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.
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.
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.
Pleased that my eccentric wee poem ‘To Dundee FC early 1900s’ found a spot in POETRY SCOTLAND‘s sheet for ne’er-do-wells and troublemakers ‘Gallus’ (Scots: bold, cheeky or flashy) – about the right place for it, I suspect!
Not so much a football item really, maybe more of a photography or a time-travel poem. Trouble indeed…
I don’t think I’ve written a poem inspired by a diagram before. This particular diagram came to my attention as part of my “day job” as a designer. Over the past couple of months I’ve been working on graphics and media for an exhibition at Dundee Science Centre about research studying the songs of humpback whales in the South Pacific. The study was undertaken by researchers from the Sea Mammal Research Unit of the University of St Andrews.
It’s fascinating work, and one piece of it is distilled in a diagram made by Dr Ellen Garland and her colleagues. It shows how humpback songs recorded by scientists over a 10 year period have not only travelled regularly in a west-to-east pattern over a 10,000km long stretch of the Pacific, but have changed year-on-year as humpback whales learn each new season’s “score” and sing it across the ocean. You can find out more about this remarkable, and as yet little understood observation of whale culture on Ellen’s website.
The more I thought about Ellen’s diagram, the more I came to feel how deceptively simple it was. I think that as you look more and gain a sense structure over time, you realise this is showing something genuinely astonishing, that had previously been so hard to see (or hear!) as to be effectively invisible.
June 2021: I’m delighted to have this poem (and some artwork) included as an ‘Editor’s Choice’ in Issue 5 of Consilience, the journal of poetry and science.
The exhibition at Dundee Science Centre was supported by the Royal Society, the University of St Andrews, and Dundee Science Centre. It’s aimed at children, but there is lots for anyone to enjoy and find out. It launched on Saturday 28th September, and will be open for several months.