Friday 28 August 2009

Creative Corner (6): Kreativ Blogger Award

My sincere thanks to fellow poet and blogger, Susan Richardson, for nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger Award. What a red letter day!

I am particularly delighted since this affords me the opportunity of nominating seven other bloggers for the award, and of linking back to Susan. These are the stipulated conditions:

1. List 7 things that I love
2. Link back to the blog that awarded it to me
3. Choose 7 blogs to award as ‘Kreativ Bloggers’
4. Comment at each blog to let them know they’ve been chosen

1. I have chosen to interpret this as things I love about the blogosphere.

When it comes to blogging, I love the...
  • all-embracing cosmopolitan community
  • generosity shown in the sharing of knowledge
  • platform for collaborative ideas
  • opportunity of networking with other writers
  • opportunity of engaging with other wildlife enthusiasts
  • tip-offs for interesting reading material and publication opportunities
  • breath-taking photography and amazing art
2. Do visit Susan Richardson's blog which revolves around her life as a writer and eco-poet. Susan is the author of 'Creatures of the Intertidal Zones', published by Cinnamon Press.

3. In turn, it gives me great pleasure to nominate the following 7 blogs (in alphabetical order) for the Kreativ Blogger Award:
For other favourite blogs, please see my list here! I noticed that a number of fellow bloggers had already been nominated, so I tried to choose blogs that were not showing the award.

4. I'm just off to visit my nominated blogs... Do take a look, too.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Published Poetry (2): The Dawntreader

I blogged about Edward Thomas the other day as part of a challenge set by The Weaver of Grass to write a post about a favourite book. In the course of this post, I mentioned a prose piece I had co-authored with my husband, David, some time ago, published in OUP's 'Notes & Queries' about the poem 'Swedes'. Thomas likens the opening of the swede clamp to the discovery of an Egyptian tomb. He alludes to tomb robbers, and to the array of glittering treasure.

How curious that I should open this morning's post to find my poem, 'Gold', about tombaroli in the Etruscan tombs of Italy, in the latest edition of The Dawntreader, published by Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams Press.

Monday 24 August 2009

Meme Moment (2): A Favourite Book

The Weaver of Grass is inviting us to post on a favourite book. I am treating this a bit like Desert Island Discs in the sense that on this occasion I am assuming that I may also squeeze the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare on to my raft.

I have blogged recently about the poem, Cadgwith, by Lionel Johnson; and since I can recite this by heart, I do not need to take a copy of this poem with me.

This whittles my choice down to:
... but on this occasion I shall opt for The Collected Poems of Edward Thomas.

Of course there are many other books that spring to mind. I might have to exchange my raft for a cruise ship.

Why Edward Thomas? The book is weighty and has a satisfying feel to it. I knew little of Edward Thomas, possibly just his wonderful poem, Adlestrop (and here) before I moved to Wales seventeen years ago, but I have since grown to love his writing. I attended an excellent course under the aegis of the Swansea University Department of Adult Education, entitled 'Three Thomases: Dylan, RS and Edward'.

Edward Thomas was a deep thinker who engaged with the natural world. He went on long walks and noticed the birds, the nettles and the country ways of life.

I am not a great supporter of wars, but I admire the fact that Thomas chose to enlist for the Great War, despite being of an age at which subscription did not apply. He was killed by a stray shell when he had only been writing poems (as opposed to prose) for a very few years. I have probably mentioned it before, but his poem The Owl encapsulates for me so much of what Thomas was about. It was written when the poet was at home in Steep in Hampshire on 24 February 1915. He appears to have been troubled by the fact that young men had no choice but to join the war effort. Perhaps Thomas was wrestling with his own conscience. By 8 April 1917 he was dead.

My chosen volume shows the text of the poem on one side with notes on the facing page. I find this fascinating and very helpful. Thomas made few alterations to this poignant poem. There is certainly a wistful note in many of the poems (one is called Melancholy), but there are poems that are less pensive.

David and I became fascinated by the colourful poem Swedes (number 26 in my volume) a few years ago. We wrote a short article (link to first page) about the ancient Egyptian background to it, which was published in OUP's Notes & Queries.

So for a number of reasons, Edward Thomas wins out, and - providing I can find a waterproof cover - his Collected Poems edited by Professor R. George Thomas will join me on my raft.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Window on Wildlife (7): Oxwich

You can read about our weekend wildlife walk here...

Any help with the ID of any of the species would be much appreciated!

Saturday 22 August 2009

Wonderful Words (8ii): Pangram update

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog...

Well, Michelle, here is my Pangram poem... I cannot claim that it is a 'pure' Pangram poem for many of the constituent sentences have more than 26 letters, and one or two - I fear - have the odd letter missing. It needs more polish, so please consider it as a 'work in progress'. It is, of course, essentially a kind of 'Found Poem'. Here goes:

Γαζίες καὶ μυρτιὲς δὲν θὰ βρῶ πιὰ στὸ χρυσαφὶ ξέφωτο*1
A quart jar of oil mixed with zinc oxide makes a very bright paint. *2

Brown jars prevented the mixture from freezing too quickly.
An inspired calligrapher created pages of beauty using stick ink, quill, brush, pick-axe, buzz saw, or even strawberry jam.
Six big juicy steaks sizzled in a pan as five workmen left the quarry.
While making deep excavations we found some quaint bronze jewellery:
Jackdaws loved my big Sphinx of black quartz.
A large fawn jumped quickly over white zinc boxes:
On the boardwalk grave playful lizards quickly jumped and exercised.
The exodus of jazzy pigeons was craved by squeamish walkers.
Travelling beneath the azure sky in our jolly ox-cart, we often hit bumps quite hard.
Five jumbo oxen grazed quietly with packs of dogs.
As we explored the gulf of Zanzibar, we quickly moved closer to the jutting rocks.
Whenever the black fox jumped, the squirrel gazed suspiciously.
The jay, pig, fox, zebra, and my wolves quacked,*
"Uphill jogging will tax pounding heart muscle very quickly - better to be lazy:
Now is the time for all quick brown dogs to jump over the lazy lynx."
Six busy ducks quacked wildly when the zookeeper jumped off the gravel path:
Many big jackdaws zipped quickly over the fox pen.

Jolly housewives made inexpensive meals using quick-frozen vegetables.
The jukebox music puzzled a gentle visitor from a quaint valley town.
Fred specialized in the job of making very quaint wax toys:
Jack quietly moved up front and seized the big ball of wax.
The public was amazed to view the quickness and dexterity of the juggler.
Two hardy boxing kangaroos jetted in from Sydney to Zanzibar on quicksilver pinions.
Back in my quaint garden jaunty zinnias vied with flaunting phlox.


*1 Title: No more shall I see acacias or myrtles in the golden clearing (using the Greek alphabet).
*2 A quart jar of oil mixed with zinc oxide makes a very bright paint. (Epigram. For the significance of the 'jar of oil' see Aristophanes in The Frogs on Euripides - e.g. note against 'p.99' on linked page).
*3 Letters left in red in this line are extra to the alphabet requirement. (I charted this line as an example...).

Do feel free to analyze any further sentences, and let me know which letters are missing (or surplus to requirement!). One further point: I added a few extra letters on occasions to change the tense in pre-existing pangrams from present to past.

Wonderful Words (8i): Pangram in Progress

Pangram in the making...

I am attempting Michelle's Poefusion Pangram Challenge - a lot of fun, but perhaps not exactly the thing for those little grey cells on this distinctly grey fuzzy morning!

Why not jump on the bandwagon (or the 'panwagon') and come and join us...

I will let you know when and if I have my Eureka! moment of 'success'.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Meme Moment (1): Transformative Moment

Puffins at Bempton Cliffs
(RSPB), Yorkshire, UK

Today is the big day! I have found it extremely hard to pick on one defining moment for the purposes of this post (see Steven's blog). The traveller in me would pick the day I flew to Amsterdam and visited Anne Frank's House. The poet in me would pick the day when I won poetry competition at the age of eleven for a poem entitled 'Koala Bear'. The animal lover in me would go for the afternoon when I came home with my first dog. The athlete in me (joke, joke) would select the occasion when I received a small green rosette for coming third in the flowerpot race. What about my many Cornish moments which have shaped my thinking ever since? What about that expedition to Corinth on a school trip, when I stood at the outdoor bema (preaching desk), supposedly used by the Apostle Paul?

Those of you who have followed this blog, however, will not be surprised to find that I have chosen to recall the day when I saw my first puffins in the wild. This last statement is not strictly true, for we had been on the look-out a year earlier, and we think we saw one solitary puffin through a kind birder's highly magnified lens.

We returned to the spot the following year, and this time there was no Yorkshire fret hugging the coast, so the visibility was much better. To our great delight, we saw puffins - through binoculars and with the naked eye. They were nesting. Some had stalks of grass in their beaks and others were finding a cliff ledge hole in which to rear a family. Others were looking quizzically at the gannets. Others still were floating like little amber jewels in a necklace on the sea.

WHY am I so drawn to puffins, I wonder? Yes, they are definitely cute. Yes, they need all the 'friends' they can muster in these days when numbers are declining in sites like the Farne Islands. Yes, they are photogenic and pose a challenge for the photographer. Yes to all these thoughts. However, it is something more that compels me to watch puffins. These small birds have taught me not only to spend time outdoors, enjoying the wonders of creation but they have made me want to understand something of what I see and sense around me. I find myself wondering where the puffins came from and where they will go (and I never was one for geography!).

Puffins have made me appreciate other birds, too. You cannot go to Bempton Cliffs in the spring without being blown away by the gannet colony, not to mention the Razorbills and Guillemots. However, it is not only the spectacular birds which catch my attention these days, although I admit to being a sucker for bright colours! I believe I saw my first Corn Bunting last week in Wiltshire, and I definitely saw my first Osprey in Scotland earlier in the summer.

My blogging activities have put me in touch with some wonderful birders. I am still very much a beginner when it comes to identifying the different species; but my knowledge and my appetite for bird knowledge have both increased enormously since that 'Eureka!' puffin moment. It is not only birds. When I am out with binoculars, I find myself on the look-out for butterflies, insects, caterpillars, lizards, newts, wild flowers, fungi, mice, deer, trees and so many interesting examples of flora and fauna.

The poet, Edward Thomas, has long been a favourite of mine. He served in the Great War, and died when he was hit by a stray shell. Thomas was a keen observer of all that he saw. He wrote prose initially (who could resist his description of the watercress man?). Later he turned his hand to poetry and found new ways of using words. He was a great friend of the poet, Robert Frost - and as I close this post, I am reminded of Frost's immortal lines about the parting of the ways in the wood. I am so grateful to that first puffin for leading me down a new path of discovery, and to all the poets and bloggers who are helping me to learn more about the beautiful but fragile world around me.

Two favourite poems to sum up the essence of my thoughts:
My thanks to Steven of The Golden Fish for hosting today's meme on the theme of a 'Transforming Moment'. My thanks also to all my fellow wildlife bloggers who have opened my eyes that bit wider to the wonders of our world. This is not a comprehensive list (I had to keep something for a future occasion!) - so thank you to everyone.

Here goes in alphabetical order... Enjoy!

Monday 17 August 2009

Beautiful Birds (13): Magpies - two for joy, twenty for...?

One for sorrow, two for joy...
Nineteen for ???

We were just enjoying a cup of coffee when we realized that there was a racket going on around us. It was a tiding, a gulp, a charm or perhaps a murder of magpies - depending, of course, on your point of view. Collective nouns can be such fun!

We often see magpies around our area; and although they make enough noise for ten, there are usually only three or four to be seen. Why, I wonder, were we suddenly surrounded by so many? Was it just one of those things - or can we blame the weather?

I began to wonder about the origin of the word, 'magpie', and whether the 'pie' bit was related to the word 'pied' (see also: piebald).

'Pied Beauty' by Gerard Manley Hopkins has long been a favourite poem of mine... not forgetting, of course, 'The Pied Piper'.

It seems, however, that the 'pie' bit actually comes from the Latin name, pica pica, which means 'a craving for something not normally regarded as of nutritional value', or in the specific case of the magpie, a bird who gleans all sorts of odd bits and pieces for its nest.

Has anyone else experienced a murder of magpies this evening? Do let me know.

Poems on the Web (3): WAVES, tercet ghazal

I mentioned The Ghazal Page ezine (ed.Gino Peregrini) in an earlier post. My Tercet Ghazal, 'Waves', is now online. There is a link to it under the heading 'Sky' on the right hand side of the page, or you can find the poem here.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Window on Wales (1): Please don't let the Big Apple crumble...

The Big Apple,
a well-loved landmark in Swansea,
situated just above the Mumbles Pier.

The Big Apple was damaged last week when a car drove into it. There is talk that it may not be repaired and local people in the Swansea area are signing a petition to try to secure its future. It was built originally as an outlet for apple-flavoured drinks, I believe, and was expected to last a couple of years ... and that was about 80 years ago! If you have photographs of the Big Apple, you might consider sending them to a gallery site here.

Many people would cite 'Fern Hill' as their favourite Dylan Thomas poem. It would surely be a shame to allow the Big Apple to disappear from the home town of the poet who wrote such memorable lines about the apple boughs at Laugharne.

Friday 14 August 2009

Conservation Corner (1): Wild Flower Garden

My River of Wild Flowers

Back on 1 January 2009 I blogged about my New Year Resolution to have my own small river of wild flowers in my garden. My 'river' is more like a tiny trickle; but due to the cold weather, the rain and the slugs, my crop has not been as prolific as it might have been. Nonetheless the survivors have brought some lovely colours to my garden and have provided food for insect life. I would hope to plant a similar crop again next year, but wonder how I can stop the slugs without resorting to unorganic means.

We now have a Wild Flower Centre on Gower: I shall have to go exploring...

Monday 10 August 2009

Poetic People (22a): The Guardian on Aeronwy Thomas - a tribute

The Guardian Obituary for Aeronwy Thomas-Ellis has now appeared, and you can read it here.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Poetic People (22): The Times on Aeronwy Thomas - a tribute

The Boat House, Laugharne
Photo: David Gill

Aeronwy Thomas: translator, writer and daughter of Dylan Thomas | Times Online Obituary

Shared via AddThis

Poetic People (21): Tennyson

Yesterday, 5 August, marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Lord Tennyson, one of our greatest poets and Poet Laureates. He was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire on August 6, 1809. He died on 6 October 1892 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where he has a memorial bust and gravestone in Poets' Corner.

and his wife, Emily, spent part of their married life at Farringford on the Isle of Wight. Profits from the publication of his poem, Maud, enabled the poet to buy the house, which he had previously been renting.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Poetry Matters (10): Nature Poetry Group

I have just joined the new Nature Poetry group on ReadWritePoem. Thank you to Crafty Green Poet for setting this up. If you enjoy nature and eco-poetry, why not come and join in?

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Monday 3 August 2009

Window on Wildlife (6): (Not a) Lizard...

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, Scotland
  • Lizard?
  • Castle (with David)
  • Orchid
We drove past this wonderful loch-side castle en route for the isle of Skye last year. It was one of our regrets that we did not have time to stop, so this year we made a point of including Kilchurn on our Scottish itinerary. The castle was built by Sir Colin Campbell in the middle years of the 15th century. Recent research into masons' marks indicates that some of the masons who worked on Rosslyn Chapel may have moved on to exercise their skills at Kilchurn.

It was rather dull weather when we there, but I found some colourful views on Google Images.

The orchids were truly amazing in their beauty and abundance. I recall my school days in Kent when it was considered a red-letter day if we spotted an orchid in the wild. However, my excitement at seeing these flowers was surpassed on this occasion by the delight at finding and photographing the small lizard. I have occasionally seen lizards in the wild (we once found one in our back garden before we moved to our present house), but this lizard was so colourful. I have looked on the internet, and it may just be a Common Lizard; but its markings seem a little unusual. I kept coming across the Red Eft on the web, but I have a hunch that this was a lizard and not a young newt.

STOP PRESS: My thanks to Chris, the Co-ordinator of the Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme and Administrator of RAUK ( for telling me that my

'first assumption of a Red Eft is closest. It is, in fact, a juvenile newt.'

The fact that the pale stripe down the back continues to the tail apparently suggests that the creature is a juvenile Palmate Newt.

Language & Linguistics (1): Word a day in Welsh

Sign up for a new Welsh word every day, brought to you via Twitter. (Thank you to fellow poet and blogger, Susan Richardson for alerting me to the BlogCymru site).

Poetic Forms (1): Ghazal

The summer edition of The Ghazal Page is now online, along with a blog, Don't Muzzle the Ghazal, run by editor Gino Peregrini (aka Gene Doty, Associate Professor Emeritus of English at the Missouri University of Science and Technology).

I have a poem coming out in the forthcoming Tercet Challenge issue. You might also like to visit the innovative site, Ghazalville, created by

Saturday 1 August 2009

Poetic People (20): Daniel Dragomirescu and C&LH, Romania

The July issue of Contemporary and Literary Horizon (C&LH) magazine from Romania is now out. You can read about it here. The editor-in-chief is Danuiel Dragomirescu, and you can read part of my interview with Swansea poet, Peter Thabit Jones here.

Creative Corner (5): Revelation of Seth Apter's DisCo Project

Pizza-&-Pistachio Art
The composition.

Part of The Altered Page
DisCo Project

under Seth Apter

Detail of the cat

Detail of the owl's head


The guitar...

Detail of the sheep (or hedgehogs?)


Blue owl
(courtesy of a Photoshop filter)

This piece of digital art can be interpreted in a way that suits the viewer. This viewer (who is also the maker) likes to think that she has created a couple of virtual pizzas. They are perhaps two-season pizzas rather than quattro staggione, for the bundle of components was only allowed to 'cook' in the open air for the duration of six months. This viewer hope that her picture may cause a smile. If it makes you think about the possibilities of re-using cast-off materials, well, so much the better. These pizzas are purely decorative. Enjoy!

Items re-used from the bundle:
  1. lavender sprigs (for glints in the sea and grey flecks in the owl).
  2. newspaper words (see 'treasures' in the sea).
  3. snail shell (which I tinted with glitter-glue to make it show up).
  4. buddleia flowers (for brown flecks in the owl)
  5. pistachios (for just about everything - the owl's guitar, the boat, sheep faces...)
  6. twigs (for the boat's mast and the neck and headstock of the guitar)
  7. kitchen towel (for flecks in the sea)
  8. moulted pet fur (for the owl's soft feathers and for the cat)
Items that vanished:
  1. stone
  2. piece of fence post
  3. kitchen towel roll
  4. palm leaves
Items added in to final picture:
  1. acrylic paint
  2. glitter-glue
  3. cardstock
  4. typed captions
  5. discarded sheep's wool
  6. a white polystyrene take-away box (which had contained my 'one weakness', chocolate cake!).
  7. two polystyrene pizza bases
'My collaborator is nature'
Seth of The Altered Page has been hosting the DisCo Project (aka the 'Disintegration Collaboration' Project) over a period of months, and many of us worldwide have enjoyed taking part. This is the culmination of months of work and weathering. This is the day when we reveal not only what the weather has done to our bundles but also how we have recreated something new from the remains of the items that we abandoned earlier on.
  • 16 February 2009: By this time I was (almost) one of 50 artists preparing a bundle of bits and pieces to expose to the elements. I only heard about the project rather late in the day, but I soon caught up with my fellow DisCo goers. It was my hope that the Welsh wind and rain would work wonders on my discarded treasure. Paul Valéry said that 'a poem is never finished, only abandoned', and I found this thought quite reassuring as I hung my bundle on our hydrangea bush, leaving it at the mercy of the elements. You can read about my original bundle here. Suffice to say it contained an assortment of bits and pieces from my garden that I felt would be fun to recycle - including a stone (which vanished), some sprigs of lavender, an empty snail shell and a piece of rotting fence post. I also included some moulted pet fur and some newspaper clippings of words that annoyed me or appealed e.g. 'risk', 'diet' (no prizes for guessing which camp this one fell into!) and - of course - 'treasures'.
  • 1 May 2009 (and here and here): we were invited to take a look at our bundles on May Day. You can read about my altered bundle here. My bundle had fallen apart and turned into two smaller ones. It was probably at this stage that the wood and the stone fell out. We were encouraged to decide for ourselves whether we left our remaining bundles outside a bit longer or whether we chose to bring them indoors. I left mine for a while, but decided fairly soon that if I was to have some items left with which to make the final piece of art, it would be best to do my salvage work while there was still time.
  • 1st August 2009: this is the day when all is revealed! The project has come full circle and our chosen items have been suitably weathered by the atmosphere, gathered in by human Wombles (us!) and turned into something new.
So what I have I gained from taking part? It has been fascinating to see how others have approached this exercise, and to visit blogs from the other side of the Atlantic (not forgetting the blog of the Weaver of Grass, closer to home). It has challenged my thinking about the value of detritus and has made me test out a theory that discarded pistachio shells can have a use after all! I went through a phase of throwing them on the garden as compost (like cocoa shells), but began to feel that they might entice rats. Seth's project has made me think again about the age-old question, 'what is art?'. Is it about beauty or worth or self expression? Do we paint - or write or sing or act or take photographs - to please others or to please ourselves? What compels us to exercise our creative instincts? How can these benefit society - and should they (or is it art for art's sake?). One of the good things about this DisCo project was that although we were collaborating with one another, we were not in competition because our real collaborator was nature itself.

Thank you, Seth, for inviting us to join the dance; and for opening our eyes to new possibilities, techniques and means of expression. Diolch yn fawr!