sheep droppings and other details

Some people say that God is in the details. Others say it’s the Devil. Whichever it is, and whatever kind of writer you are, details matter.
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drafts and re-drafts

scarlet seeds of iris foetidissima
all alike; all unique
Years ago, after talking to the Catalán poet Joan Margarit, I wrote down in my notebook:

Form, metre, rhyme etc. are superficial elements of a poem. What gets translated is something more essential.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry translation, and I’m trying to work out what that “more essential” something is.

It’s clear – to me at least – that the complexity of poetry, its inherent weaving of different linguistic techniques, makes it impossible to translate everything: the only way to get an exactly equivalent poem would be to repeat the original. (At which point, it is probably relevant to mention the Borges short story Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote.)
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The most that can be said of the recent weather is that it has been very English. Glorious sunshine and torrential rain.

Yesterday’s mix of seasons brought a stunning double rainbow over the back garden. The photo shows only one of the bows and doesn’t do that justice, I’m afraid.

Continue reading “unseasonal”

work in progress

Although I understand that the UK weather was dreadful over the holidays, I’m not sure that it was really cold; certainly there are already signs of spring about. Of course we’re bound to get some real winter weather later, so I hope Nature has the good sense to be patient.

spray of buds


Tight as apple pips,

buds spiral around
a moss-supple stalk

anticipating spring
when they will split 

and shake free

tissue wings.

That’s a draft, and questions remain:
Continue reading “work in progress”


rainy day break

This morning, I waited in the half-light for a bus that finally arrived 40 minutes late: there was no one about, and the only noise was the rain, an occasional car and a few birds. It gave me plenty of time to think, though it was too wet to get a notebook out to try and capture any of the ideas.

(I suppose I could record memos on my phone, but how you’re supposed to skim through an audio file later, I don’t know.)

Mind you, I actually believe that writing a thought down too soon can ‘fix’ it before it is ready, and I may carry a phrase or image round in my head for days or weeks, occasionally even years, before I finally anchor it to the page.
Continue reading “grey’ku”

notes for a poem

I went for a walk beside a canal the other day and hope eventually to write a poem about the swans I saw there.

Poems can take a long time to actually gel, though, so in the meantime, I’ll leave some preliminary notes here.
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the name game

Yesterday I was working on a poem inspired by something I was told ages ago, which had re-surfaced in a conversation earlier in the week.

So far all I have is this:

Vanessa says,

I’ve heard tectonic plates move
at the same speed fingernails grow.

A flourish of bright acrylic tips
adds emphasis, and then: I like to think
it indicates a kind of synchronicity –
shows we’re in touch with Nature.

Although it hasn’t got to where I want it to be – which would be at least three times as long and with something actually happening in there – I was wondering what to call it. (In my own filing system it’s down as ‘tectonic nails’, but although that may help me keep track of it, I don’t think it will do for a title.)
Continue reading “the name game”