Tag Archives: Alys Fowler

Poetry & Ecology

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In the Physic Garden

 

Andrew asks if spiritistically is a word

it is now I say

how do you spell it he says

and we sound out the letters together

him way ahead of me

written down they’re ghosts

of the evening primrose

throwing up its arms behind us

MOTH’S MOON FLOWER

says the sign and we lean in

to yellow like thunderbugs

drinking from wilting cups

spiritistically we are yellow

and black when they are the same

night and day – me and Andrew

his words I want to save

and the flowers I can’t

and it’s okay

what does kill or cure mean he says

 

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Just back from the Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival where I was delighted to be awarded the Bronze in this year’s Ginkgo Prize for my poem sparked by a summer’s day at Dilston Physic Garden, working with a group of vulnerable adults from Haltwhistle on one of their Zig-Zag outings.

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The Prize was judged by poet Mimi Khalvati and gardener and writer Alys Fowler and organised by the Poetry School, following Resurgence’s initiation of a Poetry Competition specifically for ‘eco-poems’ a few years ago.  This year the newly-named Prize was generously supported by the Goldsmith Trust, which promotes the work of ecologist Edward Goldsmith (1928-2009). It was fascinating meeting everyone involved (including one dog – Pekingese – and one baby – North American) and all the other winning poets: a real live chain of interconnection – ecology in action.

There is a beautifully designed and produced pamphlet of all the winning and commended poems.  You can read it online here.  Our wonderful certificates were designed and hand-made by Charles Gouldsbrough.

Part of the award for winners and the runners-up is a 10-day residency in Ireland next Spring at Cill Rillaig Arts Centre, County Kerry.  The chain of interbeing continues and will grow…

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Peace & Poinsettia

In Turkey I was very excited to see poinsettia growing wild – flowers the size of dinner plates, brash and beautiful, like their botanical name – Euphorbia pulcherrima.

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Its English name derives from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.  In Turkey they are known as Atatürk’s Flower, because Atatürk, the father of the modern republic (1881-1938), liked it and encouraged its cultivation in Turkey.  There are many statues of Atatürk around the place, often with a bird or a child,  accompanied by a plaque saying Peace at Home, Peace in the World in Turkish, English, German and Russian.

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I arrived home to an article by Alys Fowler in the Guardian recounting the story of how poinsettia came to be associated with Christmas.  In Mexico, where they are native, back in the sixteenth century, a poor girl called Pepita (or possibly Maria) couldn’t afford to buy a present for Jesus’s birthday.  An angel told her to gather a bouquet of weeds to place on the altar of her church, where they transformed into the blood-red bracts so familiar to us today.

IMG_0058Once you’ve seen the poinsettia growing where it’s meant to, it looks too much like a caged bird in a centrally heated living room.  To relieve our wall-to-wall grey, Alys Fowler advises a Christmas cactus instead because as well as being easier to keep alive after it’s bloomed, it also filters out pollutants in the air.

 

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