#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Pine Marten – Week 47 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Fundraising for wildlife charity RSPB)

Cream bib, dark coffee face and fur;

initially, you might murmur, ‘Stoat.’

After all, martens are scarce now, rare.

Mainly lying low in Scotland,

favouring highlands

where their natural habitat remains;

once they boomed

well past its borders.

Look again, hone your focus, take note:

cat-like features and size,

bushy tail,

how comfortably it climbs trees!

(And leaves sweet-smelling, coiled scats,

blue in summer from bilberries.)

Curious, independent, nimble.

A social being?

Not so much, unless it’s time

to partner up.

But the season isn’t yet right

for yowling on the evening air.

Its stomach calls for food,

and to that it must attend.

There it goes, popping

from its resting spot

(snug tree cavities are wonderfully comfortable,

don’t you know?),

and wanders through the hectares

of rich forest

it’s claimed its own.

On the menu? Small mammals.

So beware those semi-retractable claws,

little ones!

A cuddly face masks our hunter’s prowess.

Underestimation

often leads to dinner.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

A Sadness Of Green – Week 46 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Fundraising for RSPB)

Excitement livens my breath.

I’m headed back,

into the woods full of memories;

hours spent trailing behind our family pooch,

zigzagging, scrambling

through ferny tongues, thorny tangles

and thick ivy tendrils.

High-fiving trees that reached out to catch me

when I slipped, often, in the mud.

She rests at home today,

sun too determined

for her paws and dark, greying coat

to fend off.

Yet my longing for familiar adventure

isn’t dulled. 

That is, until I catch sight

of her favourite path.

Opened out, cut back.

Bare.

So bare and stark

that it’s a stranger, an unknown entity

I’ve bumped into

on the way to my actual destination.

Except this alien place,

with its look-alike trees –

reminiscent of beautiful oaks

I once paused                   to catch my breath by –

surrounded by dry, cracked soil

instead of elegant green skirts,

is no stranger at all.

Just a dusty, sad friend

I wish I could care for,

but who is being held, encouraged to fade,

by keepers I cannot reach.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

How Do, Mr Hedgehog? – Week 45 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Raising money for RSPB)

Snuffling under a weeping hedge

(locals swear, each year, the council

trims it an extra inch or two),

a hedgehog emerges.

Spines pointiest of points, fur dusty brown.

His nose leads him onto a path

of tantalising, fat slugs,

glistening under lamplight;

perfect for a late-night bite to eat.

A single course in, raucous laughter snaps

across the evening air.

Hooting, shrieking, yowling two-leggers

stumbling ever closer.

Back into shadow he goes,

black-pearl eyes

reflecting flapping laces and muddy soles.

Clink!

An empty bottle hurtles

under the hedge,

lodging in the gap of a broken fence;

on the other side, a cosy stack of wood.

Tempting hideaway,

but not for him, not again.

Once, fumbling hands jostled and upset the stack,

woke him, sent him scurrying.

Lucky they did, for each branch

he’d nestled between

later blackened and popped,

licked by orange tongues

encouraged by cheers and whoops.

Sniff.

A pungent, delightful odour.

Next garden up, behind a tiny archway

(his size, no less).

He steps through into the dampening hush

of gangly grass,

sending a myriad of nocturnal insects

up to the moon.

No clunky boots or sudden staggers

to mind here;

free to venture to the odour’s source:

bowls of cooked potato, mealworms, crushed nuts,

sunflower hearts.

Not often does he find a banquet

for main course.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Grey Dagger (Acronicta psi) – Week 44 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (a fundraiser for the RSPB)

The post holds us,

supporting a much-needed breather,

adjustment of senses.

Purposely planted gunneras

and bushy figs

surround the area;

giants giving shade to the nearby pond,

yet not quite stretching

to our increasingly warm necks.

A moment of meditation

with the flora’s soft sways,

blocking out chatter and unwanted closeness

of curious, clustered bodies

browsing stalls and workshop windows.

You spot it first, inches from your elbow –

luck that it was spared from our thoughtless lean.

Blending with the woodgrain,

a static figure an inch long,

grey forewings slashed

with dagger-like markings,

and, more prominent

than some of its fellows might display,

a whitish orb on each side:

moonstone pommels for its black blades.

The discovery of our quiet companion

rejuvenates some percentage

of our lost energy.

Moving on, smiles light yet true,

we leave it

to continue its camouflage practice.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

Uncategorized

Querying, rewriting and ADHD

Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything other than my fundraising poems, which, though I’d appreciate you all having a read of them and sharing, aren’t the sole purpose of this blog. I like sharing my writing journey and the struggles I have, in the hope that others currently struggling with writing (or anything, really) don’t feel so alone.

And wow, have I been struggling.

Last year, I did quite a few edits of older projects, drafted a new book — something I try to do every year — and starting querying literary agents for the…seventh time, I think?

Meaning that come New Year, I was quite worn out. Add to that a broken laptop, and work became rather hard, to put it mildly. (I’m currently still using my partner’s laptop, which I’ve grown used to and he’s more than happy to let me use for as long as I want, so I got over that hurdle pretty quickly). My focus, however, has been particularly bad.

I wanted to rewrite a project that, from feedback I got from agents, was about 15,000 words too short for the genre. As I never know how to relax and get bored between projects, I actually tried to start the rewrite just before Christmas, but then my laptop failed and it got put on hold until I could grab the files from the hard drive. (I’m usually good at backing up my stuff, but as I’d only started the rewrite about three days beforehand, I hadn’t gotten round to it. Naturally, the one time I delayed, ‘disaster’ struck.) When I did manage to get back to it again, despite engaging with the story and characters, it took hours to go over four double spaced pages. I tried repeatedly to go faster, to try and be more productive with my time, but it simply wasn’t working. By the time I reached the half-way point in the book, working on it felt comparable to digging a trench with a teaspoon, and I’m incredibly impatient with certain things.

Now, here I’m going to jump in with the ADHD part, as it’s likely relevant. I’ve been on the waiting list for assessment since mid 2019. I knew it’d be a long wait, just like for my ASD one, and when the pandemic happened, I resigned myself to an extra long wait. Several times I considered getting it done privately, but it does cost a lot, and as I get imposter syndrome, one week I’d be convinced I needed a diagnosis, the next I’d be unsure — I’ve heard this is common regarding ADHD in adults, particularly as it can present quite differently depending not just on age, but gender too. That aside, I was then super surprised when I got a phone call last month saying in-person assessments where I live were no longer supported due to costs, so the people in charge had decided to go with online assessments and mine wouldn’t be too far off. After another phone call and some screening questionnaires to make absolutely sure I’m eligible, I was finally given an assessment date. It’s early next month, and I am nervous as hell. But I already sent them extra notes, so hopefully it’ll go smoothly, whether the conclusion is ADHD or something else.

Anyway, back to writing talk. I’ve always struggled with focusing on and maintaining projects, but I’m stubborn and refuse to quit. So I ended up giving myself a tight deadline and marathoning the work until it was done. It worked, but as always when I do that, I ended up exhausted as it’s really not good for me. That’s the main reason I haven’t posted much lately. All my energy has gone to rewriting, recovering, or writing poetry. (I am happy with the way the rewrite tuned out though!)

As for querying, this round is going better than past attempts in that I’ve actually had a couple of full and partial manuscript requests, but not as many as I’d hoped. Which is disheartening and has led to many hours of ‘what if I never get an agent?’ thoughts. Of course, there are many options, one of which I’ve already pursued for my previous books — finding indie publishers. But the rejections piling up still hurt.

On a side note, though, my publisher recently informed me that two of my contracted poetry books are moving to the editing stage, so that’s something to look forward to (and also be anxious about. You may be thinking I’m anxious about a lot of things, and you’d be right. That’s just my brain.)

So, to bring this ramble to a close: if, like me, you’re a creative struggling with current projects, I see you and I understand. My family keep saying productivity shouldn’t be linked to self-worth, and while I get the idea of that sentiment, I haven’t yet found a way to make it stick. Even writing this post, which I could have left until I felt better and had more energy, is part of that. I didn’t feel like I’d done enough today, so words had to be written. But maybe someday, I’ll have a healthier approach to self-worth.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 21 – Something About Leaves

The way they poke up from the ground, peeping moles at first, growing braver every day until all at once, it seems, they spring out full force, declaring, ‘I’m here!’

Sometimes, they arrive swaddled within themselves, and day by day they unwrap a new section – like a long game of pass the parcel with only one piece of wrapping – and the prize is all their delicate veins and bobbles finally getting chance to stretch.

Then we have those that simply step out from another through the thinnest of slits: ‘Door’s open, here I go. Bit of a squeeze, but I can manage…there!’

Pop. One new leaf.

Of course, we mustn’t exclude the coiled fronds which roll open in yo-yo fashion.  Chlorophyll-rich tongues lapping at the sun or arching gently over the moist soil of riverbanks (or that shaded brick wall you’ve ignored forever).

Branches wave and shake, responding to the seasons. In a disco spread across months, this barely perceptible flailing culminates in the arrival of buds that push out green sails, ready to carry the plant on to its next stage.

Blossom!

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 15 – Ms. Blackbird

Feathers of leaf drop, plain and inconspicuous:

you won’t see her until she darts, stone-skipping steps,

across the path and on, on

into the grass. Shape distinct now against the green,

her partner still outshines her in his black evening jacket,

tangerine beak lifted in lively chortle-song.

Often, his bold appearance

is what gives her away – rarely are they far apart;

a tiff or two won’t separate them for long.

While he entertains the gardeners, watchers, afternoon ramblers

with his dashing looks,

she hurries about, a curious rain of leaves and twigs

misting the inches above her head.

Her search for morsels is never-ending.

Unafraid is she of getting close

if it means a beakful of worms might be claimed.

Fuel for creating her latest architectural project,

this year’s nest. You may find it one day,

long after its time.

How many broods were raised in it, you might wonder.

How many indeed?

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, sport-style fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 10 – Living Grave

So many times, I’ve walked past. Seeing but not seeing.

For this giant’s footprint, this decayed and blackened skeleton

has long scuttled from my attention. But now I                  pause.

Vague architecture

ripples into sense:

Steps morph into centuries-old roots basking on the soil’s surface,

the ankle-high wall surrounding a stump-table

melts into remains

of an even larger trunk, worn smooth by time’s fingers.

Five of me could stand inside and still not knock elbows.

I bet

it was Lord of Trees once,

before disease or the elements or man

finally beat it down.

And though the realisation

that I’m hovering within its bones strikes hard,

I don’t mourn for long.

How can I

when this humble grave teams with life?

Fungi, lichen, moss –

they decorate its bark like the echoes of new growth.

Climbers and creepers seek its grain, grasping

it like a helping hand, a boost of support

for their own roots.

And here I am, connected to it all,

part of the quiet bustle that takes place despite winter’s clutch.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise funds for UK wildlife charity RSPB and to encourage an appreciation for nature. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it and/or donating to the RSPB via my Just Giving page here.

Help keep wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 9 – Says Hedera Helix

I cover the ground,

I cover the trees,

I snake up walls

and trail down my leaves.

When the year turns, I flower

and produce succulent berries

that hungry animals feast on

until they’re full and merry.

You’ll often find me

in the shadiest of places,

and for this I was once banned

from a range of holy spaces.

They associated me with

the untrustworthy and thieves,

refused to comprehend my emerald lustre

and took me down from the eaves.

But a mighty comeback I have made –

indeed, I’m even celebrated in song!

And regularly pepper festive décor,

remaining bright long after the season is gone.

For my roots, they are many,

and their determination always goes uncontested.

Thus, my previous worth has been reinstated and I symbolise

fidelity, endurance, and everlasting friendship.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, sport-style fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

Uncategorized

My work caught up to me (as always).

It’s been a while since I posted something other than one of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry poems, so I thought I’d rectify that with a ramble about what’s been happening lately.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been busy with various writing projects this year – drafting, revising, going through major edits, most of which came back to back. In early November, I finally managed to finish the ‘final’ revision for the book I wrote last year in order to get it ready for querying (which I’m currently doing).

Shortly after completion, the weight of all the energy I’d used up doing everything hit me hard: my sleep, which has never be good, got worse, and I couldn’t handle much physically or mentally. I probably should have seen it coming, because it’s happened before, but even if I had, I’m not sure what I could have done about it. I’m terrible at taking breaks and resting. I’m not even sure if I know how to rest – no matter how hard I try, my brain won’t stop chiming in with all the projects I’ve got lined up, and if I don’t have any, it ‘helpfully’ comes up with some.

The thing is, the longer I put off resting, the worse my energy levels will be affected when I do get to it. So I had to force myself to slow down, because my body was telling me I had to. So I spent a while playing games, which I rarely do otherwise despite how much I enjoy them, went out for more walks, cared for and added (substantially!) to my houseplant collection, and only worked on my fundraising project.

This did work for a while, but then I got a few emails about being part of a story festival, which meant I had another project to prepare for. And it seems that, if I have any sort of deadline, no matter if it’s ages away, my brain will not let me settle until whatever it is is done.

I ended up doing it all as fast as I could so I no longer had to think about it, and I felt so much better afterwards that I even managed to do some small festive crafty things (I like the idea of making things, but generally I’m too impatient and get bored halfway through, which then means I end up resenting it while being too stubborn to give up. Conundrums, conundrums.)

But then I got the itch to rework an older book, and though in some ways, I probably would benefit from taking a few more weeks to recover, when I started taking a look at the story and began tweaking, I felt like I was achieving something again. It’s an odd headspace to be in – I’m tired as I’m still not sleeping well, and I can’t really handle more than one activity a day (I disregard general cleaning, as that’s part of my morning routine, and I get so badly thrown off if I don’t do it that it’s just not worth skipping it. Also, I have birds, and their care comes well before mine). Yet if I don’t have some sort of work on the go, apparently I feel unfulfilled.

I do wonder if other creatives, especially those who are neurodivergent, have the same problem?