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In The Nature Of Winter Thoughts

Listening

This morning, it is not just us waking. It is the end of winter, the beginning of spring. Sarah Watkinson takes us through this hatching of light, leaflets, chicks and buds: nesting tits feed their fledglings on newly-hatched moth caterpillars, there is a longer, stronger light and we have the sun’s brilliance. Now, after the Spring Equinox the North Pole is leaning towards the sun. Listening to Sarah, lines from Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees’ come to mind.

The trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost being said;

Philip Larkin, The Trees

Sarah Watkinson is an emeritus research fellow in Plant Sciences at Oxford University with an international reputation as a mycologist. Her published work includes three editions of a co-authored textbook, The Fungi, with Elsevier, and numerous scientific papers. With Jenny Lewis at The Poet’s House Oxford, she organises SciPo, an annual event for Science Poetry.

From 2019-20 she was inaugural Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, Oxford University’s own field research site, where previously she had carried out research on mycelial networks of fungi which recycle mineral nutrients retrieved from remains of dead trees. She lives near Oxford and in Northumberland. Publication of her prize-winning debut pamphlet, Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight, by Cinnamon Press in 2016, followed a career as Lecturer and Researcher in plant sciences. Since then her poetry has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies.

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Winter Thoughts

Permission

Helen Bowell shares a reading of ‘A Woman is Laughing’ by Fahmida Riaz, translated by Ankita Saxena. This is a poem and a sharing of empowerment, honesty and defiance, of giving ourselves permission; by the incredible Dead [Women] Poets Society, which traces and offers new life to women’s literary heritage.

The poem was published in Modern Poetry in Translation Magazine Origins of the Fire Emoji: Focus on Dead [Women] Poets, guest edited by The Dead [Women] Poets Society Helen is one of the Co-Directors, alongside Jasmine Simms, Katie Byford and Sarah Fletcher.

Ankita Saxena, by Lily Arnold

Introduction to the poem by translator Ankita Saxena:

Loud, ugly, unashamed and sometimes disrespectful, laughter can be an unexpected form of liberation. We rarely laugh in rooms that do not make us feel welcome. To laugh with someone, truly and not consciously, is to think yourself their equal. In ‘Ek Aurat ki Hansi’, Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz portrays a woman’s laughter as a sign of her ‘azadi’ (freedom). Like many of our foremothers, Riaz fought for her right to laugh – to laugh at the religious separatism in post-partition India and Pakistan (which she captures in her poem ‘Tum Bilkul Hum Jaise Nikle’) and at the continued suppression of marginalised voices.

Riaz also spent a lot of time honouring her lineage, working on translations of the female Farsi poet Forough Farrokhzad, as well as Rumi, into Urdu. Despite her often radical gaze, when Riaz passed away in 2018, she was celebrated on both sides of the border as an extraordinary voice of authority. In an interview, Riaz said: ‘I am not an exceptionally politically over-charged poet. Perhaps the only exception is that I am a woman.’

I have grown up with women who laugh. My mother, who starts laughing midway through a story she is trying to tell you. My beautiful best friend, whose laugh emerges first in her eyes, then in the ‘lush tremor’ of her open mouth, before erupting finally into full-blown ecstasy. My translation is for all the women in my life, who have given, and continue to give me, me the permission to laugh.– Ankita Saxena

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Winter Thoughts

Hushed

Pre-dawn: the excitement and possibility of snow is what greets us in Melissa Fu’s sharing, which is so vivid it makes you crave the moment of friends arriving at your front door and of heading out to the mouth of a forest, a slope, a hill, or just to step out and feel the ground crunch under your boots. Melissa takes us to the liminal place between night and day, winter and spring, melting snow and ‘more certain birdsong’. It is a space and time of readiness, of how swiftly our bodies can stream down and across winter landscapes.

Melissa Fu grew up in Northern New Mexico and moved to Cambridge in 2006. With backgrounds in physics and English, she spent many years working in education, both as a teacher and a curriculum consultant. Melissa was the regional winner of the Words and Women 2016 Prose Competition and was a 2017 Apprentice with the London-based Word Factory. Her work appears in several publications including The Lonely Crowd, International Literature Showcase, Bare Fiction, Wasafiri Online, and The Nottingham Review. In 2019, her debut poetry pamphlet, Falling Outside Eden, was published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press. Melissa was awarded an Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice grant to work on her first novel and is the 2018/2019 David TK Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel Peach Blossom Spring will be published in January 2022.

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Winter Thoughts

Tracks

The Hare in the Snow, and the manuscripts of tracks, mark making, path and line.

Snow can show us what other creatures we share our spaces with, which way they turn and how our tracks meet and overlap. In this recording, poet, Jack Thacker takes us along widened footpaths, desire paths, across bird, sheep and cow tracks, beast trails… and through a familiar landscape made unfamiliar. Jack Thacker is deeply attuned to rural and agricultural life and the earth seems to rise up to our eyes through his writing.

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Winter Thoughts

How a Tree Sees Itself

Z.R. Ghani shares her poem, Wires

Z. R. Ghani is a marvel, whose writing spans both poetry and prose. In this recording you’ll hear her read her piece Wires. From a single tree and seed it reaches back through Deep Time and across and through the hyphae of connections to meadows and mindscapes. This is writing and a way of seeing ourselves in the world that is completely interdependent and connected.

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Winter Thoughts

To Feel Winter

Maria Isakova Bennett is a positive force of nature, an extraordinarily talented artist, writer, publisher of hand made books, nurturer of ideas and interests. In this recording she offers an abundance of winter in language that itself embodies the cold and is fine tuned to the music of weather.

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Winter Thoughts

Flensing

Jane Lovell is an award-winning British poet whose work focuses on our relationship with the planet and its wildlife. Her latest collection is the prize-winning God of Lost Ways (Indigo Dreams Press). Jane also writes for Dark MountainPhotographers Against Wildlife Crime and Elementum Journal. She lives in Kent and is Writer-in-Residence at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Migrations
  
 of geese 
  
 We watch them leave, dragging the sky
 like chevrons of tide around a pole,
 an updraft of invisible stars
 streaming behind them,
 ancient light infused with visions
 of their ancestors,
 now bone, or fragments of bone,
 trapped in ice:
 tiny flutes packed with frozen air.
  
  
 of whales
  
 Put your ear to the shore,
 your cheek against this rock;
 they are below you and above you.
 Hear them winding and unwinding
 their strange harmonies
 of waves and tides, laments
 woven by the sea dislocating
 arcs of bone.
  
  
 of caribou
  
 Startled, they circle downwind,
 tails and heads held high.
 Towards the lakes, paths narrow,
 force them to follow,
 mother and calf,
 its roaming eyes, unsteady hooves.
  
 With arrows and spears,
 we thrust and pierce hide.
 They buck and stumble,
 eyes roll skyward,
 the great heads swing and roar,
 stub-teeth yellow with lichen.
  
 When they fall, the hills shudder.