Well met

I’ve been reading a remarkable book called The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram. It’s a study in ecological philosophy that seeks to examine and understand world views of cultures that don’t separate human consciousness and the natural world. Frankly, it’s not always been the easiest read – I’m afraid my slow brain does have to chug over some paragraphs several times to make sense of them! However, it’s been worth it. Mostly I’ve found it invigorating, and I’d recommend it.

This short poem is about a kind of encounter which most of us might have had sometime, perhaps often if we are lucky. This (and other meetings like this) played in my thoughts a lot while I was reading David Abram’s book. I see this poem as a meeting between two very different minds in the same domain (i.e. not between ‘a human and nature’). It might be commonplace – it certainly was once. It’s slight, but (I hope) there is more to it than meets the eye.

Well met

Where the fireweed straggles
after the arch of the viaduct

I met the deer in an accident
we closed quietly.

A young doe looking up without
alarm to a slow moment

we measure in-between –
calm breaths elongating

our horizon – until unworried
she turns and walks away.

.

.

.


Poetry Scotland

A windfall of poetry goodness through my letterbox this morning (ok, the posty didn’t actually deliver the leaves…). I’m delighted to have a piece in this autumn edition of Poetry Scotland – Andy Jackson has come up with an epic three-parts-for-one-and-one-for-all special edition this time.

You can get a copy or subscribe at http://www.poetryscotland.com


weel kent

 a field prepared for sowing

Last week I attended an interesting workshop by Alycia Pirmohamed, a Canadian-born poet based in the UK, and the winner of the 2020 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. The online event was part of Shetland Arts Wordplay 2021, and focused on ideas about landscape in poetry.

One of the writing exercises involved about envisaging a recent walk, and in another part of the workshop we studied a passage from Schizophrene – a ‘fragmented notebook’ by Bhanu Kapil. The passage made use of a lot of parentheses and, amongst other things, we talked about how this changed the way in which a reader interacted with the text.

Off the back of some of these ideas, and echoing a little with some of my previous forays into interactive poetry, I did a little coding and came up with a draft piece using a system of interactive parentheses. I know – bonkers! Anyhoo, it is called weel kent which is basically Scots for ‘very familiar’.

As with most of these interactive experiments, I can’t embed it here in the blog, but you can view it by tapping the button below which will open a new web page.

Like a quite lot of my pieces, weel kent is intended to be wry more than very serious.

Once you get there, if you tap square brackets [] in the text, each parentheses will expand to reveal their own content. That stays for a little while, then fades away. If you tap again, it appears again, and so on…

weel kent was quite a quickly compiled experiment. It might have been interesting to play around with layout a little as well. Perhaps this could have reflected the form of the short walk described. However, while a web page is good for interactivity, print is a much easier medium to play fluidly with layout. Next time maybe…


ramble

Is this a prose poem? Maybe, I’m not sure, but it is a little story.

Not much happens, but I think poetry can sometimes be about the little stuff, can’t it?

ramble

Have you seen a lama?
Well, yes, though not today.
…..My first was secured
………near a phonebox, somewhere
……………….in France, I think.

…………But no, his hand-space signals
………..only a substantial got-away
…….trout held up for imaginary inspection.

………A toy?
……………Yes, we –
……………………….(indicating trailing downhearted child)
………………………– lost it, probably somewhere near the top.

……..I’m fairly good at spotting
…..medium-fish sized anomalies, but
………..Afraid I didn’t see it.
……………I say, pausing.
………………….What colour is it?
……………………….Light, sort of cream.
…………Which yes, I suppose, is
……………………………………lama-like.

………………I’ll keep a look out.
………..Then passing last,
…………….hooded laddie intense:
………………..Let us know if you find it.
…………………..regret is sharp in focus,
………………..requiring promises:
…………………………………………..I will!

………….Lower down the dog walk
…….Mum and younger sister
………………………………gather blaeberries, waiting
………….with the brown lab who,
………………..being dog, is stressed
…….because the family is now here
……………………………………………………and there,
……………………..not simply here.

……..She (the dog) prefers strawberries
………..(when available)
………………..and frets quietly sitting
……………………while I reminisce about (good old) Boo
…………..who liked to graze here once-upon-a.

…………..I confirm my low lama score
………………..paced in-between.
.……………………I hope they find it. I say so.
………………………………………………As I turn to walk on,

………………Mum spots figures in the distance
……..They’re coming back,
.
…………looks like he’s got something
.
…………………………………..in his hand.

…………I didn’t see, but my mind’s eye
………………optimistically glimpsed
…………………………..something far off,
……………....……..camelid shaped, perhaps
………………………………..softly woolly,
………………………………cream clutched safe,
…………………………in tight silence.


Sea symphonies

I’m delighted to have a poem (and some artwork) included as an ‘Editor’s Choice’ in Issue 5 of Consilience, the journal of poetry and science.

The theme of issue 5 was Rhythm and my poem is about remarkable research by researchers from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews studying the songs of humpback whales in the South Pacific.

There is also a reading in the Consilience podcast.

See https://www.consilience-journal.com/issue-5

more about the background to this poem