Tag Archives: Leeds

Dear March –

Dear March – Come in –

How glad I am –

I hoped for you before –

Put down your Hat –

You must have walked –

How out of Breath you are –

Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –

Did you leave Nature well –

Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –

I have so much to tell –


I got your Letter, and the Birds –

The Maples never knew that you were coming –

I declare – how Red their Faces grew –

But March, forgive me –

And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –

There was no Purple suitable –

You took it all with you –

Who knocks? That April –

Lock the Door –

I will not be pursued –

He stayed away a Year to call

When I am occupied –

But trifles look so trivial

As soon as you have come


That blame is just as dear as Praise

And Praise as mere as Blame –


Emily Dickinson


After two days thinking about Poetry, Creativity and Environment at last weekend’s symposium in the School of English at Leeds University, the idea that my mind keeps returning to is one suggested by Zoë Skoulding – ecological writing (and thinking) should always engage with the possibility of imagining something different, a radically altered viewpoint.

Her own practice enacts that process by taking ‘a deliberately skewed perspective’ to both time and place, walking in urban spaces and re-imagining them as if all the accretions of man-made city life were not there, acknowledging historical disjunctions and the impossibility of ‘accuracy’. She read from her wonderful sequence Teint, which charts the Biévre, one of Paris’s underground water courses.


Harriet Tarlo also spoke about her ‘writing outside’, the notion of fieldwork, both alone and in collaboration with artist Judith Tucker – their different disciplines coming together like Bunting’s ‘lines of sound drawn in the air’. Going out in a state of attentive awareness in search of ‘particulars’ and then undertaking a process of ‘condensation’ and ‘selection’, preferring to bypass ‘the lyrical I’ in any resulting text. It was good to hear Harriet quote her mentor in Durham, Ric Caddell: ‘To live here is not to escape’.

I was particularly happy to meet Madeleine Lee, a Leeds alumna like myself. She is a poet and an economist and recently Writer in Residence at Singapore Botanic Gardens, where I spent a fascinating and fruitful week en route to Sydney in 2013. She noticed that people were tending to sleepwalk through the gardens and wanted to draw attention to the environmental implications of their colonial history through poems about native ‘economic plants’ like rubber, nutmeg, clove and other spices, traditionally grown along Orchard Road, now the main shopping avenue. Through her writing she has become an ‘accidental advocate’ of green spaces, the remaining 5% of tropical rainforest on the island of Singapore.


No one was particularly interested in either the didactic/rhetorical or the elegiac/mourning modes of writing about the natural world. Generally these poets are bearing witness to land, place, plants and creatures, dismantling assumptions, risking ambiguity and uncertainty, taking a modernist, experimental stance. A lucid, appreciative interpretation of Jorie Graham’s Prayer (by post-graduate researcher Julia Tanner) reflected the weighing up of moral and ethical predicaments with ‘something instinctive’ in order to transform and ‘re-singularise’ that ‘problematic’ ‘I’ everyone was tiptoeing around so nervously. Although it was heartening to see it for a change, I wondered if the mood and emphasis would have been different if the panel were all-male rather than all-female, or a mixture? Another poet with a strong Leeds connection, Jon Silkin (as you can see from the photo) was also with us in spirit – and in Emma Trott’s paper on his Flower Poems.

Yesterday I walked out of the School of English onto Clarendon Road after my classes, delighted to see the magnolia buds stretching to release their deep pinks and to hear a lone great tit playing the xylophone of its throat – notes going up, notes going down. Encountering poetry and creativity at its most vivid, spontaneous and inescapable out of doors.



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Auricula Theatre

I am fascinated by the way many aspects of the horticultural world are so arcane and specialised, marked by an obsessive attention to detail. National Collections and Plant Societies are just a couple of ways this manifests itself.  I stumbled upon a reminder in the glasshouses at Temple Newsam in Leeds last week.  Even the method of display reflects the emphasis on order and classification beloved of a certain type of gardener.  Apparently this particular type is called an Auricula Theatre – there is indeed drama in it, a striking sense of mise en scène.

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Lines To An Auricula, Belonging To –


Thou rear’st thy beauteous head, sweet flow’r

Gemm’d by the soft and vernal show’r;

Its drops still round thee shine:

The florist views thee with delight;

And, if so precious in his sight,

Oh! what art thou in mine?


For she, who nurs’d thy drooping form

When Winter pour’d her snowy storm,

Has oft consol’d me too;

For me a fost’ring tear has shed, –

She has reviv’d my drooping head,

And bade me bloom anew.


When adverse Fortune bade us part,

And grief depress’d my aching heart,

Like yon reviving ray,

She from behind the cloud would move,

And with a stolen look of love

Would melt my cares away.


Sweet flow’r! supremely dear to me,

Thy lovely mistress blooms in thee,

For, tho’ the garden’s pride,

In beauty’s grace and tint array’d,

Thou seem’st to court the secret shade,

Thy modest form to hide.


Oh! crown’d with many a roseate year,

Bless’d may she be who plac’d thee here,

Until the tear of love

Shall tremble in the eye to find

Her spirit, spotless and refin’d,

Borne to the realms above!


And oft for thee, sweet child of spring!

The Muse shall touch her tend’rest string;

And, as thou rear’st thine head,

She shall invoke the softest air,

Or ask the chilling storm to spare,

And bless thy humble bed.


Sir John Carr    (1772–1832)


The National Auricula Society

From the early years of the 17th Century there have been shows for florist flowers – including Auriculas. The early shows were held in public houses…

The National Auricula Society was founded in 1872-73. With the support of the Manchester Botanical Council the first revived exhibition of the National Auricula Society was held on Tuesday the 29th of April 1873. The prizes at the first show were of cash and appear to have been extremely generous. Class A for six dissimilar show varieties, one at least in each of the classes Green, Grey, White Edged and Self, had a first prize of 60s (£3.00). In the single plant classes the premium prize was 10s (50p) and first prize was 8s (40p) – these prizes would be more than most people could earn in a week.

The fact that only subscribers of over 10s could enter the multi-pot classes tells us that the early members must have been comparatively wealthy. In fact they were often manufacturers and professional gentlemen.  Ladies were still absent.

In 1890 it was resolved that supports, i.e. staking, would be allowed in all classes but packing in the truss was not to be allowed… In 1912 three cups were purchased: one each for Show Auriculas, Alpine Auriculas and Gold Laced Polyanthus, together with three medals and a die.  The total cost was £18-8s-3d…

The word Primula was added to the society title in 1948 and so became The National Auricula and Primula Society (Northern Section). 

(extract from the Society’s website)

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