- Promise of Primroses
The promise of primroses fills each line,
Overflows in iambic flowering,
While wild garlic and bluebells define
The yellow of their petals, the showering
Of the woods and trees with pools of sun,
Where we walk the dogs and welcome in
This season, now at last that winter’s done,
Our hearts can fill themselves with hope again.
Let us breathe in a while and celebrate
What we have just now, and not what’s to come,
Live in this moment or else too late
Before that last insistent, marching drum.
For the promise of primroses is brief
As fourteen lines of sonnet, as our life.
- Bike ride
This morning I try out this Spring for size
Measure it on my early cycle ride
Wear it on my skin, let it brim my eyes,
Watch it green and grow on every side .
For Spring is the shirt you thought you’d lost
And then you find it and shake it out
And remember the colour, undimmed by frost.
Back again with a glorious shout.
Its creases will smoothe in the warmth of wear
Its patterns grow brighter with every day
As I breathe in the chilly but sun warmed air
Witness the skies and sunlight wake and play.
I thought perhaps this new season might not fit
But I find there’s more than enough of it.
- It feels like spring
Recently there seems to have been a stirring in the woods and lanes, in the city streets and by the sea. I cycled to the bike-shop in the centre of Leeds yesterday along the canal towpath, time for an annual service for a bike that has gone through mud and wind and rain, like most of us in the last year or two. The world is in a precarious state, but Spring is coming in with a rush, the wood pigeons in our street seem even more focused on procreation than usual and blackthorn and early blossom are on some trees and bushes. In an unexpected boost to my mood the camellia on the wall a metre away from our front door has put out flower buds for the first time in at least fifteen years. It may have been sulking.
Other things are coming back to life. I have been working in local primary schools in the last few weeks, with more to come. Nobody can replicate the enthusiasm of an eight year. On subjects as diverse as Rain Forests and Wild Weather [Outer Space next week] they have produced and performed some wonderful poetry.
With various adult writing groups I have used the two watercolour portraits from 1945 [pictured] as a stimulus for creative writing, enabling the members to write a poem, short story or memoir piece with ideas sparked off by the pictures.
Also enormously enjoyable was my taking part in the Leeds Literature Festival 2022, hosting five ‘in conversation’ events from art historian Catherine McCormack to political activist Peter Hain. I love this kind of work, getting to the heart of people’s writing and appearing in front of a live audience. This was followed by the launch of ‘Offcumdens’ a very beautiful book of poetry and images from Bob Hamilton, photographer and Emma Storr, poet, also at The Leeds Library.
Sometimes for the writer there are moments of pure joy when some writing completed some months before sees the light of day. It’s not been forgotten, just tucked away until the publication day arrives, and that also feel like spring. I was asked to write a poem about a statue of Henry Hallam in St Pauls as part of a much larger project. I chose to write in the first person as Henry and explore his life and his much-tested religious faith in the face of extraordinary loss. Here is the result:
You old seducer, with your chlorophyll,
Are your promise; their hidden prickle will
Remind me each joy comes with wounds somehow.
And taken by surprise I am undone,
As I find myself to be every year,
I welcome Shakespearean phrases in,
Its very theatre demands it here.
So I feel you move in the woods and lanes,
As the pleasures of your season prove
Through chilly sunlight and the healing rains,
I am not too old to be caught by love.
And later in each greening hedge and field
I see your Casanova charms and yield.
From ‘A Bench for Billie Hoilday’ Valley Press,
- Cycling in the woods with apologies to W.B. Yeats
At first I do not recognise the sound
As I cycle the empty lane through fields,
And my eyes are reaching out, all around,
To the greens and bright yellows of the Wolds
Perhaps, I think, it is the seashell breeze
Of woolly hat pulled low over my ears,
No. It’s a happy, busy sound, a tease
While I watch the fields for eccentric hares.
When I stop to take in the distant views
I only hear my ageing heart beat on
As if there’s nothing left for it to lose
But might as well adventure while it can.
And I know what I cannot hear or feel
Is the bee-loud humming of each turning wheel.
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