Monday, 29 May 2017


The narrow lanes with their arms full of flowers – Queen Anne’s lace, red campion, scurvy grass, may blossom, yellow iris, ragged robin, buttercups, yellow broom, wood sorrel, a few late primroses and bluebells.  It’s not difficult to imagine Flora, the classical personification of spring.  I’ve been away to North Wales again and the landscape was celebratory, keeping high festival.  I was staying with friends I hadn’t seen for three years.

On Tuesday morning we were shocked to hear of the Manchester Arena suicide bombing.  The wild flowers became a memorial, a funeral wreath.  So much beauty in nature.

For most of the week the wide sweep of Cardigan Bay was visible – Snowdonia, Cadair Idris, and the coast of Wales in its great curve down towards Strumble Head and St David’s.  I was catching up on the latest PN Review and read Anne Stevenson’s poem “Defeating the Gloom Monster” (what a wonderful title!).  It was written in remembrance of the late Lee Harwood.  The second part of the poem is set in Cwm Nantcol in North Wales.  This was an area Lee Harwood loved and revisited several times.  Anne Stevenson captures it so well in the poem:

“the hills assembling their giant silhouettes –
black purples of outcrops and spindly thorn trees,
a scree     a skull     a cliff     an open mouth”

and I looked across the sea to the Rhinogs, remembering my own occasional visits to Cwm Nantcol and the wonderful reading Lee Harwood gave at Grasmere a short time before his death.  The poem ends with the words:

“No one but you could experience such perfect joy.”

See my post on Lee Harwood “Timeless Moments” 10 August 2015              

* I named for you all the wild flowers is a line from Michael Longley’s “The Ice-cream Man”

Saturday, 13 May 2017


I thought that people here talking of a drought were being a little over-dramatic, but two weeks of bright sunshine certainly checked the growth of the grass and I have yet to hear the drone of forage harvesters cutting silage.  Just a bit more time for the early purple orchids and the ground nesting birds (in nearby fields a couple of pairs of curlews embody the triumph of hope over experience).

A fine steady rain began early yesterday evening and continued until after 7 this morning.  I woke to a transformed garden.  On the trees the green leaves were "all in a rush" as Hopkins wrote.   During the last six months I could look out of the kitchen window and see the road half a mile away.  Recently there have just been glimpses of the traffic but today the road is completely invisible.  My garden is totally enclosed by the leaves.

The delft porcelain blue and white of the bluebells and wild cherry blossom has gone.  White petals have blown away like snowflakes and the bluebells are starting to shrivel and fade.

On the grass verges the cheerful yellow of the ubiquitous dandelion has been replaced by the greyish white "clocks" that, as a child, I loved to blow.


Soft fontanelle of flower
geodesic gossamer
puffball of light

one day everything is green and yellow
a week later a million poised parachutes
strain between delay and departure

a child's view of time
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
fragile indestructible ephemeral

these clocks belie the sundial's hours
tell the blowing child of freedom
seeds floating into the future

whirligig of hairs reaching out
each fruit hooked
to lodge in the earth

lion's tooth root devouring time

© Mary Robinson 2010

from The Art of Gardening Mary Robinson (Flambard 2010)

Sunday, 7 May 2017


Early morning
     air’s damp linen breath,
          the shadow play of chestnut leaves –
               limp parasols –
                    against the shed

algae scumbled
     on pinewood boards,
          cherry trees clustering
                their snow blossom
                     and bluebells’ azure haze

small birds
     in their hedge vocations,
          a willow warbler
               so close I see its eyestripe,
                    its eye’s defiant shine

iterations of bird song,
     a fugue without a score.
           I think of those
               who make notes
                    and drawings in war,
who, like Elijah, are kept by birds.

© Mary Robinson 2018

The glorious weather we’ve experienced in Cumbria this week has caught us by surprise, as the weather in the British Isles usually does.  Blue skies and brilliant sunshine have made everyone more cheerful and we go round happily talking in clich├ęs – Isn’t it a lovely day?  Isn’t it wonderful to see the sunshine?  Long may it last etc, etc. 

This poem, a quick sketch really, was jotted down a few days ago.  I woke early and wanted to get something down to respond to another beautiful morning.

Is this a cop-out when the radio news reminds me daily that so many people are living under very different (and difficult) circumstances from my own?  I thought of the ways that birds have helped people to survive.  This took me back to the story of Elijah fed by ravens in the Bible (Norman Nicholson relocated this story to a Cumbrian setting in his poem ‘The Raven’).   But it also took me to ‘those/who make notes/and drawings in war’ – specifically I was thinking of those who were interned in prisoner of war camps during the Second World War .  Some of them – for example, Peter Conder, John Buxton, George Waterston, John Barrett – went on to play an active part in post-war nature conservation.   They were metaphorically fed by birds.