Here we are, past the equinox, and all that photosynthesis is hurtling towards summer. Every day I notice another flower to add to the spring tally – primroses, honesty, violets, wood anemones, ladies’ smocks, bluebells, and dandelions everywhere, making the predominant grass verge colour yellow, despite the daffodils starting to brown round the edges.
But there were still streaks of snow in north facing gullies on Skiddaw today as I drove towards Cockermouth. The literature discussion group I started several years ago is still going strong. Today we all brought a spring poem to share. I was both surprised and delighted to be invited to read my own poem “This crazy time of year” from The Art of Gardening. It’s encouraging when people remember my poems! I made a list of the other poems that were shared:
e.e. cummings “Spring is like a perhaps hand” [never use ‘perhaps’ is common creative writing advice!]
Seamus Heaney “Death of a naturalist”
John Clare “Peewit’s nest”
Edward Thomas “Adlestrop”
Gerard Manley Hopkins “Pied Beauty”
Robert Browning “Home Thoughts from Abroad”
Philip Larkin “At Grass”
John Clare “Summer Amusements”
Gillian Clarke “Miracle on St David’s Day”.
My poem includes the lines
“In sandy fields ribbed with green
lapwings tumble, polishing
their wit with constant repetition”.
But this spring I have not seen or heard lapwings and neither had anyone else. They are on the UK red list of conservation concern. But we saw them very clearly in John Clare’s poem, “The peewit’s nest”. He describes the nest on the bare earth, the greenish eggs speckled with different colours (including “chocolate” prompting speculation as to where Clare would have seen/consumed this luxury item), the chicks newly hatched running around with half a shell on their heads. The flocks must have been numbered in their thousands in Clare’s day.
I was going to read Les Murray’s “The Broad Bean Sermon” (reprinted in On Bunyah which I am reading at the moment) but decided to redress the gender imbalance slightly by sharing Gillian Clarke’s “Miracle on St David’s Day”, a poem which always sends shivers down my spine. Outside the daffodils flowered high above the river Derwent, the same river which flows past Wordsworth’s birthplace a short distance upstream in Cockermouth.