from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 31 December 2016

a bit more for animals

Yesterday I wrote in a different context about going out quietly into the garden and standing at the hedge watching a sleek healthy young fox first snoozing in a patch of sun, then high-stepping with full alert slowness up the field next door to its boundary with ours. I must have watched it for 20 minutes.

An hour later, there was a cacophony in the garden as maybe 30 hounds poured through it. Given their size, I believe they must have been harriers – in other words taking part in the (of course also illegal) persecution of the tiny colony of hare we are lucky enough as to shelter here still.

Hounds may not know the difference between hare and foxes; the instinct is to chase, and considering they were very interested in the area at said hedge where I know foxes come and help themselves to spilled birdseed, when they gave tongue and set off again up our field I assumed they were after the fox. (We have various fox earths in our field, along with some possibly-now-empty badger setts due to the wrong-minded and terrible badger culls happening here – 11,000 badgers killed this year.)

Whether fox or hare, I was devastated. Have we STILL, as a species, not grown out of our barbarism? In this case in the name of sport? Aren't there more productive ways of having a good time outdoors?

It being the time of year when one makes resolutions, it seems to be a good time to speak of reducing suffering in the world in ways over which we have some control: what we choose to consume or support.

I'm not going to lecture you on going vegan, but I thought I'd give you a gentle nudge in the direction of remembering how we as a species impose such suffering on others of our own species and especially of other species.

This time last year I created a website (see below) about taking a step towards veganism, whatever that means for you: giving up red meat, giving up dairy, sourcing alternatives to leather, whatever it might be. maybe it means being more vocal in protests on the badger cull in England, on fox-hunting, bullfighting, animal testing (eg see

I called it '57 billion' as that was, I thought, the number of land animals eaten each year by humans, globally. Turns out it's more like 64 billion, with over 1 trillion aquatic species.

The current guest blog is from my friend David Ashton.

And from David's blog, here are some words: 'Speciesism, like cannibalism, slavery, religious persecution, racism and sexism, is the imposing of the will of a powerful group upon a weaker group – in this case, by humans upon other sentient species. We take it so much for granted that it often goes unnoticed. But it’s everywhere – not just on our dinner plates and covering our feet, but also at the rodeos, circuses, bullfights, hunting and fishing trips, the fur trade and clothing stores. Last but not least, the worst atrocities are hidden behind the walls of the factory farms and slaughterhouses.'

Please join us in supporting the cause of animal rights.

I would love your contributions of experiences, struggles, successes with cutting down on animal products, soapbox, recipes, nutritional tips, anything at all related to reducing the suffering of animals at our hands.

I should perhaps also mention that a major focus of my work, both writing and courses, is re-visioning our relationship to the rest of the natural world through hands-on experience of reconnection outdoors:

Friday, 30 December 2016

Lost Species poem 10: Matt Merritt

I'm enjoying the fact that almost as many men as women have sent in poems for my consideration. Here's another fine poem: understated, subtle, and surprising.

Song For A Slender-billed Curlew

You’re not the first ghost to walk
in the full glare of the noonday sun.
You won’t be the last. At best,
only ever a bird that belonged

to another world, the one
to which our imagination
aspires. So, an artist
in Andalucia draws

the apparition
that intruded upon
his afternoon, but was gone
when the cameras clicked.

In Crimea, the pools and runnels
of a trackless taiga, whose own
existence can only be supposed,
babble down through cloud.

From Druridge Bay
to the Hortobagy, birdwatchers
make of the familiar
whatever they will,

and the slim beak
of each new moon
passes without word,
for good or ill.

© Matt Merritt

This poem first appeared in an email newsletter for the conservation charity Wader Quest. Matt's website is, and Wader Quest is

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Lost Species poem 9: Harry Owen

Harry Owen was the editor of the anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World (The Poets Printery, East London, South Africa, 2013)

The website for the anthology is at Please visit; please spread the word. See, too, the video Harry has made.

I was both shocked and moved by this poem, below, and by Harry's words on the website in relation to the context. (They sit beneath the photo of a female rhino minus her horn.)

Harry says: 'This is Thandi, the heroic rhino to whom For Rhino in a Shrinking World is dedicated. Her horn was, of course, hacked from her face by poachers.

'Since then, I have had both the honour and the despair of watching a rhino darted and de-horned in order to make it less attractive to poachers. Here is my response to that experience.'


I have always hated that sound: it means
death for something, it means devastation,
the hollow shriek of human intrusion.

Now here he is, crumpled on his haunches,
a white rhino bull, too strong, too proud, too
much himself, despite the darts, to go down.

But he’s drugged, masked, pinned: this to save his world.

And clearly he has been through the nightmare
before, though his stunted horn has re-grown.
Now the indignity repeats itself.

Our work’s against the clock, the sedative,
the history; his life depends on us.
So, plenty of cool water – and a chainsaw.

The helicopter’s pilot lounges, smoking,
in his cab as blizzards of horn shavings
surge from the blade like flakes of pale soap,

like the weeping wings of termites or ants,
like butterflies consecrating the grass
beneath the sun’s fire and the chainsaw’s hell.

This is what we’re reduced to: presiding
over the face of our world, cosmetic
surgery or death, improving nothing.

© Harry Owen


Friday, 23 December 2016

Lost Species poem 8: Lindsay MacGregor

There are quite a few poems still to come, so I will be posting them into January (punctuated on occasion by other posts). I'm so pleased so many of you have responded.

Today's poem steps out of the waters of the expected, with a sideways look at a species long gone. Thank you, Lindsay.

Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries (AWCS)

Those chocolate-throated queens of cigarettes and ginger wine
were often bought by men with brittle flowers for buttonholes
who tipped their soft fedoras.

No two were alike
despite the fine painted lines, their insistence
on outcrops and ledges, the diets of fish,

their refusal to nest.
Many were clubbed till they loosened their feathers,
flightless, ready for death.

They could never have flourished
in Arctic conditions.
They’d be taken for witches. 

Now, addled in shallows of bureaux
and tightly-lipped drawers,
they follow the wake of the garefowl.

© Lindsay MacGregor

Note: a garefowl is a great auk.
The last great auk was killed in 1844. The very sad story of its demise is on the Smithsonian webpage:

The poem is from The Weepers, 2015, Calder Wood Press.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

winter solstice poem

I wrote this poem for the longest night 5 years ago. I still like it; and I like it better than the one I wrote earlier today, also for the solstice (a friend and I have been writing a poem each on each solstice and equinox for around 5 years, too, now) – even though this one is darker. And – the world feels pretty dark right now; but after tomorrow in the northern hemisphere we are creeping imperceptibly back towards the light, with the sun rising and setting just a little further north each day now, till the spring equinox when it will be rising due east and setting due west.

So here's to the returning light; and a glass to midwinter's turning, and to friendship – one of the things that might pull us through these dark times. Thank you all who accompany me on this journey.

Winter solstice 2011

First you need to shed all you know
or can name
then you need to step out of
your shoes, your shadow, your own
light, and your home. Strip
naked as the four winds
and forget being upright
unless you want to dance, and then
dance the stone row to the stone circle
and allow the sky to take your voice. 

This is the season of yew and periwinkle
of Persephone's descent 
to the winter god.
Watch for the barn owl
and Hecate at the crossroads
and prepare to hang from the World Tree
until you are sobered by silence
and stillness, and the great
white unending song of the spheres.
Kneel on the earth until
you become a reed, a snail, a fox,
another word for truth.
Be the berry in the dark stream
that the water bears away.
Transformed into all
you may be, step forward and cross
the threshold, gateway to gods
and ancestors, to what will endure
beyond all that you can imagine
of the play of particle, of wave –
take the hand that's offered, step through 

this gateway to the light that burns within
which now you’ll never lose again.

© Roselle Angwin

Monday, 19 December 2016

Lost Species poem 7: Simon Stanley

There is so much to say about that iconic species the brown hare, once so plentiful in England. In Devon, there are so few (and in the Westcountry there are various hamlets called 'Harepie', which might partly explain their absence), although I live in a tiny pocket of them. Hare coursing, though illegal, is still widely practised. I didn't know what a temper I had until I found myself bellowing at a much greater volume than I thought I was capable of at a little band of hunters on foot with hounds chasing one of our local 2 or 3 in the neighbouring field. It worked, luckily.

This beautiful poem captures something of the hare's magic and its supposed madness and dancing.


I am blue sky-dome is the cup of my eye,
     vast, limpid, rain-drop clear.
           As lightning sight strikes through my nerve to muscle.

My coat is shaking grass and herbs of six fields I am.
     Your steps shift in the shimmering of me,
          like spring moving in the trees.

I am lode of clover in the low air, buttercup’s bittersweet my nose.
     Air carries you to me, you linger everywhere,
           push through the hay and ragwort, your rank peculiar: worst.

For my ears leaves of chestnut, green or rust, rustle in me,
     opening to the sky clock, tracking everything.
          Wind my language, you speak it in me as you talk.

I am cow parsley in spring is the long note on my tongue.
     You season land with the man-shit you alone make,
           miss the taste of dew fall, of stars passing.

Dog my fear, my laughing dread, bursts like well-water in my throat,
     speed my joy, fleet as flood my feet
          in the frantic course; I am flight from shot and teeth.

Moon my muse, sails through me in her silvers
     trailing wraps of cloud. The stars my motley coat.
           I dance to thrill heaven, I to beat the bounds of my earthen feet.

© Simon Stanley

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Lost Species poem 6: Lesley Quayle

Lesley Quayle's poem today addresses the wider issue of loss of habitat, a major contributor to loss of species, of course.

For Planes To Fly

For planes to fly,
they needed land. They needed
meadows, becks and woods. They needed gardens.
They needed setts and dens and forms and burrows,
dewponds, farmyards, one old farmhouse
sheltering downwind of the flight-path.
Barn owls evicted, a heronry unfledged,
crow colonies uprooted, scattered,
foxes and elusive fallow deer exiled,
migrants of the edgelands.
And where I watched the milk-breathed cattle,
hares boxing through whiskery grasses,
where yellow rattle, clover, chamomile
and thyme beguiled small bees,
whole galaxies of butterflies
and stained-glass, steampunk dragonflies,
a pyroclastic flow of runways, aprons,
hotels, car-parks smelts the landscape,
long draughts of tarmac crowned with concrete,
set with steel and glass – the sheen of progress.
And when we said we minded–
for the beetles, for the tiny spiders, for palmate newts
and small, brown frogs, discreet, squat toads,
for fish fry in the beck, wild orchids,
a parlous glint in primrose banks –
they frowned, noodled their brows
their environmental dyslexia profound.
‘For planes to fly, we need the land.’

Lesley Quayle

Lesley says: 'The poem... was written in response to an article in the 'Yorkshire Post' about recent proposals to expand and develop Leeds/Bradford airport to cater for their desired passenger throughput from 3 million p.a. to 5.1 Since the airport is built on top of a moor, surrounded by agricultural land and greenbelt, small farming communities and towns, the continuing desecration of flora, fauna and human habitats continues unabated despite the environmental cost.'

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Lost Species poem 5: Mark Totterdell

Here's another excellent poem in my 'Lost Species' series, for your enjoyment. 


One time,
the sea threw up
a yellowish-grey lump
that clung to bone,

its unrough side
fluted like a
fragment of old stone

enough to say
enough to see it
soar, glide, then flap

great sea-wings,
joyfully snap up
then polythene.

© Mark Totterdell

from This Patter of Traces (Oversteps 2014)

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Lost Species poem 4: Andie Lewenstein

Andie wrote the first draft of this poem on one of my co-tutored retreat weeks on the Isle of Iona, many years ago now. I have never forgotten it, and can barely read it without weeping (especially since I live in foxhunting territory and watch the local foxes on a regular basis; they start hunting the cubs in September, when the cubs are just a few months old). Actually, there's no 'barely' about it: I can't read it without weeping, ever.

I requested this poem, as my range in this month's blogposts is not only the extinct or going-extinct species but also those we persecute. Thank you, Andie.


And god said let there be fox cub
The colour of warm, dry sand.
Let him have a beard of white swansdown
And in his mouth the knowledge of milk trust.
Let his nose go into the truth of things.
May it find me in the nest of a green meadow
Under golden tongues of dandelion in full flowering,
The sweet and the stink of them.

May he be satisfied with fowl flesh
Warm in his mouth, the living blood of it
A taste of my substance alive and running in him.
May he grow in cunning,
Keen as the hunger in his belly.
It is my hunger.
May he be satisfied with good things.

Let him run like an arrow from the red hunter
And when the hour comes, if it must come,
That he is torn from himself,
His heart thrown to the dogs,
Let him hear close by, and closer still,
The sound of his name sung from the breast,
And the last word be mine: beloved.

© Andie Lewenstein

If you've a poem for lost, endangered or persecuted species that you'd be happy to send for my consideration to share on this blog, please do contact me.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Lost Species poem 3: Victoria Field

Another in my 'Remembrance for Lost Species' blogposts, today from Victoria Field: a call-and-response poem from her book The Lost Boys (Waterloo 2013).

Thank you Victoria for contributing this fine piece.

Litany for the Animals
For anteaters and ants, Abdulali's Wrinkled Frog and Abe's Salamander
Let us pray to the Lord

For all the birds of the air, buffalo that once filled the plains

for bees and their dances, for blue butterflies of our childhoods

Let us invoke the Goddess

For cattle incarcerated in mega-dairies, for cows with udders scraping the ground,

for kind eyes of heifers and ebullience of bullocks

Let us beg for forgiveness

For dogs in their dogginess

wolves, coyotes, hyenas, hairless Mexican dogs, dogs on the streets with the homeless, dogs by the hearth, at our heels with hearts full of love

Let us give thanks and praise

For elephants with their graveyards and tears, tenderness and listening feet

Let us be reverent and learn

For foxes, encroaching on cities, in dens in the woods,

for foxes, running in terror from the hounds

for foxes, fat-brushed and burnished in the field at dawn

Let us acknowledge complexity

For the forty endangered species of Galapagos Land Snail -

bulimulus adelphus, bulimulus darwinii, bulimulus nux, bulimulus wolfi, et cetera

Let us wonder at Gaia

For wild horses, unshod, untamed, untethered, galloping over the moor

Let us stand in admiration and awe

For horses with bit, bridle and saddle, whip, jump and stable

Let us hang our heads in shame

For the ibex, ibis, impala, iguana and iguanodon

Let us stop being an ‘I’ and turn into ‘we’

For the jaguar alone in the empty forests of Guyana

Let us provide food and shelter

For the kangaroo, her pouch and her joey, her bounce and her boing

For the koala beloved of children, for the kith and kin of the animals

Let us smile unto the Lord

For the lionness and ladybird, the locust and limpet, for the lark and his joyful song

Let us sing … [sing] 'All you need is love .. All you need is love ... All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.'

For the Manx cat and maned wolf, mandrill and marsh deer

Let us revere the earth our mother, and all the mothers that gave us life

For the nuthatch in the garden

Let us see the miracle of small things

For the sight of an otter sliding slick as a shadow in the shallows of the rich river

Let us sigh an Oh! of wonder

For parakeets, parrots, peacocks, pelicans, penguins and peregrine falcons

Let us thank the Goddess for feathered beauty in all its forms

For rabbits, their reproductive vigour, their fluffy tails and soft noses

Let us learn gentleness

For the sixty five thousand animals in danger of extinction
Let us lament them, let us say, no, no, no, no …

For Tyrannosaurus Rex and all his brothers and sisters

Let us never forget

For unicorns and six-legged antelopes, Cheshire cats and dragons

Let us pay heed to our dreams

For the Variegated Spider Monkey, Venezuelan Wood-quail, Velvet Worm and

Visayan Warty Pig

Let us honour them by knowing their names

For the whales, the dolphins, all the cetaceans roaming our oceans, for those in captivity

Let us always choose freedom

For the thud and sudden end of extinction, for the last creature of its kind

Mother Earth, help us make new life

For you, you, you and you,

Let us celebrate the web of creation  [join hands]

For the zebra, zumbador, zebu and zho

Let us know endings are beginnings in the circle of life

and remember ant-eaters and ants, Abdulali's Wrinkled Frog and Abe's Salamander.

© Victoria Field 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Lost species poem 2: Rachael Clyne

This is another poem in response to my suggestion on Facebook about writing to commemorate lost species. Rachael takes a wide approach and, as with Kathleen Jones' poem last time, I find it very moving without its lapsing into sentimentality.

Remember the nameless ones
Who survived the kiss of glacier
The years of lean and those of plenty
Whose genes slipped through pogroms
Who turned right instead of left
Whose soft, quick tongues made jokes of fate
Whose fingers shaped scraps into latkes
Who clung to their traditions, their songlines
Their medicine plants, their kinship
With Grandmother Earth, Grandfather Sky.
Blessed are the vanished ones
Whose habitat became expendable
Whose lives were extinguished by indifference
Whose pelts, horn and other body parts
Were worth more to those
Whose backs, walls and libidos they adorn
Those creeping, flying, swimming, leaping ones
Whose raucous calls, gauzy wings,
Webbed toes and gaudy hues
Will not be heard or seen again.
Give thanks to the myriad scavengers
Who scuttle and hover; who devour matter
Whose unseen industry tidies away death
Who rag-pick life from a mountain of leavings
Whose ingenuity fashions answers from decay
Whose webs and threads spin shrouds
Blessed are the wanderers who leave no trace
Who huddle under flyovers, in rotten wood
Who eat from skips and tips and gutters
Who sup from the kindness of strangers
Who sleep nightly under the infinite.

© Rachael Clyne


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Fire in the Head & The Wild Ways 2017

It's midwinter, and though the longest night is still ahead of us, soon the earth will be turning imperceptibly back towards the light. My witch hazel is on the cusp of shaking out its fragrant flowers, and today I counted 64 blue periwinkle flowers like tiny celestial wheels in the hedge up the lane. (In the Celtic Old Ways, the 5-petalled flowers are dedicated, like the apple, to the Goddess.)

So it's the end of another year when I've had the privilege of working deeply with many of you on my course and retreat programmes, once again. Thank you for what you bring of your stories, your poems, your explorations, your doubts, fears, laughter, sorrows and joys. A rich life makes space for them all, and there's community in the sharing.

Winter Solstice poem

Perhaps you, like me, question the point of writing and creativity when the world is going through such seemingly endless troubles – massacres in the Middle East, Trump, Brexit, lost and disappearing species, accelerating climate change, the rise of the far right, stories of hate crimes, abuse, homelessness, despair? Writing can seem indulgent at best.
But I also believe that it's precisely in these times that creative exploration, inquiry and expression can pull us through; it's exactly poetry that touches the heart, stories that speak to our condition and bring understanding, hope and empathy, writing that emerges from soul rather than ego that this fragmented world so needs.
'For it is important that awake people be awake ...
... the darkness around us is deep.' (William Stafford)
We need connection. We need to be reminded that we're part of a much bigger web. We need the power of imagination to fuel compassion, to tell ourselves a different story, to recreate something altogether more uplifting than despair and disaster.
Writing is one way of finding a new way home; of remaking our world, as we remake our consciousness. And the power of communication remains as potent as ever.
Let's remember the importance of the word; let's not give up.

And on that note, if you need more inspiration, creativity, fellowship of the kind I've spoken of, a boost for your inner and imaginal life, then my 2017 programme (beginning with my annual THRESHOLDS course for something like the 20th year, on Sunday 15th January in Totnes, Devon) is now available on my websites: Fire in the Head and The Wild Ways


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Lost Species poem 1: Kathleen Jones

On November 30, Remembrance Day for Lost Species, I put out a small call on facebook for poems relating to this subject, and have widened the brief to include persecuted or disappearing species.

I've a few now; they'll appear during this month.

Kathleen Jones was the first respondent. Here's her poignant poem, written especially:

Three Species an Hour

Already, as I write this, another one is gone –
a yellow tree-frog, in the deep throat
of an Amazonian orchid, the small corpse,
the size of my finger-nail, perhaps,
floating on a micro-lake of sweet rain.

And then, while I make coffee,
a coral polyp on a shallow Pacific reef,
silently sheds it algae. An unknown
species, dying unrecorded in a warming sea.

Now, it is only a matter of watching
the clock, counting down how long
it takes, in universal time, to get from
an unspectacular beetle, now thrashing

its legs for the last time, unobserved, on
the forest floor, to us; the apex of a pyramid
that rests on biological foundation blocks
we are removing, one by one by one.

© Kathleen Jones

Monday, 5 December 2016

there is only

... there is only the dance... me, this tribal music, this endlessness when boundaries dissolve. there is only the dance of particle and wave, endlessly remaking each other in image after image. there is only the dance and the way my attention alights on this moment, this movement, this Other who is also me ...

... 'space is an extension of your body'... and truer perhaps our bodies are an extension of space ...

... there is only the dance. this morning when i retrieved the birdfeeders washed them hung them away from rat cat squirrel the gang waited in the willow tree and took all of three seconds to raid the feeders. then robin followed dog and I back into the house... this dance ... in the heart of the flames so many ways to find joy.

... there is the dance of heart to heart. there is the dance of breath to breath. there is the dance of body to body.

... there is the dance we call love ...

... and my friend yesterday telling me he'd given all of himself to her, and she'd spurned it. i gave her my soul, he said

               and i drew breath. – giving away your soul? – pocketful of mumbles, such are promises ... do you think it's loving to give away your soul? what if such a 'gift' is not a gift but a burden ... make yourself free if you want to love her, i say. reclaim your life, invite back your soul, and see her. really see her. be free to love her because you love yourself too ...

... if we cannot love our self we cannot love another ...

... so that is a dance.

here now i claim my own axis again, throw off the weighty coat of the world, look to seagull in the grey sky, in this moment, this dance that is all there is ...

Saturday, 3 December 2016

3 things

Today, because I'm coming up for a significant anniversary, I'm thinking of living, love and death. You know, the stuff of which poetry and story are basically made.

For you today, three things from each of two wise women:

'...To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.'

Mary Oliver, from 'In Blackwater Woods'

‘Three things differentiate living from the soul versus living from the ego only. They are: the ability to sense and learn new ways, the tenacity to ride a rough road, and the patience to learn deep love over time… it is not from the everchanging ego that we love one another, but rather from the wild soul… It takes a heart that is willing to die and be born and die and be born again and again.’  

Clarissa Pinkola Estes from Women Who Run with the Wolves

And because it glances at death, and also has just appeared in this month's Green Spirit magazine, I'm going to include here too an excerpt from one of my poems, The Perfect Tense (from Looking For Icarus).

‘I don’t fear death,’ said Peter today,
            ‘only the dying.’

I am now, I realise, one of the initiates who know
             the truth: that death is an inescapable promise;
                                    a truth that will overtake me, too.

The light through water,
                                    under the cloud canopy,
is beautiful now, and frail -
                        it says it will not last;
and it promises, while it does, that it will loose something
in us
to wander towards the horizon
                        and go on wandering.

If you tune everything else out the silence you hear is the white noise
            of the singing spheres: the voice of the universe.

                        You can never get to its edge
                                    and yet
you could fit millions of universes on the already-crowded head
            of that pin, with all those minute-particle-angels.

            Come back, Giordano Bruno; they wouldn’t burn you
these days. Your ‘heresies’ are practically orthodoxy.

                                    The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way
                        our umbilicus. Is it
             a consolation
that the stuff of which we’re made is star-stuff too?
                        That wherever you go you can never totally disappear -
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

            Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

© Roselle Angwin  2005/2015


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