#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

The Weavers – Week 38 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (A fundraising project for RSPB)

Silks ripple in the breeze,

heavy with sparkling dew;

every droplet

contains a speck of golden sunlight.

These fresh crystal balls

barely cause the tapestries to droop,

yet the intricate strands of each piece

are nearly invisible to the naked eye.

Crafted by master weavers

who calculate and consider everything,

down to the very fibres

best suited

for each section,

such wall hangings are among the best

nature has to offer.

For the overall frame

and anchors,

the strongest thread is used,

swapping to durable reinforcement

spiraling straight to the artwork’s centre.

Inner elements call for sticky coatings

and responsiveness,

enabling vibrations more delicate

than those of the finest tuned harp,

allowing immediate notifications

of newly arrived dinner guests

(or indeed, the main course).

Finally, neat additions of soft, plentiful gift wrapping,

placed here and there, create storage pockets

for perishable goods.

Unless all visitors have…departed,

in which case, the weavers work it

into cosy padding

to plump up their nurseries.

After finishing last-minute touches,

they tiptoe across their tightropes,

lounging at bullseye

or retreating to a nearby leaf

to admire their handiwork from afar.

Caring little

of what other species may think of their creations,

or whether the dew

might prove too weighty – for, of course,

it rarely does.

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!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Anguis fragilis: Secretive Slithers – Week 37 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Raising money for RSPB)

Dusk edges in, tingeing

the toasted sky with rich indigo,

complimenting the petrichor-sweet air.

Responding to this fading light,

gardens clear of boots and digging tools,

tatty footballs, hula hoops,

water pistols,

and saliva-drenched chew toys.

Whispering, Safety announces its arrival;

golden-grey faces appear

from rockeries and log piles,

tongues flick-flicking, sampling opportunity.

Bellies empty, these legless lizards

emerge like streams of liquid metal rippling across the lawn.

Each individual chooses its prey;

some take earthworms,

letting the pink wrigglies touch their nostrils,

roll towards their mouths, even,

before stretching jaws wide

to swallow the creature whole.

Others capture insects, spiders, slugs –

maybe a snail, if up for the challenge –

retreating to cosy hideouts

only when their energy is spent,

resting for the next adventure.

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!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Puffarazzi! Week 35 #52weeksofnaturepoetry – raising money for RSPB

Whipped by salt heavy winds,

the photographer pulls their coat collar tight

and crouches low,

becoming landscape;

an unimportant, moss-covered rock

with raw cheeks.

_______________________________________

Camera gripped in restless fingers,

eyes trained on the puffin colony

hard at fishing.

_______________________________________

Snap!

_______________________________________

Lens focused?

Timing right?

_______________________________________

Quick check:

Sizing great, subject clear – but

colourful bill obscured,

clumps of grass

urged into frame by blasts of ice.

_______________________________________

Which unlucky species

did this individual catch?  

What quantity?

_______________________________________

Speculation is fruitless,

mere guesswork never equals

accurate data.

_______________________________________

Back to the trusty tool of trade;

listen, wait.

_______________________________________

Incoming at two o’clock.

Ready for your close-up, eager one?

Steady. Steady. Click shutter…

now.

_______________________________________

Success!

Head perfectly centred,

silver dripping from its bill

in the shape of sand eels;

nutritious prey

for lively chicks.

_______________________________________

Another fine slice of research

ready for analysing.

Citizen science at its finest.

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!

The subject of this poem was inspired by Project Puffin, a citizen science project organised by the RSPB to gather data on what foods puffins feed their young and how these have changed over time, in order to determine whether lack of food is one of the reasons behind the steep decline in puffin numbers. Click here to find out more.

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Beetle Quest – Week 34 #52weeksofnaturepoetry

Almost as content

in tended gardens and hedgerows

as amongst their favourite homely oaks,

hard-shelled stags wake

alongside May,

discarding worn duvets.

On warm, rich evenings,

the antler-jawed males

venture from protective shrubbery

into the open,

seeking Miss Right.

A quest worth any number of duels,

tough mandibles bashing together,

locked in combat with other eager suitors.

Yet victory celebrations are short;

barely opportunity to enjoy a round of sap

before setting off  –

time does not dally.


Days cool; fair ladies ensure

the new generation

lie protected in suitable nurseries.

All checks complete, they

and their weary knights

make ready for the ultimate rest.

Plump larvae hatch,

feasting on the lifeless wood

their parents chose to house them;

pinning badges of excellence

to their fleshy bodies

for being such good decomposition helpers.

After six years in training,

a lengthy nap is required,

along with a set of armour,

and for some, their experience sprouts

into antlers of their own:

the cycle begins again.

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!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Avocets – Week 33 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Raising money for the RSPB)

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!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

Shallow water waders,

elegant bills swiping beneath the surface

where pockets

of insects and crustaceans dwell.

————————————–

En masse, young fluff balls move in

on eager, clumsy feet,

shyly copying the unique motions

 of chessboard-coloured adults.

————————————–

Undisturbed this time,

unlike the morning’s encounter

with a web-footed trespasser,

audacious enough

to approach the wobbly learners —

a charge (or two) from furious parents

soon inspired adequate distancing.

—————————————

Centuries ago, daring fowls

were not the only ruffians these birds

had to handle.

—————————————

Facing drained wetlands,

marshes converted into farmland,

eggs stolen for breakfast,

feathers used to adorn ladies’ hats

and fashion fishing flies,

they lost everything

————————————-

and vanished

for a hundred years.

————————————-

Then came the sirens, shrieking warnings

of rigid spitting dragons.

Calling for blackouts, hastily built shelters,

and land to be strategically flooded.

————————————–

A ward against opposition, forgotten

after turmoil ceased.

Yet these new wetlands were not dismissed

by everyone.

————————————–

Drawn by their richness, avocets tiptoed back,

pale-blue legs

rediscovering the touch of home.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Little Might – Week 32 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Raising money for the RSPB)

Wilted leaves.

Brown, crinkled things dangling

from a branch.

That’s all they are, right?

Wrong!

Perception only,

exactly what the transforming life inside

wishes

casual onlookers to see,

instead of its carefully placed chrysalis.

But today, this guise

will be shed;

next stage imminent.

Softening the hard casing, a scratch

becomes a slit,

with just enough room

to drag its reborn self

into the open.

Breaking free; possibly the greatest struggle

of its life.

A cape of folded wings,

long limbs, antennae, curled tongue –

all new, barely a hint

of prior form left –

easing from a space now several sizes

too small.

Vulnerable the entire time,

each wriggle

requiring a rest period

where anything might snatch

at its fragile state.

Yet the very act

of this mammoth task

activates internal hydraulics.

Fluid pumps into wing veins,

expanding them

into powerful, scaled beaters.

Then: off to flowers,

toes tasting each flavour.

Deciding what’s a feast,

and what’s foul.

Unaware of the tales its species inspires

each time a human stops to notice.

Yarns of good fortune, joy, fertility, love.

The birth of a new soul,

the last passage of one who is lost.

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!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

Hello, My Name Is Dandelion – #52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 29

Let me start

by saying I sprout anywhere

that needs my help,

and I leave only when my job is done.

Fight me all you want,

I’m a stubborn one.

You might consider

calling me ‘Magical Nanny’ of flowers,

for all I do to help others;

my head of closely-packed florets

is plenty big enough to take the title.

Not convinced I deserve it?

Well, take a peek at my résumé.

Item One:

My tough taproot easily pierces

compact soil, splitting it apart like a geode,

loosening clumps, aerating,

making space for weaker roots

to settle in.

Item Two:

I can survive with few minerals –

in fact, when my leaves wilt

as I snuggle close to the earth,

they leave a healthy stock behind

so new seedlings

won’t taste hunger.

Item Three:

Every spring, up I pop,

(even if your soil’s a touch acidic),

offering both pollen and nectar

to ravenous emerging insects.

I’m quite popular with them, you know.

Item Four:

Though my blooms may close on chilly days,

waft some warmth my way

and I’ll stretch, blink open my golden lashes.

There, aren’t I glorious?

Item Five:

Need to make a wish?

Blow on my seed head, observing how many

fluffy white parachutes break away,

and it’s sure to come true.

(Okay, that one might be a myth.

But you’ve got to admit,

it’s a cool myth.)

Now, have I stated my case enough

for you to let me grow in peace?

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, social 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!

(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

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.

Uncategorized

I’m going to be doing some fundraising! #52weeksofnaturepoetry

Hearing about the effects of climate change and deforestation has long played on my mind — I’m at my most comfortable when I’m outside in nature, away from cars and sirens, bright lights, crowds, and the myriad of other things that often overload me — and the idea that everything I care for so deeply will be gone one day if we don’t stop wounding our planet is utterly terrifying.

Like many people, I wanted to do something to protect the wildlife around me. It means too much to me to simply give in and let things happen. But as I struggle when I’m around other people, and my mental health (I’m talking about you, anxiety) is not up to allowing me to physically volunteer somewhere or write long, detailed letters to organisations and MPs to encourage them to do better, I wasn’t sure what I could do.

Fundraising was in the back of my mind, but as I tried it some years ago and didn’t really get the response I wanted (and some even insinuated that I was wasting my time — talk about a hope squasher), I was scared that if I tried again, the same thing would happen. However, having recently listened to interviews with Diary of a Young Naturalist author, Dara McAnulty, along with other authors writing about their own love of nature and using it as a way to encourage and educate others, I thought perhaps I could do the same with my own writing.

Though narrative non-fiction is difficult for me, I adore writing poetry and often use it to explore what I’m feeling. So, at first, I simply considered writing a poetry collection and having all the proceeds go to my charity of choice (RSPB – they’re UK based like me and do some great work), but then I thought of a better idea. Or rather, I improved upon that one — what if, for a whole year (or 52 weeks), I wrote a poem about some of my favourite wildlife, and with each one, encouraged readers to donate to the RSPB and/or share and reblog? And, at the end of the 52 weeks, I could still publish all the poems together in a collection and have all the proceeds go to the RSPB, just like I originally planned.

The sharing and reblogging part is particularly important, as I know lots of people wish they could donate to things but can’t, and that way they can still help bring awareness to the wonders of the UK’s wildlife and thus encourage more care and protection for it.

So, after contacting the RSPB’s fundraising department and getting the go-ahead, I’ll be starting my #52weeksofnaturepoetry next month, and as the name suggests, it will run until this time next year. (You may already have noticed the new menu option at the top of this blog, all poems under the hashtag will appear there for easier reading.)

I’m still rather worried that this will turn out like my last fundraising attempt, but if I manage to encourage just one person’s love for nature, then I’ll be happy.

(Oh, and for anyone wondering, I’ll also be writing my usual, unrelated posts alongside this project.)

Also, if you’re curious about the RSPB, their website is here.

And if you want to take a gander at the Just Giving page I’ve recently set up in order to do this, it’s here.

Uncategorized

1000 Posts!

So WordPress has just informed me that I’ve managed to publish a thousand posts since I started this little blog in February 2017. Admittedly, I have tried to post every day, so that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but it was still a strong reminder of how much writing I actually do.

It also made me realise that writing every day, as popular writing guides suggest writers do, doesn’t mean slogging through to build up word counts for big projects. It actually means write something every day. So it could be the draft of a new poem, which apparently is what most of this blog consists of (originally, it was supposed to be inspirational writing advice, but then I realised I couldn’t really give much advice while I was still learning myself – though I did manage a few good posts on it), or the outline of a book. Maybe even my thoughts for the day or a two minute free write. All of it keeps my brain creative, so though it doesn’t feel like I’ve done much writing, it all helps in the long run.

At the moment, I’ve got a lot of WIPs that need editing, so I’m going to drop my posts here down to once a week so I can focus on those works and any other new projects I end up with. It’ll also take away the unnecessary pressure I’ve put myself under to keep these posts regular, and hopefully reinstate that ‘less is more’ idea. But even if I don’t post everyday, I’ll still be writing in one form or another to keep that creativity I treasure going strong.

So, until later!

P.S. You may have noticed the cover of my book, The Origin Stone, has changed in the banner I use. My publisher decided it was time for a redesign, and I loved their idea, so we went with it. I believe The Origin Stone is also free on Kindle at the moment, so if you’ve been interested for a while, now’s the time to pick up a copy!