Autumn Thoughts

One blown human flower

Three new poems by Carol Rumens.

Almost an Invitation

Come nearer, gentle green
monotone, let me discern 
Horsetail from grass, and the fine line between 
all grassy species.
Cow Parsley, bring your bright white coral crumbs,
and Meadowsweet, lift clouded silvery fountains;
grow tall as girlhood, hide the dark old mountains. 

Sun-yellow Lion-Tooth, toil,
bite back all that was taken
in hand by hands like mine that drove
iron into your soil.
Tell us the time again, blue Shepherd’s Bell;
forgive us the flocks we fleeced
for lotions, lagging, motor-oil:
and you, bold sapling Oak
and pioneering Birch, once dispossessed,
dig in, enjoy my field!
Feel free to stretch, to rise, but oh, don’t build
too near the sky, don’t poke
those high ancestral lines, the super-power 
which is my fire my light my song my sanction 
to love and live the multiple transactions

of one blown human flower.
Yr Wylan / The Seagull

The herring-gull’s pole-star is the telegraph-pole.
Big bird, thin neck, small head; up there, each eye

is measuring distances, the balancing
of gravity and air, the existential

goal – the grace – to eat and not get eaten.
Yr wylan swoops and, landing, seems surprised.

It pads flatly around the weedy paving,
on sea-clean feet that have never known the sea,

nodding, circling, darts a fish-hook beak
into the dish of cat-food, peeks again
left, right, left, right, exposed, shyly determined, 
settles to peck. Its mate sails in from nowhere. 

Their dinner-date’s a rapid decorous ritual,
concluded by paired lift-off, graduating

to under-belly shine, and white, perfected wingspan. 
Dafydd ap Gwilym’s sight-line caught the picture – 

‘light of the waves’, ‘sea-lily’, ‘silver letter’ – 
higher and farther away, sometimes resting

mid-sky, free-gliding sideways, gathering height in wide
pulsating arcs and then not there: beyond us.

At dusk, they’ll chortle back. They have a nest to furnish
and fill with muscle-memory’s tides and thermals.

To the Moon above Lon Carfon

Who now can see you straight 
and female in the world’s old way? Who’ll wait

for a lover’s sky? Your blurred development
from new to young, from young to waxing crescent, 

to waxing quarter, waxing gibbous, full,
will be your truth. Let’s not thumb any vehicle 

that leaves us metaphorically confused.
Linger only in cloud-light, dawn-diffused, 

theatrical, where house-trained conifers, 
CCTV-enabled lucifers

and nimby warning-signs are merely twinkles.
Surface the lane with ‘roughness, ridges, wrinkles …’
The lane’s your silver. I’m your gravity.
My shadow, taller, blacker, glides ahead of me. 

Carol Rumens poet

Carol Rumens lives in North Wales, and writes full-time. Her most recent poetry publications are The Mixed Urn (Sheep Meadow, 2019, USA) and Bezdelki: Small Things (The Emma Press, 2018, UK). The latter received the annual Michael Marks Award for best poetry pamphlet.

Author photo by Becky Rumens.

All poems copyright © Carol Rumens 2023.

Autumn Thoughts

Thyme for a song

Ashleigh Fisk sings her queered version of the traditional folk song ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’.

Ashleigh Fisk

Ashleigh (she/her) is an artist/maker living and working in the East Sussex countryside and London. She works with craft practices including ceramics, print, textiles, drawing and writing. Ashleigh runs her own functional ceramics line, AF Clay.

Ashleigh describes her work as sitting on the ley lines between history, myth, archaeology and folklore. She aims to unearth the queerness and significance of our landscape through the objects it creates and holds throughout the slippages of time. 

AF Clay is a means to explore these themes in a practical application. Visually and technically, her ceramics are inspired by the rich heritage of British pottery, and its underlying ethos is a revival of the Craft Guilds/ Arts and Crafts movement with its socialist philosophy that values craftsmanship and skilfully made objects, as well as the communities and individual empowerment that craft can foster through cyclical learning and making.

Audio and images copyright Ashleigh Fisk 2023. The top image shows her ceramic ‘Star Grate for W. Blake’.

Autumn Thoughts Hazel Authors

Mothers and daughters

South African poet Nkateko Masinga previews a new poem from her collection Daughter Wound, due to be published by Hazel Press in April 2024. The collection explores a young woman’s negotiation of intimate relationships: sexual, familial and political.

The cover design features ‘Kin’, a painting by artist Anna Ilsley, which was commissioned for this collection. Ilsley’s work challenges the construct of the male gaze and offers a feminist disruption of patriarchal images.


I am rewriting my mother’s story on my face
See the quotation marks holding my smile together?

Even my laughter is hers, not mine

Be careful how you say your own mother’s name
how you articulate your blood

You and your mother were once one person
a question mark in each ear
born to listen to her

Everything about you says
I am telling someone else’s story
I am still not sure about mine

Make sure you are reading the history book
being written in your childhood home

Collecting recipes too
because age is engraving farewell messages
into Mama’s skin

and how will you sustain yourself
when she is gone?

The words on her earlier pages
are disappearing as you read them

Your mother is forgetting herself

One day she will not be there
when you turn back to a part of her story
you enjoyed, hoping she will read it again

hoping to hear her laughter echo across the room
as she throws her head back

One day she will not be here to speak
so you will repeat her words to your children
just to hear her voice in yours
Daughter Wound cover by Nkateko Masinga and Anna Ilsley

Nkateko Masinga

Nkateko Masinga is an award-winning writer and scholar. A graduate of the University of Iowa’s 2021 International Writing Program, she was a 2019 Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and a Golden Key Scholar. In 2018 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. You can read more on Nkateko’s website here.

Poem ‘Heritage’ copyright © Nkateko Masinga 2023.

Cover image ‘Kin’ copyright © Anna Ilsley 2023.

In The Nature Of

An illustrator’s eye

It’s fascinating how much more you see when paying the close attention needed for drawing.

I once took a group of scientists to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, where they spent an hour or so drawing various creatures. They were amazed by what they noticed, even in fish they had spent years studying but never ‘seen’ so fully before.

I feel that illustration has always been been the most engaging way to explain and understand the natural world. Scientific writing is just as important, but I suspect you are looking at my pictures now more than this text.

Marc Dando drawing of moon jellyfish lifecycle
Lifecycle of the moon jellyfish (from top-left, moving anti-clockwise): A jellyfish medusa releases a fertilised egg. The egg grows into a small larva called a planula, which resembles a microscopic flatworm covered in tiny hairs. The planula swims about seeking a place on the seabed. Once attached, it turns into a polyp. When conditions are right, the polyp becomes a scyphistoma and begins to clone itself. It creates a stack of tiny juvenile jellyfish clones, which are released into the ocean to grow on and become adult medusas. In July and August, the adults are often seen drifting in UK harbours and on beaches.

In the past, before photographs, illustration was the only way to visually represent the natural world. Some antiquarian prints show some rather strange interpretations of the living world, especially the rare and bizarre, and can lead to us wonder how they misinterpreted creatures we are now familiar with. Dead, often decaying, specimens were often drawn, and not having seen the living specimens, a bit of guesswork was added to complement the exaggerated descriptions of travellers’ tales, hearsay and myth.

Today there is much more visual information to hand, but even so, it is still up to the illustrator to interpret this information. Illustrators need to observe not only the visual shapes that make up the whole, but how they layer up and fit together. A photograph, no matter how good, can’t always show everything in one view, which is what an illustrator aims to do.

Collation of correct descriptions, correct photographic material and in person descriptions, as well as a meticulous observation and understanding, is key to any scientific illustrator’s work.

Marc Dando illustrator

Marc Dando is a scientific illustrator who made his name with Sharks of the World, working with Leonard Compagno and Sarah Fowler. Alongside more traditional watercolour, pencil, and pen-and-ink work, Marc uses computer-based illustration. His work has been exhibited at the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, The Mall Galleries in London and the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale.


The life-cycle of the moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) is from The Marine World by Frances Dipper, Wild Nature Press.

The colour illustration at the top of the page is of a wild rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), drawn for WildFish.

Images copyright © Marc Dando 2023.

In The Nature Of Summer Thoughts

Rivers, rocks, air and rain

The Chained Swan

Beyond Watersmeet there’s a chained swan.
Above the thundering river, dipper-dipped,
heron-pierced, grey-wagtail flittered,
boulder-bounding down from Watersmeet,
an oasis of cream-teas at the fishing lodge,
yes, way above that densely oaked ravine
there’s a crowned swan in chains.

Beyond the pied flycatchers, flitting from
the oaks to stab the air on invisible strings,
the birches thin to a rising meadow where
crows congregate at cowpats and a path,
cresting the buzzard-cruised meadow,
descending to a dell and a church, leads
to an angry swan biting her chains.

Beyond the isolated church of Countisbury
the coastal path drops from Butter Hill,
high above the sea, balancing through bracken,
airy, loose and steep, towards the Lyn’s mouth.
Raven calls black-flap below. But from that church
echo the distressed cries from a medieval bench-end
of a swan chained to the crown slipped down her neck.
Countisbury church chained swan
The chained swan in St John the Evangelist Church, Countisbury, Devon.
The Singing Bus

for Clifden Community School, Connemara

passes the rising tide on its port side
along the rounding shore road,
whistling the otter’s lament,

bowing the strings of yellow kelp,
plucking at pink crayfish,
sounding the base of the turf,

its dark storied heat of hearts
and tears at the hearth,
beating always with flying feet

the bounce beating back against rain,
those ever changing clouds
that do not know how to end

their raindance the way school ends,
a lesson ends, a journey ends
in the singing bus until tomorrow’s

new sharing session in the old bus
of airs and songs of cart roads,
drove roads, sea roads, songlines.
Relics From My Father’s Greenhouse

Wood tamped earth flat over seeds
secure in their pencil holes, gently
watered by a can from the rain-butt:
flat wood, cracked along its grains
like old skin, as though eaten by sea,
has been screwed to new wood for
holding like a reduced board-rubber.

Stone broke earth for replanting:
sea-shaped stone for my father’s
fingers to fold around for his
potting-on after the pricking-out
of plants rooted in holes from
this dull pebble, its pointed end
whitened by fertilizer’s good wishes.

We’d joked that clearing his shed
of a lifetime of piled rusting objects
would be our grieving nightmare, but
my sister paid to pre-empt our pain.
From his greenhouse I have only his
two Neolithic tools, of aching wood
and that carefully selected cold stone.

How I write – by Terry Gifford

My notebook is essential. It’s hardback, pocket-sized and covered in waterproof tackyback because I write outdoors in it.

I’m a great believer in rewriting and rewriting to find the poem’s form. I try out my work-in-progress at a monthly workshop with fellow poets and I’m hugely grateful for their responses.

Every landscape, every flower, every tree, bird and animal are threatened in some way and climate breakdown and my own culpability are always at the back of my mind. My poetry needs to address this if it is to be more than personal therapy. I try to hint in an indirect, undidactic, way. I believe that the slow drips of poems can make something happen, accumulatively, communally, in the dialogue between writers and readers. 

Terry Gifford has published eight collections of poetry and is author/editor of seven books about Ted Hughes. His most recent book is D. H. Lawrence, Ecofeminism and Nature. He is Visiting Research Fellow in Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University, UK, and Profesor Honorifico at the Universidad de Alicante, Spain. His most recent book is D. H. Lawrence, Ecofeminism and Nature. See

Terry Gifford poet

Poems © Terry Gifford, 2023.

In The Nature Of Spring Thoughts

A Proustian blossoming

May is the month of hawthorn, the eponymous mayflower, whose small, white and pink buds erupt along country hedgerows and abandoned railway lines, in corners of allotments, in city and suburban parks and gardens. When multiplied by the thousand, its unpretentious, five-petalled flowers become foaming clouds and banks of blossom, bringing “a quickening hope, a freshening glee”, as William Wordsworth writes in ‘Ode Composed on a May Morning’.

Hawthorn is a shapeshifter; a shrub, a tree, a hedge, the marker of a boundary or enclosure giving form and pattern to fields and landscape. There’s a hawthorn in Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury and it is one of the three commonest trees in Manchester.

Tough and ubiquitous, hawthorn also has its queerer, more subversive aspects. It fascinated Marcel Proust, who celebrates the hawthorn in its “parure de fête”, or party finery, in À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Even if the 3,000-plus pages of the work are a literary challenge too far, the hawthorn section in the first volume, Du côté de chez Swann, is a poetic tour de force worth reading on its own. You may never again walk past a hawthorn in bloom without stopping to examine, to listen, and to smell.

Although Proust remembers seeing hawthorn laid on the altar of the Virgin Mary “au mois de Marie” (in the month of Mary) in the church in Combray, his worship of hawthorn had pagan roots. Its flowers are linked to virgins and brides – it was carried by young women and embroidered on wedding trains and veils. In France, young men might declare their desire by leaving a branch of hawthorn on the windowsill, or by the door, of the houses of unmarried girls.

Hawthorn is also linked with death, as Proust knew. The smell is the clue. He describes it as the “odeur amère et douce d’amandes” (“the bittersweet odour of almonds”), rather like frangipane. This unmistakeable and powerful scent (think of Copydex glue) is due to the presence of trimethylamine, a chemical which is produced by corpses and is present in sexual fluids.

The young Marcel is entranced by the “suite de chapelles” (series of chapels) formed by the hawthorns that line the path by Swann’s estate. Stopping to examine the blossom, he becomes aware of the “bourdonnement” or buzzing of the hedges, which are charged with sexual activity and electricity, vibrating with throbbing bees collecting pollen from the flowers’ obvious stamens. The hedges are alive with sex, something Hockney (a lifelong reader of Proust) captures in the huge paintings of hawthorn hedges in Yorkshire he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 2012 with their almost indecent phallic wavings. It is no coincidence that Marcel encounters hawthorn at the moment he is becoming aware of his sexual desires; it is in this setting that he meets Gilberte for the first time, the fillette or young girl who captures his heart.

À la recherche is a paean to many kinds of flowers and blossom. But only the hawthorn can stir so much Proustian passion and embody the two primary subjects of his masterpiece: sex and death.

Jane Brocket is the author of books on a variety of creative and cultural subjects. She has an MA in Victorian Art and Culture from Royal Holloway, University of London, and her most recent book is How to Look at Stained Glass (2017). More recently she has been writing the weekly yarnstorm newsletter on Substack which allows her to consider a wide range of favourite subjects including rag rugs, smocking, tulips, bookbinding, Proust, allotments, and domesticity. Her photos can be found on her Instagram account.

Text copyright © Jane Brocket, 2023.

In The Nature Of Spring Thoughts

Make me ready


They leave by detachment
one by one and in clusters, layering. 
A seeming fragility.
Pollen grains and their microspores 
are one of the most resistant substances 
in the plant world.
Under anoxic conditions, they linger 
in ponds and fens for thousands 
to millions of years.
They mirror the past in the future. 
A story of earlier vegetation 
and climate status. 

Pollens waft through me.  
They intersect my white 
the mesmerising orange-blue flight 
of the kingfisher and the bee-eater 
on the Bacchiglione. 
Absence wafts through us. 
Our persistent morphology 
gradually degraded. 
Walls and apertures 
to indicate our structure.
Lie down on the ground 
with me like a layer. 

The woolly soil teasels 
the substratum and the soles. 
Moisture wets palms 
holding the leash.
It’s so windy lately.
Make Me Ready

Make me ready 
for the arrival of the rain
which is expected heavy 
but needed.

Show me 
what I can get rid of
pruning shrubs 
along the fluvial corridor.

And if we must leave 
the fourth industrial revolution behind
this augmented social reality 
to repair our notion of mortality

help me not to falter.
We may remain one day
one last day.
Red Giants

What if this is the time 
the non-negotiable self, the sacred.
The line we already crossed.

Nothing is more real than the wind 
in the winter when it cracks the skin and
clenches the throat, when it forces 
each frequency. On the riverbank, it lashes 
the floodplains and then it pauses.

You told me about these years
the fatigue, and I do nothing
but ponder over our presence.

Where were we? What are we 
bringing along? History is
a tale within a tale 
a series of omissions, hypotheses
and mitigations. 

And we may desecrate remembrance
and contaminate our becoming
but the urge to outlast the death
of the sun slams us. 

Entrenched in the anxiety to get lost 
evolving away from the main sequence 
like red giants.  

A few decades down the line
we will meet, I will sit down 
across from you and 
I’ll ask once more
do you know my name? 

Ilaria Boffa: How I write

My artistic work is mainly based on observation, research, experimentation and language “contamination”.

For me, observing subjects and objects, living and non-living beings, means to pay attention, listen, care, and look with an open mind, compassion, tolerance and curiosity. This entails asking questions and raising doubts about the Anthropocene era.

I write in Italian and English. My sono-poetry combines poetry and field recordings of natural and human-produced sounds that I take with a zoom H6 recorder during trips around the world, or in the Euganean Hills in Italy where I live.

pic taken in the Euganean Hills (Italy), 2020, by Ilaria Boffa

Ilaria Boffa is an Italian poet and sound recordist. She writes bilingual poetry and has published three poetry collections to date. She is one of eight authors included in NeMLA Writing in a Different Language Vol XL 2018. Her sono-poems, which combine poetry and field recording, have been broadcast on Radiophrenia Glasgow radio art festival and Clyde Built Radio Glasgow. Three of her collaborative audio-video installations have been exhibited at Mahalla Festival Murmuration 2021 in Turkey, Nature&Culture Poetry Film Festival 2021 in Sweden, !Flick! International Film Festival 2023 in the US and MK Architektur Exhibition 2023 in Germany.

LinkTree,  IG , SoundCloud , FB )

Header image

All images, text and recording copyright © Ilaria Boffa, 2023. Images taken taken in the Euganean Hills (Italy) by Ilaria Boffa.

Spring Thoughts

Standing in a pool of daylight

I am to be found outside, where I love to be. Half of my life is spent as a carpenter, working with hand tools on timber I have felled, cut and seasoned. I fell trees in the winter and mill in the spring, so that the sap is down in the roots when the tree comes down and the wood dries in the gentle warmth, avoiding damp winter moulds or harsh summer heat. It’s a seasonal activity, driven by the reality of biology. In this way the weather, the landscape and life are all bound together in rural craftwork.

The Turning Year

She, the giant,
limbs deep-set in geology,
folded in landscapes ridge-wooded,
cranes her neck unmovable, 
turns her mind unknowable
to catch the view.
He, the golden sun,
tugs the earth
and slowly,
they turn the year round.

I do most of my woodwork outside in the open air, rather than inside a workshop. I don’t like headphones or ear defenders. I don’t listen to the radio or podcasts and I avoid power tools, cordless or otherwise. Instead, I let my hands get on with the job (they know what to do) and allow my eyes and ears to take note of the world. Birds abound now after the dark and stillness of winter: birdsong and bird chatter are everywhere at this time of year. There’s a lone song thrush atop the tallest oak, facing west in afternoon sunshine, and blue tits darting among the shrubs, busy with nest-making.


Some small 
aimlessly circling feather,
picked up by a bird, 
transferred to its legs,
held fast in its nest, 
with an eye to the weather,
cheery chit-chatting,
thinking of eggs.

My experiences are powered by natural light; for working, but also emotionally. The quality of daylight and the colour of sunlight changes in so many ways during a day. With it, animals and plants come and go in as if in beautifully rehearsed choreography. Heraclitus said: ‘You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.’ The same could be said of standing in a pool of daylight. When Imbolc arrived a few weeks ago, I began to feel the warmth of the sunshine on my hands and cheeks. Very gentle, very subtle. It’s not like June, September, or any other time of the year. I love the soft, milky light of late February and early March. It is beguiling and fragile – and then the wind picks up and everything changes.

March by Robert Somerville
‘March’, watercolour by Robert Somerville.

March is a month that sometimes goes backwards,
It’s in with a flurry, then flat as a flan. 
Seedlings are bursting as hard as they can, 
then buffeting winds, reversing the plan.
The sun’s gentle warmth like milk in the pan,
yet late frosts nip off the high hopes of man.
If it’s in like a lion, it’s out like a lamb.

Working closely with natural materials, aware of other forms of life all around me and being governed by the weather is tough at times. But this sort of co-existence is a visceral participation with the living world. I feel not so much connected to nature as participating in it. There are so many moments in the day when something catches my eye as I work, like the brilliance of light on a tree on an early winter morning, or the discovery of a wren’s nest in spring. So much is fleeting, on the move, sometimes funny. You just need to be there, outside, observing.

Robert Somerville

Robert Somerville lives with his wife Lydia and their daughter in a self-built eco-house on a smallholding in Hertfordshire.

After studying engineering and architecture at Cambridge University, Somerville ran a design and building business, utilizing local wood, stone and earth. He now works with local woodland owners and foresters to source local elm timber and hand-build timber frames with the help of a group of volunteers known as the Barn Club, dedicated to rural crafts. You can watch a video of them raising a traditional elm framed barn here.


Words and images copyright © Robert Somerville, 2023. Header image is ‘February’ by Robert Somerville, watercolour on paper.

In The Nature Of Spring Thoughts

Birth of a foal

I had been walking for several hours on the high moor with my collie Moss when I found the mare. She was alone, and very heavily in foal. I recognised her immediately – it was Pear, one of more than 70 pedigree Exmoor ponies that graze the open acres of Dunkery hill above Porlock.

I often walk more than 20 miles a day to check the ponies, observing quietly from a distance.

Over the years I have got to know their characters well – and they have become used to my presence. Usually, I watch for a while and then move on, but this day was different. I sat down to rest in the heather with my dog a little way off and Pear grazed her way towards me. It was a peaceful spring day and the loudest sound was the gentle, soporific munch as she cropped young shoots of whortleberry.

When she was about 20 feet away, Pear sighed, laid down, and went to sleep. It’s an immense privilege and honour to be trusted in this way by a free-living, unhandled pony. By allowing me to keep watch, she showed she accepted my presence.

While she slept, I kept vigil, my thoughts vanishing in a sense of connection with her and my surroundings.

After about a quarter of an hour, Pear stood up, looked directly at me, sighed heavily once again and turned her rear towards me. I expected her to wander off as she’d had her nap and there would be more things she wanted to nibble. But then she lifted her tail – and revealed a tiny, protruding hoof.

Pear seemed content for me to keep watch over her, a role that usually falls to another mare during foaling. The timing was unusual, these mares generally give birth in the hours of darkness and not in bright sunlight. I kept very still as she laid down once again on her side.

I could see the immense yet silent effort going into the birth. Mares in labour make no sound because that could draw a predator’s attention when they are most vulnerable.

I sat in silence with her, following her every breath. Within three minutes the foal was born, shrouded in the cloudy membrane of her foetal sac.

Exmoor pony mare giving birth to foal. Photo by Tricia Gibson

Seven minutes later the foal’s head and shoulders were free of the caul. Pear stood up, tumbling the foal out of the remainder of the sac and severing the umbilical cord in the process.

It was quite a while before the foal started to attempt to stand. With no control of her spindly legs, she kept falling flat. It was heart-in-mouth time for me watching.

I glimpsed the soft “feathers” covering her sharp hooves; these protect the mother and ensure the sac isn’t breached too early. They shrivel and disappear almost immediately a foal is born.

Exmoor pony foal and mare soon after birth. Photo by Tricia Gibson

What I hadn’t expected was the terror the filly showed when her mother approached and started to lick her. Her instinctive reaction was to move away backwards in crab-fashion, crumpling onto the ground. Pear kept nuzzling and licking, absorbing her scent and cleaning her. As the foal’s coat dried, the fur began to show its lovely rich, warm brown colours.

About an hour and a half later, Pear lay down to rest, and the little foal put her nose to her mother’s nostrils, absorbing her mother’s scent, and breathing in her breath: all was well. When I eventually walked away, the little filly was beginning to suckle, and Pear was on her feet grazing. That year’s foals all had plant names beginning with C, so we called her Ceanothus.

Exmoor pony mare and foal a few hours after birth. Photo by Tricia Gibson

I was given a great gift that day. I’ve seen other foals born since, but never in such proximity. Ceanothus is an adult now – here she is with her own filly foal, Gentian (below).

Exmoor pony mare and her first foal. Photo by Tricia Gibson

On my pony-checking walks I make full records of which ones I see where, who they are with, when the foals are born and which sex they are. Come the autumn inspection when the ponies are gathered from the moor and taken to the farm, my role is to say which foal belongs to which mare, which is easy when I’ve watched them growing up through the spring and summer.

It’s physically hard work walking the moor, especially in harsh weather, with my rucksack packed with camera, water and flapjacks to keep me fuelled. I used to wear a pair of tightly-laced walking boots, but have recently discovered fell runners’ hybrid boots, which are much lighter and grippier. Walking fast between groups of ponies keeps me warm and fit on the rugged moorland ground. And once I’m among the ponies, I’m oblivious to all else.

Exmoor pony stallion on Exmoor. Photo by Tricia Gibson

Tricia Gibson with her yearling stallion at a show

Tricia Gibson is retired and lives on Exmoor. She spends much time walking and taking photographs. Over a decade ago she entered the world of Exmoor ponies when a young mare and new-born foal came close to her. That day led to her owning and showing Exmoor ponies in-hand (led not ridden). The picture shows Tricia with her then yearling colt Westwilmer Euphorbia when he won the youngstock cup at Hawkridge Revels in 2019. He is now a mature stallion – that’s him on the moor in the last photo above.

All photographs © Tricia Gibson, 2023.

In The Nature Of Winter Thoughts

Another Year

Another Year

The bare trees are veiled in static mist
under a white sky
and the air is somehow airless.

I cannot work out where we are.
We’re beyond Epiphany – well beyond
the stir of Christmas. 

But the slender lilac crocus spears have broken ground, 
just as last year, so tender 
it seems unwise. 
Their simple plan just to live 
is bold and exciting.

And eight long-tailed tits – buff and black 
full teaspoons of bird – zee zee and whirl past me
like a flight of hungry schoolchildren.

A trickle of snowdrops
hang their neat heads, shielding pollen
like a thinker shields thought.

Nothing is full of this 
quiet force.
Crocus bud in snow by poet Nicola Healey

‘how beautiful they are, / as though their bodies did not impede them.’ 
                                           – ‘Messengers’, Louise Glück

One year, a deer appeared on Christmas Day,
as though it had stepped out of a story,
broken free from the night-before sleigh.

It lay down by the garden fence, and we
gazed through the window like children,
feeling watched over, almost chosen.

It left behind a ‘deer couch’: a faint imprint 
of its whole weight in the grass, resonant
as the empty chair of someone you’ve lost.

If I hadn’t seen the deer, I would have thought
nothing of this space, not sensed this
warm airy cast. The unbodied – 

they leave imprints everywhere.
Robin Interlude

After your ragged moulting, on one sudden
day of sun, you broke the darkening autumn
with a song so pure and plaintive, the pained
cochlea collapsed around molten silver, pouring

into my ear. Your encore: that other sound
beyond hearing: with me so still and you
so close, I felt the trill of your wings
beat through my neck as you flew on.

Listen to Nicola reading ‘Robin Interlude’, ‘Imprint’ and ‘Another Year’.

How I write – by Nicola Healey

‘Many of my poems begin accidentally outside in the garden, sparked by small or fleeting, yet concentrated, impressions – defiant, quiet or peripheral forces of nature that take me by surprise. Though it can be desolate, winter feels a deeply pensive and poetical season, its bareness perhaps reflecting truth and the unknown, as well as revealing a haunting, crystalline beauty through its exposed lineaments.

‘When I was writing ‘Another Year’ in January, I was struck by Emily Dickinson’s enigmatic lines: ‘“Nothing” is the force / That renovates the World’, which harness the hidden power within apparent nothingness, linking it with the potential to make things new.

‘I find a poem-in-the-making can feel unlikely, fragile, and then inevitable, as though it has to be, like the crocus bud that pushes through frozen ground. These poems try to respond to, recreate and find solace in isolated aspects of nature in an often inhospitable world.’

Nicola Healey’s poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Rialto, The London Magazine and Wild Court, among other places. She won the PBS Metro Poetry Prize 2021, was a runner-up in the Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry 2020 and was longlisted for the inaugural Nature Chronicles Prize 2022. She is the author of Dorothy Wordsworth and Hartley Coleridge: The Poetics of Relationship, a revision of her PhD which she gained from the University of St Andrews.

‘Robin Interlude’ was commended in the Resurgence Poetry Prize 2015.

Poems and images © Nicola Healey, 2023.

Poet Nicola Healey

Nicola Healey.