Special thanks to my friend A this week for the loan of her book ‘Flora Poetica’, edited by Sarah Maguire. Let me know when you want it back 🙂
Dear Readers, I feel that we are lacking poetry in our lives, so now is the moment to see if you can identify what plant each of these poems is going on about. Bonus points for the author! And if you have a favourite plant poem, let me know. No extra points, but it’s nice to share….
As usual, answers in the comments by 5 p.m. UK time on Thursday 14th January please if you want to be marked. The answers will appear on Friday 15th.
Match the plants to the poems: so, if you think poem 1 is about autumn crocuses, your answer is 1) A). As usual, I will hide the answers that appear in the comments when I see them, but if you don’t want to be influenced by speedy people, write your answers down first.
The plants are:
A) Autumn crocus
D) Saguaro (Gian) Cactus
E) Cuckoo-pint/Lords and Ladies
J) Himalayan Balsam
- ‘Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never ending line
Along the margin of the bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance‘.
2. A brown matchstick held up in the wind,
The bract-leaf cupped around it like a palm
March had not extinguished it: there it lurked,
sly as something done behind the sheds,
slithering from its half-unrolled umbrella
as we snipped pussy-willow in the lanes.
3.But bloom of ruins, thou art dear to me,
When, far from danger’s way, thy gloomy pride
Wreathes picturesque around some ancient tree
That bows his branches by some fountain-side:
Then sweet it is from summer suns to be,
With thy green darkness overshadowing me.
4. Orchid-lipped, loose-jointed, purplish, indolent flowers
with a ripe smell of peaches, like a girl’s breath through lipstick,
delicate and coarse in the weedlap of late summer rivers,
dishevelled, weak-stemmed, common as brambles….
5. I had no idea the elf owl
Crept into you in the secret
I have torn myself out of many bitter places
In America that seemed
Tall and green-rooted in mid-noon.
I wish I were the spare shadow of the roadrunner, I wish I were
The honest lover of the diamondback
And the tear the tarantula weeps.
I had no idea you were so tall
And blond in moonlight.
6. Anomalous bright blossom
in late afternoon shadow
surging out of the dark
earth: Halloween candles.
Mauve flowers with amber
yellow pollen-swollen anthers.
Each clump is bordered
by a halo of rotting
petals like votive objects
around a damaged Ikon
or a martyr’s statue.
7. Dweller in pastoral spots, life gladly learns
That nature never mars her aim to please;
Thy dark leaves, like to clumps of little ferns,
Imbue my walk with feelings such as these;
O’ertopt with swarms of flowers that charms the sight,
Some blushing into pink and others white,
On meadow banks, roadsides, and on the leas
Of rough, neglected pastures, I delight
More even than in gardens thus to stray
Amid such scenes and mark thy hardy blooms
Peering into autumn’s mellowing day;
The mower’s scythe swept summer blooms away
Where thou, defying dreariness, wilt come
Bidding the loneliest russet paths be gay.
8. Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow’r
Thou’s met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
They slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow’r
Thou bonie gem.
9. Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
xxxxxxx spike the summer air
Or crackle open under a blue-black pressure.
Each one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasped fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up
From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.
Then they grow grey, like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear,
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.
10. All year round the xxxxx
Can show a blossom or two
But it’s in full bloom now.
As if the small yolk stain
From all the birds’ eggs in
All the nests of the spring
Were spiked and hung
Everywhere on bushes to ripen.
Hills oxidise gold.
Above the smoulder of green shoot
And dross of dead thorns underfoot
The blossoms scald.
Put a match under
xxxxx, they go up of a sudden.
They make no flame in the sun
But a fierce heat tremor
Yet incineration like that
Only takes the thorn.
The tough sticks don’t burn,
Remain like bone, charred horn.
Gilt, jaggy, springy, frilled
This stunted, dry richness
Persists on hills, near stone ditches,
Over flintbed and battlefield.