Monday 31 March 2008

Yet More on Poet Hound!

Poet Hound's current discussion on advice for poets is on submitting poetry for publication. Read it here. (Yes, I'm quoted in these discussions!)

Sunday 30 March 2008

Dream On - poetry by Chrystos

I have long been a fan of Chrystos' beautifully sensual love poetry and am currently reading her collection Dream On. Chrystos is an activist for lesbian and native American rights and often she is angry but she never lets her anger overwhelm her poetry. Her words are well controlled and she writes with true craft as well as passion. Images from the natural world pervade many of Chrystos' love poems, including Night Visits:

A path opens: My feet are rainbow wolves running
calling a cool song through the caves
down to the crystal blue pool

Dream On also includes a number of poems that specifically address environmental issues, including Impact:

I wish I could give you the moment when
Eagle came back into view trailing Crows with the sun dancing
on the water near the very still meadow then you'd know
even one more building anywhere in america or the world
is too many

and Going Through

We can no longer see the wild grasses
whose love flew into our baskets
Trees weep brown who have always been green
their songs hunger for bears
We're lonely they cry
with no-one to rub their backs on us.

Chrystos is an important poet I think because she shows that craft does not need to be sacrificed in the face of strong emotion and that campaigning messages are better addressed through well crafted lyricism and heartfelt emotion more effectively than through slogans and rants. She also writes the most beautiful love poetry ever (really, you need to read her work!).

Saturday 29 March 2008


dolphins swim
in pristine fish-rich seas -
oil reserves below.

Friday 28 March 2008

How all Writers can learn From Haiku

My article about how all writers can learn from haiku is now up at Epiphany. You can read it here.

Edited to add: the article linked to is not a guide to writing haiku.

The Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald

This book is difficult to define, as I think are most books by Sebald. It's a mix of travel and memoir with a fair amount of history and philosophy thrown in. The starting point is a walking tour of coastal East Anglia but the narrative is easily diverted for example the outline of a dragon on a bridge takes us to Imperial China, where the bridge had been originally built for a young emperor. All the seeming disparate elements of the story are connected beautifully and the whole runs together in a dream-like stream of consciousness style. The overarching theme of the book is the transience of everything and the repetitive nature of history, how human progress is marked by the forests we have chopped down; how certain villages are fighting an endless, futile battle against coastal erosion; the thousands of trees destroyed in the 1987 hurricane that swept south east England.

The haunting atmosphere is enhanced by the eerily beautiful black and white photos that dot the text. Sebald was considered by many to be a major European writer and certainly his intelligent commentary is well worth reading, though some of his attititudes and style quirks can be annoying.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Techniquest at the Science Festival

The second area I'm working in at the Science Festival is Techniquest, a drop in area of games, puzzles and other activities that all have a scientific explanation. You can test your reaction time, find out how unique you are, launch a rocket, try out a resonating bowl, watch Skeletron the robot climb her rope and many other activities. Its great fun for all ages!

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Dig Up a Dinosaur at the Science Festival

One of the activities I'm working on at the Science Festival is the Dino-Dig. In the covered lane next to the Assembly Rooms a dinosaur has been buried and our task is to help the visiting children dig this up and work out what sort of dinosaur it is. There are other sorts of fossils buried in there too and we'll talk about those and how they were made before helping the children to make plaster casts in the shape of ammonites.

If you are visiting the Science Festival, you'll need to book in advance for the Dino Dig. I think there are still tickets left for some performances but hurry because they'll sell out fast! Also remember to wrap up warm for the Dino Dig, its freezing in there!

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Edinburgh International Science Festival

The Edinburgh International Science Festival offers a wide range of activities for all the family:

Discover Science with the University of Edinburgh is on at the Museum and the Botanic Gardens.

Talks are taking place in venues across the city.

Wonderama is on at the Assembly Rooms in George Street. This is where I am working, helping on the Dino Dig and in the Techniquest Activities Room (more to follow here in the next few days!). I'll be working 12 days without a break so may not be able to visit other people's blogs as often as usual but I do hope to post here regularly.

Monday 24 March 2008


The year I was born
the plane went down over
uncharted land, drowning in green
endless forest, choking damp heat.

Rare parrots watched.
Howler monkeys shouted
through the trees
news of something never seen before.

The crew had no chance.
Rescue teams heard the call
but failed to locate
in endless dense canopy.

Now the bones and wreckage
lie in arid suburban gardens
where at night, the ghosts of howler monkeys scream
and extinct parrots flutter through restless dreams.

previously published in Moonstone and on the  My Delayed Reactions blog, here

Sunday 23 March 2008

Corstorphine Hill

Yesterday, we had a lovely walk yesterday around Corstorphine Hill. It was very cold and there was some snow on the ground as well as visible on the distant Pentland Hills. There was plenty of bird activity, we heard a woodpecker (probably a great spotted woodpecker) drumming, as well as several birds singing, including chaffinch, robin, blackbird and dunnock). I had excellent views of a goldfinch and 2 bullfinches.

We also had excellent views of three zebras, as our walk passed by the boundary of Edinburgh Zoo. Edinburgh Zoo is recognised as one that does genuinely help international conservation but currently it is causing controversy in Edinburgh by trying to extend its boundaries onto the Local Nature Reserve that covers most of Corstorphine Hill. Corstorphine HIll is an important area for conservation and recreation in Edinburgh. The Friends of Corstorphine Hill are co-ordinating efforts to prevent the expansion of the zoo.

You can see photos of earlier walks round Corstorphine Hill here, here and here.

More on Poet Hound

Poet Hound's question this week was how do you find inspiration? Read the answers here.

Saturday 22 March 2008

Publications update

I am yesterday's guest poet over on Cynthia Marie's blog Epiphany: Amor Habitus Intus Vos. You can read my poem here.

I also have two haiku in the current issue of Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society.

Thursday 20 March 2008


Penny tagged me with this meme: 1. Link to the person that tagged you - 2. Post the rules on your blog - 3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself - 4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs - 5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their site.

I found it really difficult to think of six truly unimportant things that would be worth blogging! So here after much thinking are six seemingly unimportant things about me, but each has some environmental impact:

  • I always carry a fabric carrier bag with me in my handbag.
  • I love second hand shops
  • I drink too much tea (but its always organic and fairtrade so its ethical tea!)
  • I prefer to shower rather than have a bath
  • I collect interesting things to reuse in collages
  • I take the bus to work

I'm not going to tag anyone, as I've done that quite a lot recently and there are a lot of memes like this doing the rounds. But if you want to join in, feel free and let me know in the comments!

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Discussions about Poetry on Poet Hound

Poet Hound recently featured some discussions about poetry that are worth reading. You can find the discussion about reading poetry here and the discussion about how to support living poets here.


a fish flaps its fins in the midst
of the desert while the city
drowns under the rising sea

a crow sings a song on the edge
of the forest while houses
grow leaves and crumble to ashes

a dark shadow looms and hangs tall
in the sky; while a small
golden butterfly emerges from gloom.

Surrealism for Totally Optional Prompts

Tuesday 18 March 2008

A Season in Granada by Frederico Garcia Lorca

This book collects together previously uncollected poetry and prose from Frederico Garcia Lorca, beautifully translated by Christopher Maurer. The poetry is simply written, the prose lyrical. Both are full of a keenly felt sense for the poets surroundings, a love of nature and a very awake imagination. All the writing centres on the city of Granada, where Lorca was born and where he would be murdered. Some quotes:

'In the afternoon, when the admirable bee-eaters feel the wind coming and break into song, and the cicada is in a frenzy, rubbing together its two little plates of gold, I sit down near the living depths of the pool.' from Meditations and Allegories of the Water.

'The Sierra Nevada lends a background of boulders or of snow or of green dream to the songs that cannot fly' from How a City Sings from November to November.

It's a beautiful collection, one that lingers in the mind long after reading it.

I also recently read The Emperor's Babe a novel in verse, which I reviewed here on Pink Gun.

Sunday 16 March 2008


When that man lets his dog
rip off my bark
exposing my heartwood
I want to tear my roots
from the soil, rush at him
rip the fur off the hound
and lay it at his feet

"Don't you know
that's what you've done to me?"

But I stay still
wave my branches in the breeze
let starlings gather
in my crown to mourn
my slow death

Be a Tree for Read Write Poem

Saturday 15 March 2008


bamboo windchimes
tinkle in the breeze -
crucuses bloom.

Gardens for Mad Kanes Haiku Prompt

Friday 14 March 2008

Poetry for Earth Day

Did you know that the 21st of March 2008 is World Poetry Day? Milou is encouraging people to share poems, articles and art with environmental themes on their blogs for Earth Day and to share their contributions on this blog. My post about the tortoise Lonesome George is included (scroll down to find it in Milou's blog).

Earth Day Network enables activists to connect, interact, and have an impact on their communities, and create positive change in local, national, and global policies. EDN's international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Calling freelance journalist in Seattle

This is a long shot, but if you're a freelance journalist in Seattle who emailed me in the last couple of days, can you send the email again. It got caught up in the SPAM filter and I'd already selected 'delete all spam forever' before I realised yours might be a real message.


Poetry about Trees

Check out the new prompt on writing as or about a tree, over on Read Write Poem! For inspiration, why not read the poems about trees I've published on Bolts of Silk.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Recycled Crafts

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh have just published their new programme of events, which includes loads of fun workshop activities for all ages, lots of them with a strong environmental message. The one that most appeals to me is Art-Tastic, where participants will join in making a climate change collage. They will also get to make a funky draught excluder from reused materials - and here's one I made years ago using fabric left over from some I bought as a table cloth when I was in Malawi and filled with old tights:

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Watch this Video

Thanks to Rethabile for sending me this link. Everyone should watch this video: Even if its not for you, you probably know someone who would really benefit from it.

Monday 10 March 2008

Dream Birds

Snow buntings on the garden lawn
rather than twenty starlings
and a sparrow.

In dreams, birds are rarer
their markings clearer
I get nearer.

And sometimes dream flocks
of extinct birds
darken the sky

waking me
to a sense of loss.

I wrote another dream poem on my other blog Over Forty Shades.

Dreams for Read Write Poem

Sunday 9 March 2008

Ageing alone

The last of his kind -
so long alone, another
thirty years to go.

Lonesome George is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, one of 13 subspecies of Galápagos tortoise native to the Galápagos Islands. George is around 70 years old and can be expected to live another 30 to 70 years, probably all alone, though there are indications that there may still be another tortoise of the same subspecies or closely enough related, somewhere in the island chain. Galapagos tortoises were hunted by whalers and pirates during the 18th and 19th centuries. Non-native species such as goats introduced on some of the islands destroyed the vegetation that the tortoises eat. These factors have contributed to the reduction in numbers.

Ages for Mad Kane's Haiku Prompt

Saturday 8 March 2008

Kitchen Tiger

This is cheating really, but Inspire Me Thursday's theme this week is Kitchen and I couldn't resist posting this little creature! Its cheating because a) I didn't make it, I only painted it. It's also quite old. It was originally given to me by a friend, as a kit to make a plant pot to grow cress in but now is filled with kitchen utensils. Tigers are one of my favourite animals, though rabbits certainly make better pets!

To find out more about tigers in the wild see: Tigers in Crisis

Friday 7 March 2008

Winter Sunrise, Edinburgh

A winter bus ride
along Princes Street
the castle backdropped
by the glow of sunrise
colours that deepen
and spread behind the Galleries
on the Mound; sparkle
the frost on Salisbury Crags
under a sky patchworked
by pink lace clouds

Rising for Writers Island

People Against Litter

People against Litter is an Edinburgh group encouraging people to pick up one piece of litter every week and to encourage their friends to pick up litter too! This is a great idea that has the potential to eventually make a real difference to the state of our streets and parks. Even if you don't live in Edinburgh, you can join in!

Of course the one real stumbling block is the perception of picking up litter as being unhygienic. On their website, People Against Litter claim that picking up litter is probably no more unhygienic than handling money that has passed through thousands of other people's hands before it gets to us. Also given the amount of litter in most places, it is easy to avoid the obviously unhygienic or dangerous litter in favour of picking up less dangerous bits!

Another way of combatting litter is to join an organised clean up. The Friends of the Forth organise beach clean ups in and around Edinburgh.

If you regularly pick up litter do you have any tips to share?

Thursday 6 March 2008


I must be doing something right because now three bloggers have awarded me the Excellent Blog Award - Gautami, Rethabile and Clare! So thanks to all three and now I really do need to pass it on, I guess! There are so many Excellent blogs out there that it seems unfair to choose, but excellent blogs that fit in with the main themes of this blog include the following - why not go andvisit them?

Excellent blogs for haiku - Jem, Bill and Polona
Excellent blog for nature poetry - Mike
Excellent blog for environmentally aware crafts - Deb
Excellent blogs for nature photography - Sandy and Mark
Excellent (the only?) blog on Ecopoetics - James

(If I've given you an award, please don't feel that you are necessarily expected to pass it on! Just enjoy it!)

Wednesday 5 March 2008


These hills are timeless;
they have been our landmarks
five lifetimes through.

I have watched them change
from backdrop to a Roman fort
to the rarely seen, dull wilderness,
smog hidden, on the edge of town.

They and you are constants, part
of me, my body’s slow sure compass,
the only given points
on the maps of all my lives.

I never understood life’s meaning
to be eternal death,
I long for future lives,
the excitement of love’s progress.

But as I watch your spirit pass
from this world to the next,
lungs battered by the blood
of our beloved hills,

And as I watch them dig your grave
on our hilltop’s blackened stump,
I hold your hand and quietly pray:
let the next life be Nirvana.

(Previously published in Smallfry)

A Different Voice for Totally Optional Prompts

Monday 3 March 2008

Binkying Bunny Card

Inspire Me Thursday's prompt this week is 'Leap'. This of course made me think of the binky (the rabbit leap of joy) which in turn seemed an ideal theme for an Easter card. So here is an Easter card featuring our much missed rabbit Anya binkying. The card is made from an offcut from a discarded publication that I rescued from the recycling bin at work, the paper is cut from an old letter.

Of Books, Frogs and Memes

I've just finished reading You Darkness by Mayra Montera. Its a book of frogs, zombies and violence, beautifully written but not easy to read. Victor an American herpetologist (zoologist who studies reptiles and amphibians) and his Haitian field assistant Thierry are searching for the almost extinct Blood Frog. They are constantly in danger because of the violence that is around in the rural areas of Haiti at the time. There is an almost palpable sense of this oppressive atmosphere in the book. The narrative of the story is broken up with information about endangered species of frogs and toads.

I became angry at the behaviour of the herpetologists. Here they are searching for a dying species and what do they want to do? Measure it, photograph it and set it free to hopefully find a mate, breed and have some sort of a future as a species? No they want to pickle it and take it back to the lab to dissect, which needless to say isn't going to directly prevent extinction....

Poet with a Day Job tagged me with the book meme:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.

So here is the appropriate passage from You Darkness:

He shook my hand and asked me to sit down, then he began to talk about frogs, he sketched a few on his little slate and asked me if I recognised any of them. Later he took out a photo of a slimy toad all covered with warts, I knew the creature very well, we talked about its poison for a while and I told him what the fishermen in Jeremie always said, that this toad was the mother of all toads. Papa Crapaud started to laugh and said he felt like their father, that was when I though "Papa Crapaud" and then I said it out loud. "You can call me that if you want to!". He shook my hand and told me to go back to Jeremie and find him a nice little house where he could keep his things.

I know this meme is doing the rounds at the minute, so I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like doing it, consider yourself tagged! Edited to add, people who considered themselves tagged are: Kamsin at Fearfully Made

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect has been Leaping into Books about Frogs

Visit Amphibian Ark to find out more about the International Year of the Frog. Please join in their campaign. Between a third and half of all known amphibians are threatened with extinction. They need our help.

Sunday 2 March 2008


walk slowly, listen
to the birds and watch the clouds -
the best way to go.

Walking for Mad Kane's Haiku Prompt

For more about my latest weekend walk (including more haiku) read here

Weekend Walk - Meadows and Arthurs Seat

Yesterday we walked through the Meadows which are lovely at this time of year:

among crocuses -
the jerky, crouching run

When we got to Arthurs Seat we were stunned by the contrast of the vibrant green hillsides against the vivid blue sky. Stunned also by the cold wind.

Arthurs Seat is geologically fascinating (an extinct volcano) and if you look carefully at nearby Salisbury Crags, you can see the rock strata pushed up at a sharp angle. This is also an area rich in birds:

wild wind -
kestrel struggles
to hover.

The first kestrel was joined by a second and they flew around above the gorse covered rocky hillside.

On the other side of the road, looking down to Duddingston Loch:

in the gorse

-the loud chack chack

of jackdaws

then they flew away en masse buffetted by the wind.

Saturday 1 March 2008

Avoid Talcum Powder - Save the Indian Tiger

I had already stopped buying talcum powder because of suspected links between talc and cancer. Now I read recently in The Ecologist that large scale mining for soapstone (the principal ingredient in talc) is causing large scale damage to nature reserves in Rajasthan, India. As a result of this damage, the already highly endangered Indian tiger is being pushed even closer to extinction. The quarrying not only destroys tiger habitats but also devastates the forest and watersheds vital for the well being of local people. Read more in this report from the Environmental Investigation Agency.

If you're looking for an alternative to talcum powder, Neals Yard Remedies sells a body powder made from corn starch, which is what I have bought recently. Or you could just do without, which is what I'm going to start doing in the future!