I will be 80 this year here in my flat only a mile and a half from where I was born. I have tried to lead by example, by plunging my narrow balcony into the principality of hanging gardens. Concrete is brutal. It needs softening. Plants should have dominion. We breakfast amidst the crisp verdure and watch a nesting bird, fledgling wrens, butterflies and such wild visitors. The flat faces of the daisies, pansies and geraniums accrue the afternoon and evening sun. Most years – A wren nests somewhere blanketed by the ivy leaves. Her fledglings zing past while we’re eating. They’ll even call on us at table. In warm summers, the clouded yellow butterfly may join us from abroad.
Sometimes some quirky combination of words and images will capture my imagination. This time last year it was a comment in a Gudrun Sjödén catalogue about a Senegalese artist who sculpted birds from flotsam-and-jetsam.
Sunday last, the Guardian Weekend’s column “How does your garden grow?” hooked me. William Howard’s evocative interview about his balcony garden in the Barbican (London) – and the fantastic photograph of him in from of his verdant kingdom – had me enthralled. (Read the interview from the 28th June 2014 Guardian Weekend here.). “This garden,” explains Howard, “is about memories, sharing and reminding people to look – really look.”
Perhaps being a poet is in some respects like being a gardener.
(P.S. One of the most affecting books I read during my young adolescence was Rumer Godden’s An Episode of Sparrows, in which a scrabble of children try to grow a garden and learn how to look – really look.)
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Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012