Saturday 27 December 2008

HIghlights of Christmas Nature

Hope everyone has been having a lovely relaxing and creative holiday. Here are some highlights from our nature walks of the last few days:

Christmas Day - we saw a fox in the centre of Edinburgh, not as common a sight as it once was, since rubbish is now put in bins, rather than bin bags being piled in the street as they used to be.

Boxing Day - we walked along the Union Canal and saw: a goosander; loads of tits and finches in the trees and hedges in mixed groups and separately, including: blue tits, long tailed tits, greenfinches, goldfinches and bullfinches (a particularly pleasing sighting as they're declining quite badly these days). Also encouraging to see large numbers of house sparrows, another species that is declining across the country though it does seem to hold its own in certain selected locations (such as the Union Canal). We also had our best view ever of a kingfisher and the first we've ever seen on the canal rather than the rivers of Edinburgh (where we see them quite regularly). Not just a turquoise flash across the water but also a sitting pose in a tree over the water and a rather intriguing visit to a bird feeder (what would tempt a kingfisher to a bird feeder I wonder?)

Yesterday it was beautiful cold blue skies and the ground covered in crunchy frost. We walked through Inverleith Gardens, where we saw around 20 oystercatchers on the grass as well as plenty of swans, mallards and four tufted ducks in the pond. We then walked round the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. The squirrels were very lively and aggressive, grunting to each other and fighting and one of them attacked a pigeon. We also saw a lively and noisy mixed flock of tits, including several long tailed tits, a great tit and a few blue tits.

I'll be busy with other things for the next few days, but will be back again early in January. Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Crafty Green Season's Greetings!

Crafty Green Season's Greetings to all readers of this blog! Hope you have a wonderfully refreshing and creative holiday! I'll be taking a break and probably won't post anything now until the New Year. See you all again soon!

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Writing Workshop at Vogrie Country Park

I will be facilitating an all day nature writing workshop on Tuesday 27 January (10am - 4pm) at Vogrie Country park in Midlothian. To find out more or to book a place you can use the contact details on this page or feel free to contact me directly.

Monday 22 December 2008

And the winners are...

I've done the draw for my Book Giveaway and the winners are:

1. 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel goes to Carol Thistlethwaite aka Mistlethrush of From the Field Book.

2. Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster goes to Catbot.

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott goes to Fiona Robyn of Planting Words, A Small Stone and A Handful of Small Stones.

4. The Rialto goes to Sue Turner of Tumblewords and Sue Turner's Art.

5. Tears in the Fence goes to Daisies of Small Moments

6. Agamemnon's Daughter by Ismail Kadare goes to bookcrosser Mazzlestar.

7. Yellow Torchlight and the Blues by Emma Lee goes to Lucy of Box Elder and Out with Mol

8. The Mirror of Ink by Jorges Luis Borges goes to Susan Tuttle of Ilka's Attic.

I'll be packing these up and sending them off early in the New Year, as soon as i get people's addresses. Congratulations to all the winners and hope you enjoy your books!

Sunday 21 December 2008

Some recommended books for poets

Lucy, who blogs at Box Elder and Out with Mol, recently asked in the comments section here:

would you give suggestions for books you've found helpful both in reading and writing poetry?

so here are some suggested books:

1. The Poet's Manual and Rhyming Dictionary by Frances Stillman (published by Thames and Hudson) is an essential I think, it discusses aspects of poetry such as metre and rhyme, looks at form, such as sonnets and haiku and offers a very comprehensive rhyming dictionary.

2. Teach Yourself Writing Poetry by Matthew Sweeney and John Hartley Williams (published by Hodder and Stoughton) covers issues such as how to get started, working with rhyme and getting pubnlished and includes a number of exercises to help you along the way.

3. The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael Bugeja (published by Writers Digest Books) looks at different types of poetry, such as nature poetry and war poetry and at different forms and discusses them in detail with lots of examples. The book is designed to be useful for at least three readings through with three tiers of exercises that build on each other depending on your level of experience. This is as far as I'm concerned the most inspiring book on how to write poetry.

None of these books are in my Christmas Giveaway, but two books I'm giving away that are relevant to this post are:

52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel - a guide to close reading poetry with 52 poems. You can read my review of it on Read Write Poem here. This is a really useful guide to how to read a poem as fully as possible, but I did find it lacking in inspirational value, strangely given how inspiring i find Ruth padel as a poet.

Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster a guide to poetic form for women who are just starting to write poetry or who are unsure about when to use particular poetic forms, but is not a book i'd recommend to anyone who has experience in using form.

Finally I can recommend finding an anthology, any anthology, as long as it is edited by Neil Astley (eg Staying Alive or Being Alive). He knows what poetry is really about, understands the need for poetry to speak to the reader if it is to be of true value.

There is still time to enter my Giveaway by the way, you can find out more here.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Arts, Crafts and Allotments

I went to the Tollcross Arts and Crafts Fair today, at Tollcross Community Centre, in Edinburgh. Lovely selection of alternative craft items, eg beautiful earrings made from recycled vinyl records, gorgeous fair traded amber brooches (and normally I'm not a fan of amber) and smart and practical shopping bags. I was also delighted to find that Lucinda Withinshaw had a stall there. Lucinda is a photographer who recently caught my eye with her lovely series of photos taken on Edinburgh allotments. You can see (and buy!) these photos here.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Bookworm meme

I was tagged a while ago by Melissa from Poet with a Day Job to take part in the Bookworm meme.

RULE ONE, I have to grab one of the books closest to me, go to page 56, type the fifth line and the next two to five lines that follow.

Book: Earth for Sale - Brian Tokar

A broader historical outlook on the development of the regulatory system is necessary if activists are to reach much beyond limited, technical debates and regain the inititiative on behalf of public health and ecological integrity.

btw - the book is a fascinating history of environmental activism in the USA, but it is dated and so doesn't give a current assessment of the situation.

RULE TWO, I have to pick five people who love books and who could receive the Bookworm award with honour.

Actually this has been around and about so often that I'll just say, if you want to do it, please do and let me know so I can come and read your replies!

And remember, there's still time to enter my Book Giveaway. I'll be putting names into a hat early next week, if you want to be in with a chance of winning some of these books, please go here.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Winter Haiku

I have another haiku up at Winter Haiku, you can read it here.

I've also got two haiku in the current issue of Blithe Spirit (the members' journal of the British Haiku Society) and one in their members' anthology.

Birds, Snow and Music

We travelled back from my parents yesterday, lovely train journey through the English Lake District and the southern part of Scotland. Lots of snow and ice on the high ground. It was of course nice to see my parents again and also their garden, which was full of birds.

at the piano
I struggle to bring to life
the notes on the stave -
outside, long tailed tits flutter
in the bare branches.

Friday 12 December 2008

Away for a Few Days

I'm in Manchester for a few days. Back soon.

Remember there's still time to enter my Book Giveaway!

Thursday 11 December 2008

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

In this wonderful book, Heinrich takes us into the winter woodlands of Maine to observe nature and how living things survive the cold. He looks at insects (especially bees), bears and trees but concentrates on the kinglet, a tiny bird closely related to the European goldcrest (one of my favourite birds). The book is full of the enthusiasm of someone who is genuinely fascinated by the natural world and who has the skills of a true field biologist to back that up. Not to mention artistic talent too, the book is full of beautiful line drawings by the author.

The result is a book full of amazing and sometimes incredible facts and details, all told in a gentle conversational tone.

I'm keeping this book, but there are others I'm giving away. You can read more about my Book Giveaway here.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Greyfriars Kirk Garden and Recycling

Last week I went to a meeting at Greyfriars Kirk, one of the most historic churches in Edinburgh, famous for being the burial place of Greyfriars Bobby. The church wants to re-establish its herb garden and make the churchyard a more welcoming place for wildlife and people. As we stood outside there were birds fluttering in the branches above our heads (robins, blue tits, coal tits and chaffinches) and on the grass (a pied wagtail, magpies and a rather bemused looking oystercatcher) so obviously the church has a good start on attracting wildlife! As for people, the churchyard is a popular place for people to wander round, though when i visited it, several of the paths were covered in black ice which restricted things somewhat. The plan is to plant more native plant species, put up more bird boxes and to involve the local community in maintaining the space.

Greyfriars Kirk also operates GROW (Greyfriars Recycling of Wood) a wonderful project that recycles wood from old church pews to make furniture (both for the house and the garden) and bird boxes. The goods are made by people who have faced complex issues in their lives, such as homelessness and addiction, and helps them develop skills.

Tuesday 9 December 2008


a flock of waxwings
flutters on the school roof -
people rush by.

I was very excited yesterday morning to see at least 50 waxwings just down the road from where we live. This autumn, I'd seen the berries on the trees outside the school and thought that if we were lucky they would tempt the waxwings. Waxwings only come to Edinburgh every few years but they come in large numbers. You can read my poem about their last visit here.

You can read my most recent contribution to Winter haiku here.
Remember you can take part in my book giveaway here.

Monday 8 December 2008


intelligent eyes
in a sharp face

a rush forward
to sniff

a tussle
a ripped sandwich


a retreat

a shrieked quack

a duck
hanging limp

a bushy tail

There have also been poetic foxes over on Bolts of Silk recently, you can find them by following the links below:

The Fox of Yellowstone by Janie Hoffman
Untitled by Art Durkee

Don't forget to enter my book Giveaway!

Sunday 7 December 2008

Walking through Edinburgh

Frost on the paths through Bruntsfield, onto the Links and past the Plague Pits (which hold the secret seeds of future poems as well as long dead bodies). I walk through into the Meadows, the shimmering whisper of unseen birds above my head, though all I see are two jackdaws, their black glinting in the low sun. The same sun throws the trees into sharp relief, the upper branches red and glowing.

Later the Royal Mile, where a young woman twirls batons of fire while her companion drums, the primitive beat moving tourist feet along the slippery pavements. A detour down a side street to see the setting sun before diving inside to the poetry reading.

crescent moon hangs
above the reddened crags -
day fades.

Faded for Weekend Wordsmith
I also have a haiku up on Winter Haiku, you can read it here.
Don't forget my Book Giveaway, you can enter it here.
I love Walking for inspiration, find out more here.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Christmas New Year Giveaways

I've got several books to giveaway here, just leave a note in the comments section if you'd like any of them (please state which) and I'll draw names out of a hat before Christmas and get them sent out in the New Year. Please leave your email address in the comments section to make sure I can contact you if you're successful:

1. 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel - a guide to close reading poetry with 52 poems. You can read my review of it on Read Write Poem here.

2. Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster a guide to poetic form for women who are just starting to write poetry or who are unsure about when to use particular poetic forms - you can read my review of it on Read Write Poem here. (When drawing names out of the hat for this one, preference will be given to women)

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (signed copy). An engaging book about writing and creativity.

4. Issue 65 of the Rialto magazine, one of the UK's best poetry magazines.

5. Issue 48 of Tears in the Fence, another excellent UK poetry magazine, this issue contains an interesting article about poetic collaboration.

6. Agamemnon's Daughter by Ismail Kadare, read him before he wins the Nobel Prize, because in my humble opinion, one day he will.

7. Yellow Torchlight and the Blues by Emma Lee - a good collection of accessible and moving poetry. You can read my review on NHI Reviews here.

8. The Mirror of Ink by Jorge Luis Borges - a pocket sized book of wonderment

All the books (but not the poetry journals) are registered with Bookcrossing, the international booksharing community. If you win a book you are under no obligation to take part in Bookcrossing. All books were either bought second hand or are review copies.

I no longer have any copies of my old poetry pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing left to give away, but if you want to buy a copy I think there are a couple left for sale at Wordpower Books.

Susan Tuttle, from Ilka's Attic is also running a book Giveaway. She's offering a copy of her book Mixed Media Demonstrations and Explorations, which sounds as though it is a rtuly inspiring book for anyone interested in mixed media crafts. So if you want a chance to win that book, please go over to Susan's blog.

Friday 5 December 2008

Walk for Inspiration

My favourite form of exercise is walking. One of the advantages of my current job is that I can walk there and arrive to work feeling refreshed and mentally alert. I also like to go for a short walk at lunchtime to wake myself up, though currently Gorgie Farm is an ice rink, a cobblestoned, in many places steeply sloping ice rink so walking can be risky!

My favourite kind of walking though is through the countryside or a park like the Botanics or the Meadows. Here I can let my mind wander while at the same time remaining observant for interesting birds and plants. My walks are very often times that inspire haiku and equally they often help me to work on poems in progress. I am always refreshed after a walk and in the winter I also like the warming effect of regular walks!

Walking is a very natural form of exercise, no machinery required and you can do it wherever you are, no need for the sterile atmosphere of the gym.

Getting Physical for Write on Wednesday

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Gorgie City Farm Christmas Cards

Gorgie City Farm Christmas Cards and 2009 Calendars are now available from the Farm Cafe for those of you in Edinburgh! I don't know if there are overseas orders available, but I can ask! Needless to say my favourite Christmas card design is this one, featuring Sugar, who is following in the footsteps of her mother Daisy, in becoming a media star.

A few days after the photo for this card was taken, Sugar dug her way out of the shed she shares with Daisy and Driftwood and was found running about the farm! She was quickly caught and reunited with the other rabbits.

Tuesday 2 December 2008


under the oak tree -
broken acorns lie scattered
on a rock.

I've joined the team for Winter Haiku, you can read my first contribution here.

Monday 1 December 2008

Feature on Junk Style Diva

I'm honoured to be a featured artist over on Junk Style Diva today. Thanks, Inge! You can read the feature here. The rest of Inge's blog is very well worth browsing too....

Impatiens by Melissa Fondakowski

Impatiens, by Melissa Fondakowski (Poet with a Day Job) was the 2001 Sow's Ear Chapbook Winner and deservedly so. The poem that gives the collection its title, Window Box, is a description of planting Impatiens in a window box, the narrator at nine 'wondered how a plant could be impatient'.

Many of the other poems in the book, though not overtly to do with nature or environmental themes, have a strong connection to the earth, as these lines from Eve:

I become Adam, alluvial and nascent, waking
under a firmament certain with birds

Impatiens is available to purchase from the sidebar of Melissa's blog

Some of Melissa's more recent poems featured on this joy and ride, you can read them here.

Jessica, over at 9-5 Poet also reviewed Impatiens, you can read her review here.