Sunday 31 August 2008

Crazy Bird Music

'autumn vibrates between nows like a crazy musical instrument' Yang Lian, Poem 5, Chapter 1, Concentric Circles

A bird of two songs is the robin,
this song the one of ice and frost
the sole sign of life
in a bare December hedgerow.

But today is still August
and as I trim our hedge
the brambles not yet even ripe
the robin's crazy mis-timed song

is the saddest music in the world.

for Read Write Poem

Yang Lian's collection Concentric Circles is a magical book of collage poetry containing vivid, memorable images in poems that shift meaning with each reading. I'll write a review of it here soon.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Flower Shows, Wildlife Gardens and a Festival

We went to the Scottish Executive Flower and Craft Show today. (My partner works for the Executive). There were some impressive veg (especially the leeks) and flowers. Interesting crafts too, I'll need to make sure I pick up a copy of the categories so I can enter something next year.....

We then wandered through the Scottish Executive Wildlife Garden, which has a small pond and some nice meadow areas, with lots of flowers, bees, spiders etc. Apparently there are quite a lot of goldfinches round here though we didn't see any today.

We then went to the Mela, Scotland's leading celebration of cultural diversity through the arts, though while we were there, nothing much was happening. There was an interesting variety of food and crafts though, including a stall from Mzuribeads, an organisation in Uganda that makes beads from recycled magazines, which strikes me as a creative, though time consuming way to recycle! The resulting jewellery is very appealing. There was also a stall of crafts from Malawi, which made me feel a little nostalgic.

Friday 29 August 2008

Haibun Today

I've got a haibun up on Haibun Today - you can read it here. An earlier version of the haibun appeared on this blog here.


in a bush -
a homeless cat

Thursday 28 August 2008

Of Renga, Renku and Haiku

Over on Read Write Poem, the latest post about poetic form focuses on renga and renku. It's interesting to read and it includes some of my haiku interspersed in it! Readers are asked to then help write a renku chain in the comments section - so why not go over and join in?

I've also had two haiku accepted to appear in Shamrock, the journal of the Irish Haiku Society, which i will link to as soon as they are published, and this haiku will appear on the breakfast menu of a B&B in the mountains of Idaho....

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Bat Walk, Blackford Pond

Dusk falls. Pipistrelles among the branches above us, fluttering against the darkening sky. Their squeaks translated on the bat detector to audible sounds. The occasional dog walker passes. I wonder what their dogs think of the bats, which they can hear without the detectors.

At the pond, Daubenton's bats swoop close to the water, mesmerising to watch in the light of torches, their translated signature calls different.

Bat Walk, at Blackford Pond, organised by Edinburgh and Lothian Greenspace Trust and Lothian Bat Group

Where are all the Swifts?

Where are the swifts? Earlier this summer we had the normal (up to 15) flying around here regularly. Now though there are none. I've seen only one fly past here in the past couple of weeks and only one small group flying anywhere in Edinburgh. Normally at this time of year we can see up to 30 and every day we see at least some. Are they hiding silently in the clouds? Have they been washed out of the sky?

If you're reading this in the UK (especially if you're in Edinburgh!) how have your swifts done this year?

Tuesday 26 August 2008


between showers -
butterflies flit across
the garden.

Monday 25 August 2008

Sam Meekings and Kei Miller at the Edinburgh Book Festival

The last day at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and probably the best poetry event, though hard to really say, there have been so many excellent poetry events this year (a welcome development, let's hope this continues in the future!)

Sam Meekings is definitely a poet inspired by the natural world and human interactions with nature. His poetry is full of keen observations and vivid imagery, the poems he read from his collection The Bestiary, covered topics such as snails, seahorses and geese.

Kei Miller barely mentioned anything environmental in his poetry (there was a reference to birdsong and I think that was it), but despite this being an environmental blog, I'll let that pass! He gave a brilliant performance of some of the moving poems from his collection There is an Anger that Moves, including Speaking in Tongues, which compares the making of poetry to speaking in tongues.

It was great to hear these two poets, both of whom really understand what poetry is....

Sunday 24 August 2008

By the canal

a church bell tolls -
a pair of mallards
on the water.

The canal banks are full of flowers, hairy and rosebay willowherbs, birdsfoot and hop trefoils, tufted and bush vetches, angelica. Hoverflies and bees move from plant to plant. Numerous sparrows chirp from the hawthorn hedges, annoyingly unripe elderberries and brambles hang just out of reach.

Tiny fish wriggle in the water, pondskaters whirl on the surface. A family of swans glides by, the offspring grey and adolescent.

floats above the water -
robin's autumn song.

Along the Union Canal, Edinburgh

Saturday 23 August 2008

Late August

Somnolent summer’s end –
autumn hides in sun
bleached grass and floating thistledown.

These swallows will always swoop
above these harvest fields of ochre
in honeyed flight.

Leaves kaleidoscope, poised
for the ecstatic fall
into decay.

You can read an earlier poem about the end of summer on this blog here.

Friday 22 August 2008

Crafty Re-use

other people's trash -
polished up to become

Crafty for Mad Kane's Haiku and Limerick Prompt
also inspired by this post on Ecostreet

Things I've found in the street that I've been able to use include:
a ring, a book and a wooden ottoman with a blue velvet lid.
I'm sure I could be more imaginative about how I could use some of the things I see thrown away. What's your best junk find and what have you used it for?

Thursday 21 August 2008

The Raven

Above the ancient island cliffs
upon the soldier's stone memorial
perched the raven, ever stately
echoing his rasping call
across the windy sea.

A second bird above the waves
called in reply to her grim mate
level with the cliff she flew
looked us gravely in the eye
close at our side, stern she stayed
until we left her hill.

inspired by Edgar Allan Poe for Totally Optional Prompts

(most of the adjectives used to describe the ravens in this poem come from Poe's description of the raven in his poem The Raven.)

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Gorgie City Farm - Herb Garden

This is a wonderful little sensory herb garden tucked away in the middle of Gorgie City Farm, where I work. It smells beautiful and is a real suntrap! The photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, when we had some sunshine.....

Jen Hadfield at the Book festival

Yesterday I was lucky enough to hear several poets at the Edinburgh International Book festival, but best and most relevant to this blog was Jen Hadfield, a Canadian Scot currently living in Shetland. Jen has a lovely reading voice, gentle and melodic and her poetry is beautifully made, aware of the natural world and of the rhythms and music of language. Perhaps a poetry that needs to be read as well as listened to, but as she has two books out, there's no excuse not to do that (you can find out about her books by following the link from her name above).

Monday 18 August 2008

Green Hair

There have been discussions on a couple of blogs recently (on Green Girls Global and then follow the links there) about whether it is environmentally friendly to have long or short hair and the consensus in the posts (though admittedly not in the comments) seems to be that short hair is more environmentally friendly. Now I'm not saying short hair isn't environmentally friendly, but I definitely think that long hair can be just as environmentally friendly. Here's how I do it:

I wash it once a week with Yaoh shampoo and conditioner that contain no parabens or other nasty chemicals and are probably the most environmentally friendly hair products on the UK market (though sadly are packaged in plastic).

I let my hair dry naturally
I cut my own hair when it needs it
I have never used styling products, either chemical or electrical
I never visit the hairdresser so no-one else uses styling products on my hair

What do you think? is your hair green?

Sunday 17 August 2008

Suburban Garden

Shadows slant over a cobbled courtyard,
bees buzz in scented air,

an orange kitten lounges.

Sunlit statues in the corner
and herbs in terracotta

against an ochre wall.

Behind a wrought iron gate
in a high wall
by an ordinary
town path.

not haiku, but still in the moment for Read Write Poem

Saturday 16 August 2008


Down in the small part of the backgreen that belongs to our stair of flats we've put out two pots of potatoes that seem to be doing really well. My partner's parents have grown potatoes like this for years and have said we can expect around 20 good sized potatoes from each pot.

Friday 15 August 2008

Crows at the Book Festival

Today I went to a Book Festival event about crows. Short story writer, Esther Woolfson read from her new book Corvus (you can read an extract here) describing how she had rescued a fledgling magpie from a cat and had wondered when it would be strong enough to be released into the wild - when it startwed talking she knew she had to keep it! Nature writer Mark Cocker read from Crow Country talking largely about the huge rookery near his home. There was then a lively discussion about why crows are disliked by many people and why in fact we should value them - for features such as their intelligence and personality. It was a fascinating event and confirmed my opinion that crows are fascinating birds!

Thursday 14 August 2008

Three Rabbits

welcome party -
three rabbits lined up
by the station

rustle in a bag -

golf course -
lost pet rabbits
run wild.

you can read more of my rabbit poems by following the links below:

another haiku
and another here
In the Dark

For anyone who hasn't kept rabbits, the binky is the rabbit dance of joy, you can find out more by following the link in the haiku.

Three rabbits (instead of dogs) for Totally Optional Prompts

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Steve Bloom's Wildlife Photography at the Book Festival

I went to Steve Bloom's presentation at the Edinburgh International Book Festival today. We were treated to a film of an elephant swimming underwater and a whole series of the most amazing wildlife photography from his books. He is also an entertaining and interesting speaker. You can see several slide shows of his work at his website.

New prompt on Read Write Poem

My latest prompt on Read Write Poem went up today. The prompt is 'Being in the Moment' and it asks for poetry of any type in response to that idea, with a suggestion that haiku and tanka are particularly appropriate forms to use. Why not join in?

Monday 11 August 2008

My Gardening bag

This is my gardening bag, left over from last year's annual conference of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. Its a small but sturdy cotton bag and contains:

a pair of gardening gloves - there are debates about whether or not to wear gardening gloves but I say - if there are nettles or brambles there is no argument at all for not using gloves!
a trowel
a pair of secateurs
a small reused plastic bag for storing any litter I find

It also has enough room for an empty watering can, packets of seeds, packets of bird food and a bird feeder, depending on what I'm planning on doing in the garden.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Elementary Particles by Gerry Loose

This is a wonderful book. The poetry is really rooted in the natural world, concerned with life and death, our place in nature and the nature of communication. Soms of the poems are tiny haiku like pieces, others are long works divided down into parts that fit together, like the wonderful Crow Work, a series of interlocking pieces about crows - their biology and ecology and their place in mythology. Anyone who loves nature will be fascinated by part 2 of Figure in a Landscape, which is made up of listings from the poet's nature diary:

A solitary rabbit. A wren in the dry stone dyke. An abundance of primroses in the ditches. Lambs bounding on every side. Ploughs.

This same careful observation is evident in all the poems, this is from the facts of the matter:

Making a song for myself
in cutting wood on a clear day

goldcrest working the haws
brown wren in her quickset cave

Some poems here are not so straight forward and require a bit more thought to read, but there is never any sense of obscurity for the sake of it, and I found almost all the poems to be worth an immediate second re-reading, for the pure enjoyment of it.

Elementary Particles by Gerry Loose, published 1993 by Taranis Books

Friday 8 August 2008

In the Garden

The garden path has become impassable through lack of use. I spend an afternoon hacking away nettles and overhanging branches, but I leave flowers for bees and let bramble linger in the hope of autumn fruit. If not for us, then for blackbirds and hoverflies. I cut back stubborn weeds but not too much:

overgrown buttercups -
harvest spiders.

(You can read more about our garden path here)

Thursday 7 August 2008

Lost and Forgotten

(The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has said that if things' don't change there may be NO wild animals in Zimbabwe by 2013.)

In the ancient rocky landscape of Matobo
a rhino, with horn surgically removed
to deter the poachers,

I watch it with sad awe
as everyone round me
desperately takes

Twenty years later in the chaos
of human suffering and politics
the animals are quietly

Wednesday 6 August 2008

a haiku for Poefusion

an easel
in the herb garden -
scent of sage.

Brushstrokes and Sage for Poefusion

Arte & Pico Award

I was delighted and honoured to recieve this award from Geoffrey Philp , a Jamaican poet who blogs about the literature of the Carribean and South Florida! The rules are:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog so everyone can visit.
3) Each award-winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) The award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to link to the“Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5) To show these rules.
NOTE: If the awarded blog owners wish to pass the torch to five others please go to read the rules.

I've seen several posts recently about how hard it is to pass on awards because you don't want to leave people feeling left out or overlooked and I agree!. But on the other hand it's an opportunity to point out some favourite blogs that people aren't necessarily aware of and to encourage people to visit them! It's always a difficult choice, and this time I'm going to mix it up a bit, rather than concentrating on environmental and crafty blogs:

PaulS at the shapeshifting Gingatao for constantly doing such wonderful things with words that I never know what to say in the comments section
Alfonso at Paraisos en Obras for making magic with words and for fooling me into thinking I can understand Spanish (this blog is translated into English, so no excuses for not visiting!)
Mistral at Una Teiera per Amica, for sharing such beautiful words and music and for feeding my addiction to Italian.
And the fifth? well you can all share it, because it really is difficult to choose and there really are so many wonderful blogs out there!

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Don't Touch!

This is giant hogweed, it's everywhere at the minute - there are whole fields of it along the railway lines, it must like the rain. It's also really difficult to get rid of. As well as being quite ugly (I can never understand why it was originally imported as an ornamental plant!) it is dangerous. The stems have a nasty sap that burns on skin contact so keep away from it!

Don't Touch for Weekend Wordsmith

Monday 4 August 2008

Rainy Scents

The scent of earth after rain
still takes me back

to the aftermath of storm
clean moist warmth

the pervading odours of rotten mangoes
with undertones of chicken dirt

washed away.

Here there are no mangoes
but as I walk under still dripping leaves

I smell lime flowers
before I see the lime trees.

smells for Read Write Poem

Sunday 3 August 2008

Traquair Fair

Yesterday we went to Traquair Fair in the wonderful grounds of Traquair House in Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders, about an hour's bus journey away from Edinburgh. There was a very varied selection of music, outdoor theatre, loads of stalls and plenty of refreshments, including (from the Rokpa Trust's tent) Tibetan Momos (vegetarian stuffed doughnuts, my new favourite snack food!) and Traquair Fair ale brewed in Traquair House's own micobrewery. Unfortunately the weather wasn't really conducive to a big outdoor event, as it rained heavily for most of the day, except for about half an hour of sunshine, great weather for the swans though.
But we enjoyed the atmosphere and the music, and luckily the wonderful ancient fruit trees in the walled orchard offer shelter from the rain, while we looked at the amazing array of lichens on the branches....

Saturday 2 August 2008

Spix's Macaw by Tony Juniper

This is the story of the rarest bird in the world and the attempts to save it from extinction. It reads on one level as an exciting detective story with real twists and turns to grip the reader. On another level it is an incredibly sobering look at how we treat the natural world. The plans to build up a captive breeding programme for the bird have been beset by unco-operative private breeders, misfortune and slothful administration. The last wild Spix's macaw died after 19 years alone in its natural habitat, with a brief reunion with its mate who was re-released after being rescued from an illegal breeder. She however later died after colliding with electricity cables and the pair were unable to breed. Local communities in the area had become very actively supportive of conservation efforts for the macaws and very proud of the birds. There is still hope that captive bred birds will ultimately be able to be re-released but the situation doesn't look too hopeful. (Readers who really care about nature and birds will need a handkerchief from about half way through this book).

Thankfully there is some hope here, in the form of stories of other species rescued from the brink of extinction such as three birds from Mauritius - the pink pigeon, the Mauritius kestrel and the Echo parakeet, all of which now have re-established relatively healthy wild populations and have stimulated protection of their habitat alongside real community involvement. This story has also been replicated for a number of parrots and related species in the Carribean - can it work for the Spix's macaw? Only time will tell.

Spix's Macaw by Tony Juniper published 2002 by Fourth Estate

A presentation by Juniper on the current (2002) state of Spix's Macaw can be read here

See photos of Spix's macaw here. 

Edited March 2020 to add: 52 Spix's macaws (extinct in the wild) repatriated to Brazil, to be released next year, once acclimatised.See this article (in Portuguese) for more information and this article (In English!) on the BBC website.

Friday 1 August 2008

Recycled Gift Box

This gift box is a papier mache punnet, from strawberries I bought at Gorgie Farm, which I painted. It's less bulky than the earlier ones I made.

Gorgie Farm has a produce stall that sells fruit and vegetables that are grown on the farm. Some additional produce sold on the stall is brought in from the Edinburgh Community Food Initiative, which tries to source its produce locally, though some things come from further away. The strawberries are definitely farm produce though, I've been watching their growth with interest over the last week or so and was delighted to find them finally on sale. They're delicious too!