Nature and Poetry

I can feel autumn coming. It’s not just the fact that I have now been wearing jeans and pumps rather than shorts and sandals for two whole days. Nor is it anything to do with it being dark by half past eight in the evening. It’s something less defined than that, something that I think is part of our instinctive understanding of seasonal changes. It’s to do with a slight scent in the air, a mulchy, smoky scent which goes so well with the sound of geese flying over the house, and the wood burning smell from outside fires and low, long baas of sheep in fields, long shadows, fruiting trees. Autumn is just around the corner, things are slowing down. I’m slowing down. I have started to think of the hands-on preparatory pleasure of autumn: thick stews, slow cooked and home grown veg, wine made from elderberries, nuts, comforting food and the hunkering down ready for the bleak months of winter that follow. I find myself writing more, reflecting more.

I’ve been running my ‘The Wild Within’ month long workshop/course all this month and I can’t believe how fast it’s gone, or how good the experience has been. We’re nearly at the end of it now, but I’ll be running it again in a few months. It’s pushed me to read poetry for the course, revisiting poets and poems that I was already fond of, but it’s caused me to look closer, examine the poems in a way that I perhaps wouldn’t have unless pushed to. I’ve also loved reading the work of the course members who have joined in the chat group and been so brave to post first drafts, there has been some incredible work produced.  We’ve looked at nature poetry from a variety of angles, including politically engaging nature poetry. Often nature poetry is seen as slow, gentle and twee, but nature poetry is a reflection of self, we seek ourselves in animals, in plants, in the natural world.  One of the poems that I used this week as an example poem was Gillian Clarke’s A Difficult Birth . If you haven’t read Gillian Clarke, I would highly recommend her. Her work is incredible and this poem in particular marries several themes into a single metaphor, without losing the visceral bloody nature of birth or of change. It’s deftly done, taking the historical and political into the poem, filtering it through this image of the barn, the sheep the ‘well intentioned men with their needles and forceps’ and the slip of hands, the warm blood and the opened door. It’s wonderful writing. I think the course members have enjoyed all the poems we’ve looked at.

We’ve looked inside ourselves on this course, and looked at the small and the huge, and looked from above and below and I feel satisfied, happy, we’ve ranged over the course like walkers, dug into the soft loam of ourselves like moles. It’s been a great experience but now I am starting to turn my attention to the next course, which will run in October. I’ll be opening for bookings at the end of August. I already have some interest so it looks like it might be quite popular again. Keep an eye open for details on this site and on social media  (@wondykitten)

I’ve not managed to quite carve out any time on the manuscript this week. I was hoping to get some time in tomorrow but I have mentoring duties and I’m planning an eight mile run as training for the Great North Run (sponsor me here), I have two mentees slightly over lapping this week which is challenging, but in a really good way. One of my favourite parts of my work is mentoring. It’s good to work with people who are striving to get the best out of their work, who are excited to move it forward. I love the sense of purpose, the feeling of helping to sculpt something. It’s another really satisfying experience. I’m also working on an article for a magazine about the use of poetry at times of intense emotion and that is a fascinating research area. I’m loving everything I am doing right now and am not regretting my move to full time poet and freelancer at all. We’re managing, I love my work and my work is building. I am happy.

The only dark cloud was a wobble over the PhD I had a week ago, I thought I’d found a way of funding it so that I could restart sooner, but it fell through. Perhaps that was the universe telling me I’m not ready to get back to it, who knows. I was stressed about it, now I’m not. For now I am looking forward to making wine and baking bread and writing. I have a very clear image in my head of pressing the ‘send’ button on the new manuscript with a glass of something bubbly in my hand. It is nearly, nearly there. I’m hoping next week. And then onto the next project….

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