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

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


It has not been easy, the last year, to remember I'm a poet. Although I've written a fair bit of creative non-fiction, and have finally found a resolution for my story Crane Woman, begun 3 or 4 years ago (and hopefully to appear as a small chapbook illustrated by the wonderful Alexi later this year), I've written no poetry that I really rate in the year since my dad died, apart from three I wrote for him. But death does crystallise things, and since the more recent death in the family I feel, among many other things, a stirring, a flapping of wings.

And yet – as I think Kahlil Gibran implied in his 'Trees are poems / that the earth writes / upon the sky // we chop them down / and turn them into paper / to record our emptiness' – the natural world already makes its poems so beautifully. How can I improve on that? 

(I may have misremembered the quote, and also the writer – so please correct me if you know.) 


Speaking of wings, how birds open something spacious inside me. They were in a way my salvation from depression when I was a student: my first term at Cambridge University was hard. I loved the intellectual and cultural 'buzz', but I hated my all-women's college accessed on a very busy main road. For the first (and last) time in my life I'd been transplanted to a city, and a southeastern city with grey-white flat unchanging skies and no hills. Having spent all my life in Western parts of relative wilderness amongst hills and woods and by the sea, it was a shock that dislocated and deracinated me. But all it took was a thrush, a blackbird, a pigeon, and I felt alive again.

The birds that come to my feeder give me so much joy (and I like knowing that I'm helping some small birds to survive in this era of habitat loss, pesticide and herbicide use and mass extinctions). Each morning six species of tit come to the feeder; a nuthatch, and two spotted woodpeckers (despite the closeness to the house), as well as the groundfeeders.

Rain dharma

Poetry again after such an absence,
the house quiet, looking out at the courtyard,
its many leaves fat with gratefulness for this spring,
for rain; a bullfinch swaying like a tropical blossom

on the pot choked with seeding cranesbill, one
thrush, a late swallow checking out the eaves, rain
making the woods more distant and impenetrable,
its tap on the stone step an invitation. The valley’s hush.

Rain settling in like conversation between
lifelong friends; rain, plants, stone, birds
at ease with themselves and each other, at ease
with how the world needs to be.

© Roselle Angwin, in All the Missing Names of Love (IDP)

No, we don't yet have swallows, nor really spring, save some snowdrops and violets; but yes, we do still have rain...


Victoria (who wrote a blog for me recently) mentions that her experience of the Camino was nothing like the film I mentioned, 'The Way'. I imagine that the film is a romanticised version; it's simply that 'The Way' uplifts me; it's an offsetting against all the horrors in this world in the face of which we feel so helpless: the lighting of small candles.


I have mentioned that one of my small candles is my recommitment to veganism, and my creating of a website/blog around that. There is a very long way to go with the site (and of course it's a mere millimetre compared with the human and animal suffering at the hands of our species around the world), but.  And I have my first offering, from dear JS, which will be posted soon under 'Experiences' – an invitation here to anyone who is trying to go vegan or has already done so, or at least to cut their use of animal products to contribute to this, or to the recipe section when I put it up.

You can see the small steps so far at


A small personal (professional) boast: in the service of remembering I am a writer, the 2016 MsLexia women writer's diary is rooted in my contribution: my long introductory essay about 'writing the body', plus my monthly brief notes, suggestions for exercises, and a creative piece by A N Others(one of whom is Sharon Black, who runs the Abri Creative Writing centre in southern France where each year I lead courses).


  1. I was amiss in not telling you as soon as I began using my Mslexia diary that I was pleased to see your piece. Needless to say I'm using it in my own way to progress my novel- a timely reminder of the senses.
    I love your poem and wish I could identify all the birds in our garden. love Marg xx

  2. Marg, I'm simply delighted to hear you noticed (it wasn't exactly flagged up within the body of the diary). And I like your use of it for your novel! Marg can you remind me again by email of details of your Cinnamon Press book, asap? - Am hoping to send out my FITH mailshot today or tomorrow, and if I get your email in time will add details. And - thank you. Rx

  3. Congratulations with your new website/blog, what a positive thing to do at the turning of the year. Any help is appreciated as I often seem to struggle to be completely vegan.
    Funny that you should mention birds today. I was sitting in my car this morning, waiting to meet someone and feeling very helpless and overwhelmed. I was worrying about my father who is seriously ill, when a robin perched on my wing mirror. We made eye contact and in those couple of seconds I felt suddenly reassured that whatever the outcome, we would get through this somehow. That little calm soul gave me such an enormous lift.
    Chris xx

  4. Chris, thank you for your lovely comments. Birds - what a gift, hey? And – like the rest of the animal kingdom – they can bring us such teachings on simply being with how things are, can't they?

    I'm so sorry to hear about your father. It's an ongoing nag at the back of everything, isn't, when a parent is badly ill. I lost my own dad a year ago.

    And now my daughter has lost hers. Just after he died, I met a barn owl just yards away, so still, so unconcerned, so willing simply to look and not move - so white against an afternoon (yes) stormy-light sky.

    If you have any recipes you want to share (I'm adding pages by the day) I'd be so grateful!



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