Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Hugging trees

Watercolour by Natasha Lee, please see links at end of blog.
I wrote this poem years ago, it's in my first published collection, The Spaces in Between (2015). I was prompted to dig it out when my artist friend Natasha Lee posted this picture of hers on her Facebook page today. Good to link the poem and the picture on here, especially when it seems so appropriate to the time.

Hugging trees

I have hugged more trees than blokes in recent years,
their bark is rough, but they don’t bite;
and they don’t run away when you show your tears.

I have hugged more trees than blokes in recent seasons,
they have plenty of foliage, but they don’t leave;
and you can do as you please, they don’t ask for reasons.

I have hugged more trees than blokes in recent weeks,
they can be spikey but they don’t get under your skin;
and they don’t watch football and behave like geeks.                            

I have hugged more trees than blokes in recent days,
they are very hard, but they are friendly and kind;
and they don’t mess with your mind in complex ways.

I have hugged more trees than blokes in recent hours,
they feel rather stout, but they don’t have paunches;
and they don’t try to tell you that you have no powers.

I have hugged more trees than blokes in recent times,
they smell a bit mossy, but they don’t have odours;
and they don’t mess about with your poems and rhymes.

I may hug more blokes than trees in future ages;
they don’t have branches, but they have nice arms;
and they taste much better than old greengages.

'Hugging Trees' appears in The Spaces in Between (Pinewood Press, 2015). Copies are available direct from the author.
Natasha Lee Designs is here: www.natashaleeillustration.co.uk 
Facebook and Instagram :  @NatashaLeeDesigns 

Wednesday, 1 April 2020


It's National Poetry Writing Month. I don't often do this annual writing marathon of attempting to write a poem every day for a whole month, but hey, were in lockdown, and this could be a good way to cultivate, (recultivate!) the discipline of writing daily.

To get me started, I did some work on this little one I began on our last holiday -- a few days spent in and around Cambridge in February. Who knows when we will go away again?


Flanked by ochre stone
of ancient college walls
sun spotlights a Cambridge square
where small pink blossom
etches sketchy trees.

To catch the last rays of 
the late winter afternoon
we take one end each of an old bench,
carry it to a corner
where we sit, and rest.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Recreating the High Street

I wrote this poem a few months ago while on a course about 'Rewilding your Poetry'. It seems more appropriate now with measures to keep us all indoors because of Covid19. Imagining what this place could be like without us...

Recreating the High Street

Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.
(From ‘The Leaf and the Cloud’, Mary Oliver).

On the first day after the humans have gone,
a bramble pokes through a crack in paving
in an abandoned shopping centre,
wanders over erupting tarmac,
and infiltrates brickwork by a deserted supermarket car park.

On the second day
a shoot tip-roots in dust by the derelict gasworks,
throws new canes in every direction,
tangles with others, arching high,
forms a thicket of prickled green.

On the third day
flowers spring out like roses.
Delicate creamy petals
crowned with pink stamens
reign all over wasteland acres.

On the fourth day
yellow brimstones and speckled woods arrive
to suckle on rich nectar.
Industrious bees and bumbles get busy;
and boisterous blackbirds build nests.

On the fifth day
deer gather to graze fresh leaves,
rich fruits form, turn glossy dark
and thrushes fly in on song to feed.
At dawn and dusk fox and badger forage on the briars.

On the sixth day
flies gather for a feast on forgotten fruit,
catarpillars curl in cooling leaves,
grass snakes slip into silent nooks,
dormice seek refuge and hedgehogs find havens.

On the seventh day
soft rain falls and the earth is revived.
And the sun shines
and all settles quiet in the bramble dome.
And all the creatures know that it is good.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Presence in her absence

One of the highlights of 2019 for me was having a poem Highly Commended in the RS Thomas Festival Competition, held at Eglwysfach in September.
The anthology of this year's competition poems has just been published.  Judges were former National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke and Prof Tony Brown (Bangor University).
I was astounded by Prof Brown's comments on my poem in the introduction to the anthology. Among his points: "I was indeed reminded of the way a 'metaphysical' poet like Donne explores the emotional implications of an image." 
And: "There is a fine sense of the shifts of love here, in the slow movement, the flow and drift of the water and a moment which, in responding directly to 'Seventieth Birthday', would not have been out of place in a poem by RS himself...  And that pun on 'reflection' -- one RS uses more than once -- again shows real, thoughful engagement with his imaginitive world. But this is not in any way to suggest mere imitation: this poet has her own voice." 
Wow, gee, thanks!

If the timing had worked out I would have included this poem in my second collection 'Breakfast in Bed', in which I gathered many poems about love in all its forms (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2019). But that book went to press just before the competition.

Below is the Highly Commended poem. I used the competition prompt as the epigraph.
Presence in her absence

I lean far out from the bone’s bough

knowing the hand I extend

can save nothing of you but your love.

(from ‘Seventieth Birthday’, RS Thomas)

You are as two trees on the shore,

boughs engaged over water,

roots entangled through comfortable earth

and beyond, into the lake that holds

the depths of both of you.

Her currents are yours and yours are hers,

flowing in mutual quiet beneath silvered ripples.

She drifts into you and out, and back.

While you contemplate final separation,

if you offer your hand, she will take it.

As trees become still and the lake surface calms

to allow true reflection

you will feel her presence in your silence,

and you will no longer suspend your breath.

Inspirations, the 2019 RS Thomas Festival Competition anthology is published by Einion Books, Machynlleth.

Breakfast in Bed, info and ordering details: