Tag Archives: insects


At Durham Botanic Garden last weekend a group of us  gathered in the glasshouses for a writing workshop while the rain fell outside.  It was a perfect spot for letting the eye and the imagination take a walk together.


I was very aware we were not alone – a fine assortment of creatures keeping us company, thankfully behind another layer of glass.  I liked the proximity of human, plant and animal – just part of the way we’re all tangled up together.

IMG_6569Brazilian Birdeater Tarantula

IMG_6568Great African Land Snail

IMG_6530Cockroaches – Death’s Head, Madagascar Hissing and Mottled Leaf


Even the cafe couldn’t escape its share of creeping things – the outside attempting to come in from the cold…

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In the Land of the Lion

Image 16This week I’ve been re-visiting Singapore via my notes, photos and audio recordings.  I was unsure how I’d manage the leap in my imagination, skipping back past the intensity of both Australia and Tokyo.  Hearing the sounds again (birds, insects, cascading water plus my own commentary) was a revelation, whisking me right back to the sticky heat and lush exotic plants in the Botanic Gardens – which I was pleased to be reminded I was sorry to leave.

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While I was there, I was reminded of the Malaysian poetic form, the pantoum, and I knew I wanted to experiment with that as a vessel for my impressions of the place.  I’d never written one before and found its repetitions strained and awkward at first but once I got the hang of it, I’ve rather liked its strange braiding.  Something about its haunted hesitations seems fitting for my disorientation when I landed in tropical, inexplicable Singapore from a very snowy UK.

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In The Making of a Poem (Norton, 2000), Mark Strand and Eavan Boland write:

Of all verse forms the pantoum is the slowest: The reader takes four steps forward, then two back.  It is the perfect form for the evocation of a past time….Since the pantoum easily enchants, the close repetition of lines sets up a tight, mesmerising chain of echoes.  It is also a form that allows its listener to relax since all of the lines make a second appearance – what was missed the first time can be picked up on the second…And yet the form is certainly demanding for both reader and poet, with its strange twists of antinarrative time and its unexpectedly hypnotic repetitions.

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Christmas Beetles


Today at Mount Annan Botanic Garden, less than an hour south-west of Sydney. At first we thought the tree across from where we were having coffee was covered in orange berries…

I also saw quite a few bull ants – enormous things with great big pincers. Not a good day to be wearing sandals.

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you are here

P1030338I think signs are very important, particularly in gardens.  Top marks to the ones in Oxford Botanic Garden – nice to look at and interesting to read.

P1030343They’ve kept up the good work at Harcourt Arboretum, an outlying branch of the Botanic Garden a little way south of the city.  As the name suggests, it’s dedicated mostly to trees, with recently extended wildflower parkland.  They are doing everything they can to encourage biodiversity.

P1030498A further 50 acres, purchased in 2006, is called Palmer’s Leys.  It has been sown with seeds from the already existing meadow with some extra added – birdsfoot trefoil, common sorrel, cowslip, field scabious, lady’s bedstraw, lesser knapweed, oxeye daisy, ragged robin, ribwort plantain, selfheal, tufted vetch, yarrow and yellow rattle.

P1030509Even though I was there on a very cold day at the beginning of November, it seems as if it was almost balmy now that my field is all white and the roads hereabouts thick with ice.  That was autumn, this is winter.

P1030513The last picture is a quiz!  What is it?  I needed a sign to tell me – do you?  I’ll post the answer next time.

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a la mode

Even the insects in Italy are stylish…



Even the shops sell dreams…


Even the crickets poetic…


This one spotted on the wall of Petrarch’s house in the Euganean Hills, just outside Padua.

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