And long-legged beasties! Welcome to dVerse, fellow poets!
Tonight’s prompt is inspired by Paul Brookes. Paul tweets as @PaulDragonwolf1, and blogs at https://thewombwellrainbow.com/. I suspect quite a few of you already follow him – if you don’t, I would encourage you to do so. He is a fine poet, and a great champion of other poets, regularly hosting on his blog and boosting on Twitter.
One of Paul’s latest projects is a series of sonnets inspired by insects and arachnids. I asked Paul what inspired him to create these poems, and he told me this:
I was inspired by what David Morley had said about Les Murray when I interviewed him about his latest book “Fury”: Wombwell Rainbow Book Interviews: “Fury” by David Morley | The Wombwell Rainbow
How important is the depiction of the natural world in your poetry?
For me, the poet Les Murray is a talismanic figure, and his Translations from the Natural World is my Wonderbook. Les Murray ingeniously imitates and translates the perceptions and voices of molluscs, sunflowers, spermaceti, cuttlefish, cell DNA, elephants, cats, cows on a killing day, ravens, echidnas, lyrebirds and – most memorably – a poem written in the syntax of bat’s ultrasound using ancient Welsh metre. The rich, inventive language of this slim volume still knocks me out. The voicing is precise, instinctive, and never anthropocentric: it is a total inhabiting of creaturely worlds. For my part, given my background in zoology and poetry, negative capability melds with its apparent opposite, precision. My depictions of the natural world try to balance immediacy and precision. When I was (literally) immersed in the natural world as a freshwater scientist in The Lake District, my research focused on a family of lake midges. With a species, you describe and classify it according to its likeness to something already witnessed: you use simile to compare it, and you use metaphor to name it. The Latin names of insects are a spectrum of metaphoric and descriptive acuity. They are little, related images which represent an entire life form – a species (a miracle!) – however temporary its moment of evolved presence. The creature’s unseen worlds are metaphorized into recognition; its invisibility released by simile. That is what I am vying for in ‘depictions of the natural world’, using every sense I can wrest and turn into language. But I prefer to use Les Murray’s phrase: translations from the natural world.
This led me to read and dissect “Translations From The Natural World”by Les Murray and the idea of zoopoetics. In turn, this led me to design and run a workshop on the nature poetry of Les Murray for the Read To Write group in Mexborough, that hinged on the idea of progressing from looking at an animal to looking through the animals eyes, and eliminating as much of the human aspects as possible. As Les Murray has it, “embodying” the creature. All my nature sonnets are first person, hopefully embodying the creature. I picked arachnids and insects and bats because we often despise certain creatures within those categories, like spiders, mites, cockroaches. We make them into things, not animals to better deal with our disgust.
Here are some of Paul’s sonnets, to give you a little inspiration:
This first sonnet is from the point of view of an “Alcathoe Bat”:
Home high in splits, cracks and loose tree bark,
near water. I hear it in two ways. Crash
of tumble. Soft echo in our Hunting Dark.
Trees are Hardnesses in our flying Dash.
I may swarm He may chase me. We may
retreat to Darker and make young. Suckles
in my pouch. Then let it hang, while away
I skim leaves, snatch prey mid flight, food rustle
crunchy backed echoes, always hunt echoes bring
back. Amongst others know it’s cry and smell.
I hold it in my wings, soon its own wings
will learn flight in the Dark, it’s ears know well
a landscape of returning sound, nose scent
of prey, weathered woods, know home’s high ascent.
In dark wet safe. Lowness my leg hairs tell.
If Else moves I know change in this tight Air.
My young molt, as I did, get harder shells.
Company is good. In dark am aware
food with my two long, long noses that come
out of my head, bounce, dangle, flick in front.
Good grub I tell others when I find some.
All will be eaten always on this hunt.
My young eat my waste among mounds
skins, egg cases and the dead. A crack let
me in to snuggle in warm corners fast
settle in your grease, droppings, food for pets
You horrify me with your pure cleanliness.
Live in shittip, I’ll join you in the mess.
My feet smell you first. I may leave my waste
on your skin, or on your meal. I adore
your sweat and dead skin. I make tasty paste
by vomiting on it. My sticky pads for
walking upside down. Drawn towards sunlight,
I bounce back off an invisible force.
If still I jump her or bang her in flight.
So many hers to have can’t stop or pause.
Born into waste, I squirmed, deeper under.
I changed, climbed towards warm daylight, stretched wings.
As warm light disappears I find shelter.
sleep. Tomorrow repeat everything.
We’d wallow in waste if there were no flies.
Praise them, their short lives, work and enterprise.
The Dust Mite
I’m blind and mostly water. We smell one
another out, along with delicious
dander, dead skin and hair. Clamber on
and over each other in dank, darkness.
I cast my skin while growing. Float on air.
I had six legs until my other two
grew. Soon as I’m fully grown I need Her.
We sniff each other out, touch a way through.
Her eggs are sticky. Light alarms us, clump
and huddle together for safety.
Alarm over our nose tracks source of plump
sweet, huge crumbs. Leave small droppings constantly.
My world is what my senses touch and smell.
Maybe you can’t see or feel me as well.
Here are links to Paul’s nature sonnets so far:
Here in the UK, spider season has started. They are finding their way into the house, and I am chief rescuer/remover. There are still butterflies around making the most of the end of season sunshine. Wasps are slower, bees are still busy finding the last bit of nectar. Digging for potatoes turns up shiny pink earthworms, and lifting plant pots reveals the wriggling legs of woodlice. There are so many minibeasts around, and they are so essential to our very existence. Some of them are more attractive than others, obviously. Paul managed to write a sonnet about a louse. You may want to write about dragonflies or bumblebees – but as Paul shows us, you can create a poem about the most unlikely creatures – and show us their strange beauty.
Paul has written sonnets, and if you are inspired to do that, go ahead. However, if you want to use a different form, or stick with free verse, that’s fine too.
- Write your poem
- Link it up to Mr Linky
- Creep and crawl through some great poems – or maybe you’ll flutter and float!
- Enjoy yourself!