Day 23 — Bill & his posse of Nature Poets

Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday. Each year I try to write something Bill-affiliated. This can be made harder by having a theme superimposed over the top of it (ie, like pandemics or climate change) but at least it forces me to think outside a few boxes for some green inspiration. Which is always a good thing. Need to apologise in advance for the long pome, I didn’t have the time to write a short poem.

If only poets had the power that multinational corporations have to effect change in the world.

*****

Bill S & his posse of Nature Poets

Bill being a country boy born & bred
was a big lover of nature
dropping dozens of wildflowers
animals, trees, natural events
63 birds, & more into his plays ;
with whimsical abandon
he set them in forests, on coasts, 
on rugged heaths
— if he were writing today
climate change would be his bent

so too Bill Blake’s rage
against dark Satanic Mills
which were pumping his pristine
English skies full of black soot 
& were, after all, the beginning 
of man-made climate change

the posse is being assembled

Lawrence & his dark forest soul 
would definitely be there …
with his animalistic magic 
of snakes & bats & pansies 

a third Bill, Wordsworth
knew nature was divine
& believed true happiness 
was achieved when existing 
in harmony with it, always happy 
to wax lyrical about daffodils, 
clouds, & Tintern Abbey

youthful firebrand Keats
loved nature’s vibrant scents 
& colours & cool calming water
a man who happily sang odes 
to Nightingales, Autumn, & the Sea
would get in on this action

although somewhat simpler 
in scope another John (Clare)
less complex & less well known
marvellously describes the natural 
world & rural life in affectionate
vignettes of Winter Evening,
Wood Pictures in Summer,
& the Little Trotty Wagtail

Emerson’s belief that we understand 
truth only by studying the song of nature
& Humblebees & Snow Storms

& Shelley’s awareness she destroys 
as well as creates; singing odes 
to the West Wind, Skylarks & Mont Blanc

& Dickinson finding awe in everything
Light Existing In Spring
Birds coming down the Walk

& Frost whose name suggests he should be
though not a pure nature poet loved
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

many modern poets too are in the posse

the marvellous Mary Oliver who instills 
poems with wonder-filled images 
drawn from daily walks near her home
Wild Geese & Journeys on Summer Days

& Gary Snyder an activist who speaks 
with an ancient voice but modern tongue
of fertile soil, animal magic, 
the power of solitude, rebirth; 
the love & ecstasy of the dance
& Mountains and Rivers Without End

but as wonderful as all these 
nature loving poets are
what we really need
is for everyone to remember
they too are poets, alive in this bleak
eternal universe only because
our home is a delicately crafted
paean to life

Day 23 — Shakespeare & birds & eccentrics: but no rabbits 

23 scotland-starling-murmuration

April 23 is, as I said Monday (Plague Lear), Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/choose-your-own-anniversary-day. Each year I write something Bill-affiliated. This is the reserve idea mentioned then even though it’s been in my mind for several years ever since reading an article about … well, see below.

A second part  2. Austin’s rabbits, exploring the introduction of rabbits to Australia is also intended, but owing to: a) part 1’s length; b) my inability to reduce a); & c: my weariness, I’m only going to upload part 1. Part 2, although currently incomplete, I still see very much as a companion to this poem. When a first draft of it is finalised, it might help me work out what to trim here.

*****

the law of unintended consequences: Schieffelin’s starlings & Austin’s rabbits

1. Schieffelin’s starlings

i. 1596, London
Shakespeare penning Henry IV, Part 1 :
Hotspur plots to drive Harry nuts
by teaching a starling to repeat
his brother-in-law Mortimer’s name
till he is released from Welsh prison.
the only reference to the bird
in all the Bard’s eclectic opus
— a throwaway line from a country
twitcher turned urban playwright.

ii. 1890, New York
March 6, 1890, Central Park
German immigrant, Bronx resident,
wealthy American businessman,
gentleman, (eccentric) drug manufacturer
American Acclimatization Society member,
& Shakespearian aficionado or fanatic
depending on who you ask
— Eugene Schieffelin —
decided it would be a lark
to introduce (imported from
the Old World at great expense)
every bird spoken in Shakespeare
to North America.

& so 100 birds fly off
into the virgin new world blue

iii. Now
numbering over 200 million
from Alaska to Mexico
these lean mean feathered bullets
do nothing in moderation.
the Rocky Balboas of bird boxing
fierce fighters for nest cavities
regularly muscle out native birds
& blamed for their population declines.
willing & able to eat anything
breed with disconcerting vigour.
— have brought down planes
cost US agriculture a billion a year
steal cows’ grain condensing milk production.

iv. Retrospect
Schieffelin’s attempts
to introduce skylarks
bullfinches, chaffinches, & nightingales
were thankfully, unsuccessful.
however, starlings, sparrows, & pigeons
remain the only unprotected avine
in North America (all introduced)
their numbers in total more
than all other birds combined.

no doubt had he future-known
Bill would have taken up
his quill
& struck
said references from his pages
most vigourously.

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Note: some scholars reject the theory that Schieffelin belonged to a group dedicated to introducing into America all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works wanting to hear them warbling their old world songs on the limbs & branches of America … but I have used it irregardless because, poetry. Everything else is as factual as my research can make it.

Day 20 — positive thinking while in lockdown

William Shakespeare writing at home

I was saving this idea for the 23rd (Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/chose-your-own-anniversary-day) when I usually write something Shakey-related. Anyhoo this was an idea I thought I might explore then, but it poured out of me today, so we’ll just deal with it. (I do have another idea in reserve, or perhaps something entirely new will pop out.)

Also thanks to a poet whose work I hugely admire, as well as being a dear friend, for saying he’s been enjoying reading my poems. He was particularly kind about this year’s Easter Sunday poem saying it “abided with [him]” & it’s been returning to his mind often over the last few days. He’s even left it open in his browser to be able to come back to it. Thank you Tom. That means the absolute world to me. It often feels during this mad month that you’re writing in & to a vacuum; and that much of what gets created is pedestrian at best, or merely not-quite-average, so even if only one or two poems fire during the month, it feels like a success.

*****

Plague Lear 

i.
if, like me,your mediocrity valve is already open
full trickle then saccharine motivational memes
such as Shakespeare wrote Lear during the plague 

aren’t.   bloody.   helping.   one.   poxy.   bit.

ii.
well take a modicum of heart cos the reality is
Shakey dates are always shaky at best but Lear
probably doesn’t quite pass the jester test

sure, Lear was most likely written in 1606
it was entered into the Stationers’ Register that year
& contemporary events seem referenced within

yet 1606 wasn’t such a big deal as pandemics go
— most every year had a bitta Black Death — the Great Plague*
didn’t hit til 65 & the Sweet Swan was long gone

1603 was the go to year for things bubonic in Bill’s life
& all our country boy turned out then was (chortle)
Measure for Measure — yes, one of the “problem plays”

iii.
if you really want to feel insecure (& no doubt you do)
consider that 1606 might’ve been the year not only
of Lear — but Macbeth — & Antony & Cleopatra too

                                                     Bing.   Bang.   Boom!

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*Between 1603 and 1665, only four years had no recorded cases of plague. 

The Great Plague of 1665-66 was actually the second plague to be so known; the first was in 1625 & was known as the Great Plague until it was surpassed in deaths by the “final” Great Plague.

Plague was par for the course for everyone in those days is what I’m saying.