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Nature sleeps. Thank goodness for art

What is it about January? You have to trust that living things are asleep and not dead. The garden is brown and damp. In January I examine any magnolia tree I come across, looking for buds: signs of life. Even though days are getting longer it happens so slowly. Generating every extra minute of daylight seems a huge effort for Gaia.

On the other hand, I was in the British Museum recently looking at the Parthenon marbles, and I was so struck with the energy and verve that still shines from these 2,500 year old carvings. Despite the difficult relationship between humankind and the natural world, I’m uplifted by the way that the creative energy of humans channelled into art can endure, and still have the power to amaze and inspire people hundreds, if not thousands of years into the future.

Here’s a bit of joy in a dark month: this evening is the online launch of Sarah Barnsley‘s excellent first collection, The Thoughts (Smith Doorstop). I’m a bit biased as Sarah is a good friend and a Telltale Press buddy – I’m proud to say we published her pamphlet The Fire Station in 2015. The Thoughts is compelling, and a bit of a page-turner (if poetry can be described that way); it’s formally inventive, sometimes a painful read and sometimes painfully funny. I’m so pleased to see Sarah’s name up in lights. She’s a fine poet and it’s so well deserved that she’s been picked up by Smith Doorstop. Buy, buy!

Moving at a glacial speed (that January feeling) are of course poetry magazine submissions. I’ve had three poems out to a magazine for 120 days, four for 68 days. On a more positive note, Mike Bartholomew-Briggs at London Grip accepted a poem from me in under a fortnight, which cheered me up no end – it’ll be in the March edition. Also, the Mary Evans Picture Library have just published my poem ‘Beautiful Head’ on its ‘Poems and Pictures’ blog. The blog comprises a large archive of work by many excellent poets. Do check it out if you haven’t already, and they welcome contributions by the way.


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  1. A lovely, atmospheric poem, Robin. I didn’t know the origin of the name Beachy Head. I shall think differently about it now. And thank you for introducing me to the Mary Evans picture library. What a wonderful institution. Cx

  2. I second those comments from Claire Booker. Evocative poem, and the last part hit me in the gut.
    I’d of course seen the Mary Evans Picture Library credited previously but never investigated, so yes, thank you.

  3. Elly Nobbs Elly Nobbs

    Yes I agree with the others about your Mary Evans poem. And that’s good news about Sarah B’s new book 🙂

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Robin Houghton 2021