A few weeks ago a German poet and editor wrote to ask if I had any ‘spring’ poems to contribute to an anthology he’s putting together.
This has happened before and I contributed two pieces to the international anthology ‘Winter is Coming’, from Verlag Expeditionen, Hamburg, in 2020. So, I was intrigued to find out a bit more.
The title of this new anthology will be ‘Spring’s Blue Ribbon’ taken from an excellent spring poem, ‘Er Ist’s’ by Eduard Mörike (1804-1875). The most famous lines from it, “Frühling lässt sein blaues Band / Wieder flattern durch die Lüfte”, speak of a ‘blue ribbon’ (of spring) that "flutters through the air". We are mildly thrilled, wild violets appear, we dream of love, and so forth.
This idea of a wave of blue spreading north up the German countryside, from Bavaria to the Baltic, made me think about what happens in England, specifically the West Midlands, where a wave of white blossom moves similarly and, starting with the wild cherries in the lower Severn Valley, eventually hits ‘peak white’ by the end of April.
A couple of times a week I walk in the hills near my home and I watch the countryside unfolding and changing through the year. It refreshes me and gives me some inspiration and many of the poems I’ve written over the last ten years have grown out of the landscape, so to speak.
In the last year, I’ve also been working with Cherry Doyle on an Arts-Council funded project for Offa’s Press: ‘In the Sticks’. You can look at the webpages we’ve created by going to ‘Projects’ on my Home page menu and join in yourself. It’s made me think hard about what it’s like to live ‘in the sticks’, about work and recreation and what the countryside means to us these days. How are rural communities coping with the pandemic and Brexit? Why is there so much agriculture and forestry and so little ‘nature’? These are complex but interesting questions.
It seems that the only bits of the countryside that are left ‘to nature’ are those that, like the local quarries that have been worked out, are no commercial use to anyone or simply can’t be made to turn a dollar. A sad thought but perhaps not far from the truth.
But my enthusiasm for spring blossom is undaunted and I seek it out, like AE Housman, each year for the thrill it brings and for the beauty and, in some cases, the scent of the flowers. I might say my passion is positively Japanese where they celebrate the ‘sakura’, cherry blossom time, each spring and particularly fine displays get a mention on national television. Imagine that in Britain.
The photo was taken on the 11th April on Llynclys Common, near Oswestry, Shropshire. The fruit trees are catching up but it’s the blackthorn that really catches the eye in the local area. And we look forward to picking slate-blue sloes, the fruit of the blackthorn, in the autumn.