Sunday, 31 August 2008


I don't attend many reading events partly due to time restraints and partly to my reluctance to drive through unfamiliar cities and find a parking space. I can drive, I can map read - but not both at the same time.

Purely by chance I ended up in the nearest car park in Chester to Zimmercon (and one of the cheapest if I did my shopping there before I left - which I did).

So was it worth the stress of getting there? It was great for networking - and meeting the people whose names I recognised. (I was relieved to see Sam Smith who started introducing me to others - thanks.) There was a little time to chat during the breaks - just enough to say 'hello' but not bore anyone. (Mental note - next time make sure I know what I want to say to folks before launching in with 'hello.... err...')

It was also an opportunity to hear other poets read. It can be surprising how different some poets' work is when you hear them read it. And, of course, it's a chance to promote yourself by reading yours. For best results stick to the allotted time slot and know \ quickly assess the audience. (Vital if you are to make the best impact.)

I only sold one book which was disappointing. But whom it was sold to made up for that.

What do you think about reading and networking events? And do you attend?

Photos used by kind permission of Geoff Stevens and are copyright. Top - Paul Tanner with attitude. Middle - Paul Tanner, Steve Sneyd and Brendan Hawthorne. Right - Sam Smith

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Haiku - how do you know

when you've mastered the form? (Or senryu, if it's about humans)

I've visited a couple of websites and blogs recently which mentin these form. The website below gives informed advice:

What makes a really strong haiku - according to you? Should we have a mini competition? Voters must explain the reasons for their votes.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

What inspires you? And why?

What inspires people to write poems? Nature, life experience, paintings, literature? And do poems ever say anything new? Does it matter? Is it sufficient to be reminded?

Being a painfully private person, I feel more at ease writing about wildlife than people. I suppose it's the anonymity of it. It's a vehicle I can sometimes use to allude to the human experience without betraying confidentiality. I also find that walking in wild places helps my thinking - probably a combination of feeling relaxed and enjoying improved blood circulation to my brain.

That said, it doesn't always work. Earlier this week I spotted a peregrine resting on a bolder at the tide line (Allonby Bay). I'm still waiting for the poem to lift....

I'd love to know what everyone else thinks. Feel free to add a comment.

Above is a wheatear (this one photographed by Rick Spencer). I was pleased to spot some of those at Allonby too, along with linnet, whitethroat, merlin and ringed plover. I'm also pretty sure I saw a few first year kittiwakes alongside the expected gulls.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The language of birds

We managed an enjoyable stroll this morning without getting wet, taking in White Coppice, Anglezarke, Healey Nab and Heapey Reservoirs. Good to see some juveniles, including two great crested grebes, emerging although generally it doesn't seem to have been a very good breeding season.
We spent time listening to the strange calls of young great tits and nuthatch - practising to sound like their parents. It made me realise that just as humans are born with an ability to speak any language (we just copy the spoken sounds around us) so it seems that birds do the same.
I wonder if we have an innate ability to speak bird language and vice versa. It's a thought!

The nuthatch photo is by Nigel Fairclough. Use the link in the sidebar to see more or his landscape and wildlife photos.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Objectivity and nature poems

Some, Hughes among them, would say that nature poems should show us something about ourselves. Others would say that precise description is enough.

When I look at a well crafted wildlife photograph with light, focus and composition showing the creature in stunning detail, being itself in its habitat - that's all you need, isn't it? So why shouldn't poetry be the same? After all, isn't wildlife there for its own sake? It seems to manage very well in those areas that are most remote to humans.

Is admiration sufficient response? What do you think?

This photo of a dipper is by Colin Smith - follow the link from this blog to see more of his splendid images.

Re-routing footpaths. What do you think?

I went on a walk recently and would have given up if it hadn't been for a local dog walker who inadvertently led me to the path.
The official path is diagonally across the field - now recently planted with saplings and no sign of a stile in the opposite corner. As it turned out the path has been re-routed around the edge of the field, into the adjacent field and down a hedged passageway behind a newish stable.
Apart from issues regarding whether paths should be re-routed, surely folks should be made to clearly sign the new paths. What do you think?
This photo has nothing to do with the above walk. I found this carving in the middle of a hedge down a quiet lane in Chirk. It tells the history of the place (as seen by the tree, I guess). If you click on it, you'll get a better view.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Bats in the Park

I'm just back from an evening walk around the Astley Park with Chorley NATS. We spent some time watching the little grebe and learning about fungi (thanks Joyce). At dusk the bat detectors picked up Pipistrelle, Noctule and Daubenton's bats although I only saw the first two. A bit strange since the later are the largest and usually the easier to see as they fly over the water. But there you go... In the background a Tawny Owl was calling. A pleasant way to end the day.

I've been watching rooks on a local playing field this week. Here's as early draft:


These dome-headed creatures have descended,
hunched gargoyles
with the ragged pants of nightmares,
chiseled backs and stripped-back beaks
staking out the playing field.
Territorial grouches,
each feeding in its own space.
Unspent coals,
each pitching into its reserves
to stiffly shake its wings
until determination lifts them

like death loosened from damp ground,
a party cawing
as it flies
above the tree crowns,
over the church and onwards,
into out of sight.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Did it work?

Well, I didn't get more flies in when I opened the door but those that were already in didn't all rush out either.

But what's this?

Is it a dust buster? Ghostbuster? Or could it be ... ... a fly buster! With a bit stealth - it has removed all the flies that were already in AND the cloves are stopping more entering - so I'm a happy girl again!

Now I really must get back to blogging about birds and poetry....

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Cloves to the rescue!

Ok - so it might look like a puny mace.... but if it keeps those flies out of my kitchen and back in the fields where the birds can eat them, I'll be pleased.

Explosion of Flies

I've lived here 24 years and never been bothered by flies - until the week. Have I been neglecting my cleaning regime? Not that I was aware of. So I asked the questions and found out that everyone else has them too - a breed of houseflies that are kitchen specialists.

They won't keep you awake by drumming against the bedroom window but knowing they're taking over your kitchen is a nightmare....

Investigations are indicating that the outbreak is confined to Euxton mostly near the peripheral of certain fields, as one might expect. But why have I never had this problem before?

Refusing to have splattered stains all over the place I'm opting for something better - preventative. I'm leaving an apple spiked with cloves in the kitchen. I'll let you know how it goes.

photo from www.qpm.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Birding at Work

This morning I was summoned to see a bird - a female sparrowhawk as it turned out.
Everyone missed the pounce but some were alerted by hearing a woodpigeon smash into a window and when they looked out the hawk was dismembering it. Too heavy to fly off with, it plucked and ate it there. An undignified death but what an opportunity to see wildness as it is.

Photo by Mike Atkinson - follow the link to see more

Monday, 4 August 2008

Review by Carol Fenlon

I was really pleased to read this review of from the field book. It's written by Carol Fenlon, a writer for whom I have a lot of respect.

I never knew how little I know about birds till I read this book of poems. The poetry dances with movement, the movements of birds, light, airy, full of flights and dips, insights like flashes of wings and tail feathers. There are a few humans mixed in, but not enough to spoil this wonderful play of wildness and nature. Dip into it, drown in it, fly with it, 'from the field book' is a delight of avian (and alien) culture. [Carol Fenlon. August 2008]

Sunday, 3 August 2008

The road less travelled...

or in this case the path. I decided to extend my usual route - simple enough on the map. So instead of turning left to do a circuit of Croston Finney, I went straight on. So the track was grassed over but it was there... I found the junction: a clear track to the right but I was going left.

So what if it was buried in 4ft Indian Balsam? I could see where the wheat ended and path should be and furthermore I could see the stile at the end. Jeans now soggy, I crossed the railway track and stile at the opposite side.

I could see that others had tried to go straight on where the map said but obviously no-one had been through for a few months... Balsam, bramles and hawthorn... I gave up - then changed my mind and went back - what's a bit of scrub? So I hacked through (not that bad really) noted a dyke and made a mental note to be careful and finally got through.

Once again a track to the right was clear but I was going left - between the Indian Balsam, meadow sweet and cereals. The landmarks were obvious: I was walking parallel to the railway embankment but noting the dykes amongst the dense vegetation I did wonder how sensible I was being....

I stubbornly continued and found the first footbridge exactly where it should be. Thank you LCC. And pushing through more shoulder height balsam, I found the second bridge then followed the farmer's 'tram line' across the wheat to arrive on the gravel track leading back to my car.

So was it worth getting soggy? I think it will be a great winter walk when the vegetation has died down. And I did get a sense of achievement at apparently being the only person to have got through for several months!

Sightings included yellow hammer, lots of whitethroat, linnet, pipit, lark, reed bunting, swift, swallow, house martin, a buzzard, red-legged partridge and other common species.

Photo of yellow hammer by Rick Spencer.
Indian Balsam from

Friday, 1 August 2008

Choosing Poetry Magazines

Another item for discussion - how do you decide which poetry magazines to subscribe to?

Initially it's a case of: have I heard of it and can I read it? Often I start subscribing because a friend recommends one / shows me a copy. Word of mouth seems very important in the small press world. Occasionally I've reviewed one that I liked and took out a subscription.

Secondly (and no reflection on my age!) is the font size, line spacing and typeface. The font size in some is too small, especially when you consider a lot of subscribers are older.... Some of the most prestigious magazines are inspiring - if only I didn't have to put them down (regrettable phrase!) after a couple of pages. I know - it's that dilemma between quantity and space.... but better to be able to read all of it than struggle. When I arrive home to find PURPLE PATCH behind the door - I always read the gossip column first and then have to have a rest! I'm glad that FIRE, full of innovative poetry, has recently changed its typeface - much easier to read. Thanks.

Over to you. There's loads more to discuss on this topic - so go ahead and add a comment. How do you decide which magazines to buy?

from the field book

from the field book
An inspiring gift for anyone who enjoys watching nature.