge of the city, and although there are fine swathes of countryside nearby, my garden is 'suburban' in feel. This is - apparently - no excuse for idleness!

I was particularly taken with a plan devised by Sarah Raven (BBC TV Gardener's World Special, 29 August 2008, directed by Juliet Graves) to encourage members of the public to preserve the face of Britain by introducing or facilitating a 'river' of wild flowers, so that protected meadows could be linked to areas of woodland. City dwellers were encouraged to find their own little patches where wild flowers could flourish, and this seems an excellent challenge for 2009.

There is scope for much creativity here!
Let me know what you think.

On the subject of flowers, I wonder how many floral poems we know and love. I can think of songs ('Eidelweiss', 'My love is like a red, red rose', 'In and out the dusty bluebells', 'The Floral Dance' ...), but who can name a posy of favourite flower poems? Perhaps we should pick up our pens ... along with our seed packets.

Daffodils and primroses are already out in the Principality. It may be mid-winter, but there are signs of spring!

P.S. I am still trying to identify a realistic poetic challenge for myself for 2009 : poem-a-day prompts abound in the Google listings. Meanwhile, I am enjoying some poetry features from the press ...