Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nest by Linda France

Tattered by wear, age and weather,
this wasp-wrought monument
is a confection of layers – each swathe
of fibre striated, like chocolate rippled
through cream; each distinct arc
an accretion of light and shade.
Wood regurgitated delivers
a new substance to the world.

And so much world in it:
wave upon wave engraved by Hokusai;
dried fungi on a market stall in Italy;
woodshavings from a Scottish workshop;
the seamed felt of a jacket built to withstand
the snows of Mongolia; wind’s rhythm
through mountains in Cappadocia;
Silk Route’s Diamond Sutra,
the oldest book in history.                                                          

On paper, it’s easy to summon places
we might take shelter, settle –
as if the wasps (those clever ten thousand
wasps) have penned a libretto
of our horizons, this earth’s encyclopedia.                                  

I lift it between shelf and table, precious
as a newborn; look through the botanical
lens and let my eyes be widened
by the theatrical and factual,
till I want to fly on veined and layered wings
right to the heart of it, and plant myself
like a seed in the loam of its mind.

Author's Comment: Linda says 'Nest is from my still to be published poetry collection Reading the Flowers.This and my non-fiction book Botanical Road both chart a two-year journey looking at fifteen of the world’s Botanic Gardens, historic collections of plants where nature and culture meet.' 
She continues, 'The quest began almost by accident at Moorbank, Newcastle University’s Botanic Garden – now sadly no more. Spending time there sparked a passion for Botanic Gardens as curated spaces, places for taking care of ourselves and the planet. This was a natural remedy for twenty years' struggling with my own garden – in an exposed part of Northumberland, in the UK, vulnerable to extreme wind and weather and the incursions of assorted creatures. Unexpectedly, my travels also went some way towards resolving a childhood somewhat alienated from the natural world. The two books above, look at Botanic Gardens in Newcastle, Padua, Sheffield, Oxford, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Kew, Scotland, Durham and Pisa, reflecting the diversity of the gardens, the deep ecological side of things and examining our own relationship with nature and plants.'

After a Leverhulme Residency at Moorbank, Linda was awarded a major Arts Council England Grant for the Arts to research and develop this work.  

This is the wasp nest which inspired Linda's poem Nest. It was part of the Moorbank Collection at Newcastle University's Botanic Garden. (Now no more.)
 This week's editor Helen McKinlay, says 'I am fascinated that Linda can relate the detail in the craftsmanship of the wasp's nest to such diverse  patterns of life as the waves in a Japanese woodcut, fungi on an Italian market stall, and wind's rhythm through mountains in Cappadocia. 
 Not being cognizant of  Hokosai, the woodcutter, I searched and found the picture below. The two do have an uncanny likeness. I wonder which came first?
Thank you for sharing your unique work on Tuesday Poem's Hub Page Linda!'

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, woodcut by Hokosai. It was published sometime between 1830 and 1833

Linda France, Bio in Brief:
Linda has worked on a number of collaborations with visual artists for public and gallery spaces and small press publications. Her poems have been featured on radio and TV, in newspapers and magazines and she gives regular readings. She is currently Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Leeds.  For further information see www.lindafrance.co.uk and Linda’s Botanical blog poeticabotanica.wordpress.com. Editor's Note. I recommend these links. They're a great pleasure to browse among.

Linda won the UK National Poetry Competition 2014 with the poem Bernard and Cerinthe, from her new collection. Editor's Note: You can read Bernard and Cerinthe here.
Judge, Jane Yeh, commented “This strange narrative of a man being seduced by a plant charmed the judges with its vivid imagery and linguistic wit. “

Previously Published Work: includes seven poetry collections (published with Bloodaxe, Smokestack and Arc, 1992-2010.) Among these are The Gentleness of the Very Tall (a Poetry Book Society Recommendation), The Toast of the Kit Cat Club, book of days and You are Her.  Linda also edited the ground-breaking anthology Sixty Women Poets (Bloodaxe 1993).   

This week's editor Helen McKinlay, is a published poet and children's author, based in the top of the South Island. She blogs regularly at gurglewords.

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