This is a collection of ultra-short Thumbnail Nature pieces from a February workshop ‘Nature Writing Through the Window’ which Amanda Tuke co led with Helen Jones, an inspirational disabled nature writer.
It was a great workshop and the last from this particular Arts Council funded project. It has been a pleasure to get to know Amanda and delve into thumbnail nature. I am delighted to have pieces in all the anthologies of workshops I was able to attend.
Angi Holden also attended the workshops and been published in the anthologies. It is always a great delight when you see friends sign up for the same events. An extra delight in February was spotting Elizabeth Uter in attendance. Liz and I met at the Poetry in Motion classes 2020/21 with CelenaDiana Bumpus, Liz still attends classes with Inlandia. Her poem is above mine, it’s so lovely to share the virtual page with her again.
Thanks again to Amanda Tuke for these incredible workshops and for giving my first thumbnails a home.
Amanda Tuke – workshop co-leader and Great North Wood nature-writer-in-residence in partnership with London Wildlife Trust. Once covering a large area of south London, today the Great North Wood consists of a series of small green spaces – all of which provide a home for nature within a modern urban landscape.The workshop was made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Annie is a much-loved member of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival team and her Book Launch was hosted by them. Presented by Howard Timms. Annie’s collection has been described by Ankh Spice as ‘a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten’, and by Ben Ray as ‘a haunting love letter to the natural world’.
It was a pleasure listening to all the poems, a delight to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from her first collection. It is always exciting to hear your words coming from the mouth of another. Something magical about that process. I was touched when several readers shared poems written especially for Annie or inspired by poems in this collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice. In addition to these four powerful poets, Annie had asked other members of the poetry community to read a poem from the collection.
It was an honour to be there, to listen, to watch, to see. The witness and kinship. Annie’s poems bring nature in until it becomes us (as it should be, as it is). We are, after all part of it, we are it, it is us. As more people (through Lockdown Nature) are realising and we’re all bearing witness to the proof of our ecological impact.
About the Book
Nature at a Cost is a collection of poems essentially focusing on the interaction between humans and the environment. Poet Annie Ellis explores the impact that our way of life is having on other species that share our planet, offering a unique perspective on the disturbing situation we are currently creating. Her words send a powerful message to all of us to protect rather than exploit the natural world, to bring harmony and balance for a better future.
Extracts from the testimonials for Nature at a Cost A collection of vivid and beautifully observed poems by a writer who loves nature in all its manifestations – from the jack-of-all-trades to the king of the pack, all the creatures in this charming collection are depicted with awe and delight. Anna Saunders, CEO of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and poet
A raw, real and honest update on the Romantics’ odes to the natural world, Nature at a Cost is an engrossing and challenging collection which flows from the page as naturally as the rivers and forests it describes – a haunting love letter to the natural world, which stays with the reader long after the final stanza. Sometimes unsettling and uncomfortable in its questioning of our self-centred perception of the world, Ellis is not afraid to explore the nature’s raw and often violent mechanics: seals twist in water to escape ‘a cave of daggers’, millions of ladybirds bury a small town, and the seasons turn unstoppably in ‘pompoms of autumn fizz’. Ellis is disarmingly honest and open about her own position in this wildness, which she finds reflected inside herself: ‘I feel the pain of solitude, / with the twist of time coming round.’ Yet throughout this collection, Ellis’ writing consistently holds a deep love and respect for nature and its inhabitants. This is twinned with a keen and subtle eye for observation: goats ‘wander like lost pebbles’, whilst ducks swim in an ‘army of ripples’. As the collection’s title suggests, there is an underlying tension between the human and wild here: but Ellis masterfully negotiates this distance, using poetry as the bridge to carry us from the familiar into the wilderness. In the final poem, a tree speaks of this innate connection: ‘find me in the pencil / you are holding.’ If you are looking for this entry point into the wilds, look no further than Nature at a Cost. Ben Ray
‘Nature at a Cost’ beckons you to step beyond your comfortable human skin and allow your boundaries to be repainted in a wilder shape. Ellis’s poetic gift is for suspending time on the wing, on the hoof, the claw, or the branch – she offers vivid moment after moment as a series of natural Attenborough-esque observations, still moving as we watch – or better still as we step in with the poet to channel our consciousness into her global family of flora and fauna, weather and wile. In this time of disconnection from the deep and intimate living our own animal experience could, and should, offer us, this collection is a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten, and to redefine what we notice and protect as valuable. ‘Because of you I want to keep living’ realises Ellis in ‘Wolf’, and it is truly that simple. We are in the quietly clamouring presence of every reason to persist in symbiosis, not at odds, and every beast captured by this poet’s keen and tender lens shows us how – from revelling ladybug to nursing doe to goats on the edge. This collection is, in every sense, a vital one. Ankh Spice, Co-Editor of Ice Floe Press.
For the first time since the start of NaPo I have found myself time limited. I am following four different prompt areas this month and tend to write from two sources. This means that my NaPo poetry has already reached double figures.
I was too tired to concentrate when I first got home, then fell asleep. I have an idea that is bubbling in my head and would like to form a poem before bed. However, I know that this is the only prompt/poem I will create today. Carrie Etter’s prompt is a prose poem and that is a style I tend to steer clear of. I will attempt it at some point but also like the idea of stashing documents of prompts away to face later in the year. So I will forgive myself and move on if I don’t take the prose prompt. NaPo is all about forgiveness, I learnt that the first year I tried it. It is my 4th year doing this crazy poem-a-day thing.
My poem was about flowers. It mentions radial patterns and US Airlines following spoke and hub routes…
It is yet to define itself as a poem!
Carrie Etter’s Prompt was to write a prose poem.
The Poetry School Day 5: The Aubade (touches of 52). An aubade is a poem addressing the break of day. A traditional aubade often featured the parting of lovers, but yours doesn’t have to. It also doesn’t have to be an ode to the morning; morning can arrive quite gently or tangentially in your poem — but it has to be there. Two example poems today, neither of which is remotely traditional (after all, you all know Larkin’s ‘Aubade’ already, don’t you?). Carl Phillips: Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/aubade-some-peaches-after-storm Ocean Vuong: Aubade with Burning City https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/56769