Poetry: Grief is you

Grief is you
Realising you have their
Mannerisms, gestures
That you are the legacy

It’s the unsustainable pressure

It’s punching the mattress
Repeatedly
At 3:15 on a Tuesday afternoon

It’s the throwing away
Of old medicines
And foods you thought
They might actually eat

Grief is the guilt
All the things I did wrong
Didn’t even consider
Could have done differently
Could have said
Should never have said
Would have said
If I’d known

Grief is the coalescing
Of all the deaths
Into one long chain
Of relentless mourning

It’s living through every
Funeral you’ve ever been to
At the next one

It’s Mozart on a sunny
January morning
Foxes darting between
Headstones
Green parakeets shrieking
Across snow-threatening skies

Grief is love
Apparently
It’s all the things
It’s just a bit
Meh

It’s people so nervous
About upsetting someone
That they never say anything
And just make them feel more
Alone with it

It’s people saying the wrong thing
And making them feel
Even more alone with it

It’s something the Prime Minister
Denies when it suits him

It’s also Mariupol
Bucha and Irpin

It’s my black cat
Wrapped in towels
Under sedation
It’s the hardest decision

Grief is unrestrained
It’s 4 months wait
For bereavement counselling
With a volunteer
Calling from a witheld number

It’s a fracture that isn’t ever
Going to heal itself

It’s the making
And the absolute breaking
Of many millions of people
Each year

It’s the death of you
And the terror in the heart
After what I’ve now seen
And will never un-see
What I’ve now felt
And will never un-feel

It’s the fact that you
Are also dying
Of the very same thing
Because why not

It’s the incurable
The untreatable
The unbelievable
And the unbeatable

It’s the emptiness
Of the place
Where they used to spend
So much of their time
Where they sat
Stood and lay down

A pair of shoes left
Just beside the door
The shaver under the sink
The cap on the hook
The fishing rods
In the garage

The fingerprint
On the Rolling Stones CD
That is now digitised
In FLAC

It’s her old shirts
That seem to hold
Her perfume
15 years later

Grief is unbelievable
Weather
It’s the grey and leaden

Nurses whose names
You never remembered
But faces and information
Never ever forgotten

It’s memories that attack
Like arrows from the best medieval archers
Over a fortress that really
Wasn’t going to last very long
If I’m honest

It’s the return of things
You thought were extinct
The thylacine
And the great auk

People you never knew
Could ever cry in public

It’s grief
And it’s too many things
To mention

© Daniel James Greenwood 2022

Autumn 2021 blog update

I thought it would be worth sharing an update on where things are with this blog. Last year was a hugely productive one for my blog due to spending so much time at home because of Covid-19 restrictions. At times I was posting three times a week with stuff I would see as good quality.

Now that things have changed I’ve lost that writing time. Things have gone back to where they were probably in 2019. That said, my blog has continued to grow in reach in 2021, especially it seems when people are interested in fungi in the autumn months. October’s views on here have been possibly the busiest month ever for visitors.

In January of this year I began recordings for my Unlocking Landscapes podcast. It was very easy to do because people had time to spend on Zoom due to the stay-at-home orders. Now that there is less of that, I don’t have the time to do them monthly, which has proven a big challenge. That said, I do have two more episodes to publish, hopefully this year, and some episodes agreed with some really cool people, including an author, shepherdess, eco-therapist and a nature writer.

I do hope to add more quality episodes over the years and it may just end up being seasonal, with the episodes maybe a bit longer. I don’t get any income for the podcast and the people appearing on it are doing so out of generosity and a desire to share ideas. Thank you to everyone who has been involved, I’ve loved it so far. The upcoming episodes are part two of the Hungary-Romania trip with Eddie Chapman, and a spring birdsong walk in the Sussex Weald that I recorded in May.

In book news, I have been providing content for other people’s books! Chris Schuler’s The Wood That Built London has just been published with some of my photos in the glossy inner-pages (see image above). It’s an absolute joy to be tied to this incredible book, which has levels of detail about south London’s ancient woodlands which have never before been amalgamated and shared. You can see more here. I’ve also (probably) had some photos published in Tiffany Francis-Baker’s book about Dark Night Skies.

In spring London Wildlife Trust will be publishing a book about nature in London which includes a chapter I wrote about woodlands, with more photographs included. This is another big personal thing for me and I am so honoured to have been asked to support the project. I will post more about it when the book arrives.

In my own personal self-publishing world I have plans to release a third poetry booklet in early 2022 called Fool’s Wood. I have also been trying to write a book for the past 10 years about my experiences of volunteering and what I learned about nature and our relationships to it. That is proving very difficult to get anywhere with, but I hope to make some progress over the winter months. I am not producing any of these with an aim of being published in the mainstream, more for my personal sanity, and as ebooks. If anyone has advice about producing and publishing ebooks, please help me!

The Town Clerk’s Office, Midhurst (c1500s)

As photography projects go I’ve been gathering images of timber-framed cottages and other buildings for an Instagram account @SussexTimbers. I’m still looking for the best format to share these images and to talk about their historical significance, which Instagram is not quite. I will probably build a section on this website next year to showcase them. Might even make some postcards!

What I’ve been reading: this year has been dominated by Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad and Life and Fate. I have studied Russian cinema and am something of a Russophile, but there is only so much you can take of 20th century Russian history. Tread carefully. I’ve recently finished Wanderland by Jini Reddy, I Belong Here by Anita Sethi, some of the novels by Sarah Moss (Ghost Wall and Cold Earth), and at the moment I’m enjoying Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard. Reddy and Sethi’s books are a must read for people who are advocates (or not) of countryside access. Especially those who adamantly and aggressively announce that ‘the countryside is for everyone’ as a reposte to the lived-experience of Black people and people of colour. It’s not, and racism prohibits people from feeling welcome in certain places. Finding the Mother Tree is essential reading for those who want to understand more about how trees are interconnected and the role fungi play in healthy, happy woodlands. I still haven’t read the Merlin Sheldrake book.

What I’m listening to: the new album by The War on Drugs is one I have been waiting a long time for. Change is my favourite song so far (that piano…):

The podcasts I regularly listen to are Welcome to Mushroom Hour and the Guardian Football Weekly.

I want to give a shout out to my dad who regularly reads this blog and has, alongside my mum, been a massive support to me for many years (obviously). Dad has been under the weather recently and unable to get out as much as he would like to, so hopefully dad what you can continue to see here is a bit of a sense of the outdoors. We’ll get you back out there again soon.

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, sending in comments on here as well as on Twitter. I love to receive your comments, which are almost 100% positive, though I don’t block criticism (as long as it’s not inappropriate).

Wishing you a pleasant winter ahead with friends, family, wildlife and pets.

Daniel

Poetry: winter/spring haiku

For those who aren’t aware, I am a self-published poet of very little renown, thank god. You can see more about that here.

I have a third booklet of poems which are not far off being ready but I’ve written very little in the past year. My pandemic mind has not helped me to write anything, or to read any poetry either.

That changed when I started reading the Penguin book of Haiku a few months ago. It definitely inspired me. I found the 5/7/5 syllable structure to be simple enough for my stay at home mind. That said, I don’t keep to strict rhyming systems anyway as I find that too restrictive most of the time.

I first learned about haiku when studying creative writing at university. It was great to get back into it again. Here is a selection:


Coronavirus,
once an ogre in the woods,
now walks among us

who predicted this?
a whole year of hidden life,
of feeding the cat

why has this happened
when we thought we knew it all
but we knew nothing

January days
never much light to be had
but the darkness fades

coffee-coloured mud
still holds panes of brittle ice
that break underfoot

the pond is frozen
wind moves the willow branches
listen: the ice cracks

bullfinch pink, perching,
it travels through the pine trees
the female follows

streaming over stone
the gill flows through the woodland
taking everything

primroses ready
to open flowers again
to mark the season

hairy-footed bees
cruising around the flowers
searching for a mate

peregrine falcon
passing over where I live
(thankful I’m human)

the headless pigeon:
nobody knows who killed it
or who took its head

a storm came at lunch
sudden whipping back of trees
raindrops splattered glass

face masks in gutters
did people mean to drop them?
one had shit on it

gulls cry from the roof
sparrowhawk sails overhead
followed by a crow

at dusk the wagtails
together on the rooftops
one by one they fly

when will it all end?
will there be a ringing bell
or will it change us

what if we are trapped
if this is our punishment
for taking too much

when will we hug our
mothers, fathers, our children,
when will it be safe?

oak trees black at dusk
clouds build on the horizon
the river flows on

a trespassing drone
seen off by a grey heron
both in silhouette

waiting on the news
you expect the worst of it
but the sun rises

© Daniel James Greenwood 2021

Poetry: Semerwater

I’m in the process of editing a third booklet of poems. It takes me something like 2-4 years to get one finished because things need to be left to cool and develop, you need time away from it. I have a ghost document of poems that don’t quite fit in.

This is one of those poems. It’s about Semerwater, a lake in the Yorkshire Dales in north-east England that I visited in May 2018.

If you want to see more of my poems or buy yourself a booklet please head over here.

 Semerwater 
  
 She sleeps on the shoreline
 ashes pulsing
 to life in the hills
 for the last time
  
 ruined barns
 bake again
 in the afternoon sun
  
 flies land
 on my thumbs
  
 all by the lake
 built by mistake
 the dumping of
 rocks and silt
  
 by forces without name
  
 forces without a prior reputation
 for landscape-scale devastation
  
 a time before
 we were there
 to croon and
 ascribe blame
 at the sidelines
  
 or did we
  
 Semerwater
  
 at its edges 
 a hare 
 striding see-saw 
 of a thing.

© Daniel James Greenwood 2020

   

Poetry: Heavy metal orchids

I’m in the process of editing a third booklet of poems. It takes me something like 2-4 years to get one finished because things need to be left to cool and develop, you need time away from it. I have a ghost document of poems that don’t quite fit in. This is one about a walk on the South Downs between Firle and Itford in June 2019.

I really thought this one would work with the collection, but something changed and it’s going free.

As I progress towards finishing the third booklet, I’ll post some more of those which won’t be in it. Definitely interested in your views on them.

Mount Caburn is an Iron Age hillfort (which is no longer there).

If you want to see more of my poems or buy yourself a booklet please head over here.

Heavy metal orchids

 Barren Downs
 broken by sea
 tropical blue
 and the sinking hint
 of chalk reef
  
 Newhaven onion dome 
 and brown lagoon
 toy town train services
 honking on approach

 up here you all look like
 ants who have
 gained human traits
  
 a thirst for farming
 more than aphids
  
 up here skylarks translating 
 the silence of masts
 stood in muted alarm 

 heavy metal orchids
 so rare they’re padlocked
 in barbed wire cages
  
 at Lewes the ramparts
 of Mount Caburn 
 like a bowl cut 
 but you promised
 the reality was far 
 more blood-soaked
  
 Ouse water a
 concrete slow worm
 with seaweed on the side
 and rusting iron cranks
 crawling with a sea
 of red spider-mites
  
 hare barely 
 breaking barley
 her winging blues
 and tortoiseshells
  
 the wooden bridge
 where the crow
 begs a toll like a child 

© Daniel James Greenwood 2020

New poetry booklet: Sumptuous beasts

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I am very pleased to share with you my new poetry booklet, Sumptuous beasts.

This is my second collection of poems after I am living with the animals in 2014.

The front cover is a great crested newt painted by Henrietta MacPhee. Thank you Henrietta for this beautiful picture.

The cost of printing was paid for by Teresa and Michael Greenwood and all proceeds will be donated to charity. Obviously I am not expecting to build too many hospitals. I will post an update on here if I the amount I have to donate is worth promoting!

The booklets are £2.50, postage is 84p. There is a limited run of 250 copies.

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I would like to dedicate several of the poems to Richard Woolley, someone who cared very much about nature and the things that appear in these poems. Rich was with me in some of the poems featured, namely The heart races, We are the axis and Moonmade fields. Likewise thanks to everyone else who accompanied me on walks and offered experiences that inspired these, if you’ve read them you should know who you are!

If you would like to buy a copy please follow this link. Thanks to everyone who has supported me over time with writing and inspiring me to write these. Hopefully you will realise how easy it is to create something and will do it yourself.

As you can tell from the title these poems are about nature and wild animals. They are from a period of about five years, covering trips to Ireland, Romania, Czechia and throughout the UK in Northumberland, Exmoor and Norfolk.

I don’t decide what I will write about, it is usually a fragmented process of gathering bits together, always from spending time outside. It just happened that this was threaded together around our non-human neighbours on this planet. I personally feel my life would be far lonelier and poorer without sharing spaces with wildlife. I hope that comes across in this booklet if you read any of it.

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Thanks again and happy autumn.

Daniel

Poetry: Spider silk

Spider silk-1

Spider silk

Reaching for the black
and bulbous fruit
I risk the crab spider
opening its arms and
legs in defence

might it mistake
my finger for the body
of a honey bee

paralyse it, carry it away
into a brambly underworld

perhaps not
but still my fingers
bloodied by raking thorns
and broken berries

they are knotted
in discarded spider silk
a long-forgotten scaffold

with bundled bodies
of emptied hoverflies

© Daniel James Greenwood 2018

Poetry: The falcon etched

Malham Cove-1

The falcon etched

Wait with the falcon etched
into cove rock at Malham,
meadowsweet aglow
in the fields below.

Wait for the falcon etched,
with those cheeks streaked,
drawn like the scars
on the limestone it enlivens.

Does it ever move,
bird or fossil.

This dale holds great riches
for those talons and talents
to savour.

© Daniel James Greenwood 2017

Poetry: Goshawk

goshawk-1


In the dunes we hear his hoarse
hollering, with reindeer lichens
and crumbling caverns of sand
arriving where our feet
meet the horizon.

We run under the clouds
the sea to our side
to see the wind tugging his
hair curling from his head

eyes glistening behind eggs
of steel-rimmed glasses:
he’s seen a goshawk below
hiding in a bramble bush.






© Daniel James Greenwood 2016

Poetry: Chafers

chafers-1



Swilling in hawthorn
a restless summer evening on the downs
its yellow and white bedstraw
fit for our bodies, backs and snoring
our gritting teeth

I watch the chafers
as they become silhouettes
as their numbers slide
into the bristling night
drunk on dusk
the dip, swoop and dive

returning to an uncertain
place in the sky

 



© Daniel James Greenwood 2015