anthological exercise

I’m pretty sure I’ve read that Wordsworth wrote his poems while out walking, and that the rhythm of his strides helped him work out the metre. (Pause here for a link to Lynn Peters’ Why Dorothy Wordsworth is not as famous as her brother.)

I try and walk every day, even if it’s only down to the post office to check the mail box. I walk in the hope that I’ll get ideas to write about; I walk to iron out the pieces I am working on; and I walk for exercise. Yesterday was the first reasonable day for a while when I was free to take time for a longer walk, so I went round the reservoir.

Reservoir, February 2011

I didn’t find any inspiration for new poems; I did, however, find a whole anthology of old favourites.

First there were the ducks upending themselves to dabble in the “slushy green undergrowth”. I’m surprised to find Ducks’ Ditty comes from Wind in the Willows. I think it was the implied duckweed that had me confuse it with Alfred Noyes’ Daddy Fell into the Pond. (That wasn’t in yesterday’s anthology, but I’m pleased to have remembered it today.)

After the ducks, came a pair of cormorants. Whether they were examples of “the common cormorant (or shag)”, I really don’t know – they were determined to keep to the centre of the reservoir at a distance that meant they were only vaguely recognisable – but they naturally conjured Christopher Isherwood’s classic. Perhaps they felt they’d be safe from bears if they kept away from the reservoir banks, although there were several wagtails “tittering tottering sideways” who apparently had no such qualms.


It wasn’t all about birds, though. There’s clear evidence that Spring is beginning to ease its way into world again, and the mimosa is just a few days off from being absolutely glorious. It wasn’t warm enough for the bees to be “fumbling the flowers”, but the japonica was beginning to “glisten like coral”. The buds may not have been exactly what the Passionate Shepherd had in mind for, “A belt of straw and ivy buds/With coral clasps and amber studs”, but they made me think of that, too.

 japonica buds

I admit I’m very fortunate to have had parents who encouraged me to read poetry of all sorts and styles. I sometimes wonder, though, if I didn’t already have access to so many appropriate quotations, would it be easier to start writing my own?

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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