Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • How Green is My Hilltop

    a clear plastic dehydrator tray with fresh alchemilla leaves ready for drying

    Everything greened up overnight. The alchemilla went from a tight nub of unfolding leaves to a whole clump of spreading leaf-fans and a fountain of emerging acid-yellow flowers. The thyme stretched five centimetres and put out purple buds. The broom bushes are fountains of gold and the hawthorns look like the last scene of Ghost Busters, with foamy cream coloured blossom sprayed everywhere.

    Last year the weather was so cold and damp for so long I bought a dehydrator, but even so, drying herbs for the winter was long and tedious, and I had to have three or even four sessions for some things. This year was a very different story. I harvested thyme, alchemilla and purple sage in great quantities, and stuck everything in at once. And ten hours later, I had a lot of good quality herbs, with no wastage. I am very impressed.

    The last few days of hot and sunny weather have done wonders for the seedlings. The tomatoes are in their final pots already, and and growing visibly. I’ve planted up some pots for the summer, with santolina and purple sage and lavender and bergamot, and I’ve planted out southernwood and mugwort into the garden. I had to clear a space for the mugwort in the magical border, which you might think has enough gallus herbs already, but I think it will cope. I am intrigued by this herb, as a great many people have been before me:

    First, you are called, oldest of herbs.
    You have the power · over three, over thirty.
    You have power over venom, · over airborne infection.
    You have power over the evil one · who wanders the world.


    Many people use it for magical purposes, to protect against evil, or to develop their feminine side, their sensitivity, or prophetic abilities. It is one of the large group of moon herbs, perhaps because of the silvery felted underside of its leaves, and Lucy Jones, the herbalist, says ‘If you find yourself travelling along (country) lanes by the light of the moon, you will notice that the silvery leaves of the Mugwort shine prominently…. if you have never noticed the appearance of Mugwort on a moonlit night, you have missed something special.’ In my garden it is just to the left of marshmallow, and in front of elecampane (also known as elf-wort), behind the ‘little wizard’ alchemilla, and not far from vervain and yarrow, so this is one powerful magical cocktail, if that’s your thing. I’m not sure if it’s mine, but I like the idea of the mugwort leaves at night, like Coleridge’s icicles, quietly shining to the quiet moon.

    As well as herbs, I’m growing flowers for drying, statice, safflower, teasel and for seed heads, quaking grass, poppies and nicandra, which has papery twisted seed cases of a dramatic inky blue. Most of them are in the front garden, in the pollinator patch, but poppy and teasel rogue seedlings turn up everywhere, along with the delightful surprise of heartsease, which hitched a ride in the flower pots I brought with me. There isn’t much colour in my garden yet, but it’s lush with green. I can’t get enough of it.

    a green border, with (left to right) fern, willow periwinkle lily of the valley, witch hazel shasta daisy,at the back, yellow flag iris meadowsweet, primroses, orpine, hyssop, dyer's greenweed and  roseroot in front

  • The Hill of Stones in April

    This is, I guess, what social media might call a ‘timeline cleanse’. There’s a lot to be anxious or angry about, but also a lot of people making an effort to do something about it all – people restoring landscapes, saving species, campaigning for refugees or the disabled, developing projects for people with mental health problems, working for peace or for better working conditions, trying to stop some of the unjust and downright irrational things going on. More power to them all, but also, a time of refreshment and reconnection. Here’s a few photos, and a bit of bird and flower chat.

    This weekend temperatures have gone up, and it has stopped raining long enough for me to get out into the garden. I’ve done some serious tidying up, and moved the first seedlings to my propagation patch, to harden off, and the lemon verbena and scented-leaved geraniums to their summer positions. Everything seems to have bulked up almost overnight, and I can see that winter was (mostly) quite kind to us. Almost all the plants have come through, and are finding their feet in the new plantings. This patch is the nine herbs garden, as most of the plants from the nine herbs charm are here (even the nettles, I’m sorry to say). The fennel and thyme are not – the fennel needs more sun than it would get here, and the thyme is too well established in the culinary patch to move. For reasons of my own, I have temporarily assumed that atterlothe is vervain.

    I’ve had my first harvests, violet leaves to dry for oil, and chives and fines herbes in the freezer. The chives are showing flower buds, so it won’t be long before I’ll be making chive flower vinegar and drying thyme, which is always ready earlier than I expect. There are now tomatoes in the greenhouse and blackcurrants and gooseberry and apple tree are blossoming, but the damson tree has barely had any flower at all, which is a major disappointment. We have persuaded our factor not to spray our fencelines with herbicide, in return for keeping them free of invasive weeds, and our neighbour Jude has benefited from a lot of dandelions for her tortoise as a result. Still got some, though, they seem invincible!

    Outside the garden, the hill is beginning to get serious about blossoming trees. There’s plenty of corporate pink and white cherry, but we have a lot of blackthorn, cherry plum and bird cherry coming out too, and the Victorian craze for lime tree walks is going to deliver a lot of forage for bees in a week or two. All the outlines of trees are getting scribbled in with new green, and there will be hawthorn and elder before too long. Bluebells are in short supply here though, and we may have to make a trip to Inchmahome to see them later on.

    We have fewer goldfinches this year, but there are bluetits, chaffinches, robins and wren nesting close to the house, and the sparrows are thriving. Magpies, which were here in great numbers only a few weeks ago, seem to have scattered, though there is an enormous ramshackle nest in the hazel tree on the back road. I’ve heard chiffchaffs, and the black-backed gulls are here in force, but no swallows yet.

    I am beginning to realise how much there is to know about a new territory, and though I have now been here for two and a half years, I’m barely scratching the surface. Because I’d been in Stirling for ten years before I started writing about it, I forgot the slow accumulation of things you notice, patterns you begin to recognise, knowledge built through experiment and failure. It can’t be rushed. I can see the shape of the hopes I had for the garden beginning to emerge, but I feel that this garden is talking back to me, shaping its own destiny and mine along with it. It’s a very different experience – I’m less young and gallus, but though I have to go slower, I think I might notice more, think more carefully, and maybe write better.

    a row of pansies in various shades of lilac and purple

  • Reading Winter into Spring

    It’s fair to say that life has been more than usually erratic lately. We have had a lot of disruption, what with issues in the house (and in our daughter’s new flat), health problems for just about everyone, tech problems and the distractions – lovely though they were – of Celtic Connections and StAnza. Nevertheless, writing has begun to happen, with the new ppoetry collection transforming itself while I wasn’t looking into something I’m not sure I recognise yet.

    As a result of this, reading has been much more random and diverse than usual, but I still have some really good books to recommend and to think about

    • Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature. I don’t agree with all he says, but he has the knack of making you think, see things differently, and reflect on questions of art and nature.
    • Gaston Bachelard’s The Psychoanalysis of Fire. To be honest it was pretty weird and unreadable, but his central tenet, that the myths we create about things like fire are as influential and important as the facts we can establish, is one I like. A lot of The Well of the Moon is about this very thing, and it will probably have an impact on the next collection too.
    • Rebecca Hurst’s debut poetry collection The Iron Bridge. I’d put this with the work of Séan Hewitt, Helen Boden and Eleanor Rees for its concern with place, walking, myth and memory, a very careful reflective book.
    • I’m currently comparing two books dealing with lockdown – Gillian Clarke’s The Silence and Tom Kelly’s Walking My Streets. Both collections are heavy with grief and the loneliness of the deepest lockdown, but where Gillian Clarke looks out onto the countryside where she lives, watching the birds and the rain, the quiet and the undifferentiated days when the dead are reduced to daily numbers, Tom Kelly looks backwards into memory at his early life, his community and the lost members of his family. My lockdown was more characterised by fear and the desperate need to maintain communications with people who were in trouble, rather than grief, but these two collections have brought back some of the deadly quiet of those weeks. It’s important not to forget.

    People who sign up to my newsletters will, I hope, get more reviews, and I am planning to write some for The Glasgow Review of Books, so please look out for them.

  • The Dominion of Mercury

    trees and shrubs, with a lower growing very leafy plant in the foreground. In the middle ground a tall plant with yellow shaggy daisy-like flowers

    This tall plant, towering over everything else, is elecampane growing in a herb garden somewhere along the Clyde. I do have some in my garden and it is indeed as wild and rampageous as this, at least two metres tall, and flowering madly through the late summer. When I first got to know this garden I was convinced it wanted me to plant elecampane, and because I thought I had enough space for it, I was glad to do it. It’s bright and cheerful, it has an ancient traditional place in herbal medicine, and it grows wild around here, in neglected spaces. It thrives here, to the point where I’ve had to thin it out already.

    Culpeper claims that this plant is under the dominion of Mercury, which is reponsible for herbs governing the mind, nerves, respiration and communication. This has been a promising wormhole to explore. I had thought that the astrology of herbs was a useful classification system before Linnaeus, and to some extent this is the case – complaints and areas of the body are atrributed to the various planets, and relevant herbs are assigned to them. There are common characteristics, too – moon herbs are often sappy, gentle and water-loving, whereas sun herbs are upright, warming and mostly have golden flowers. Saturn owns a lot of cold soporific and poisonous herbs, and Mars has stimulating ones with harsh tastes, and prickles and thorns. Mars has a lot of wound herbs and Venus helps with gynaecological issues. I know herbalists who can assign a herb to its planet and function by the taste or look of it and some categorisation must have helped.

    The interesting thing I found when I compiled my list, was how many of the plants which do unexpectedly well in this garden are under Mercury – lavender, santolina, southernwood, lily of the valley. The soil here is less acid than in my previous garden, and the climate is gentler, so I expected some difference, but I never looked at planets. Moon herbs and the herbs of Venus are doing well, and the sun herbs are not too bad, but herbs belonging to Saturn and Jupiter are struggling. I am not convinced that actual planetary influences are at work here, but when our ancestors drew up these categories, they weren’t working simply with superstition and magic. There are characteristics in common that I just don’t know enough to spot. I am looking forward to finding out more about soil, aspect, drainage and plant associations as the growing season goes on, and particularly what it was about the garden that convinced me elecampane was the right plant.

    a clump of miniature daffodils

    We have just reached this point in the garden, where the daffodils are out, the tulips are thinking about it, and the primroses and violets are blooming and colonising new space. The first trees are at bud burst and there’s an exciting green haze on the hedges. Most of the perennials are now showing new growth, and the greenhouse is full of hopeful seed trays. I’ve heard the first bees on sunny afternoons. There is an enormous magpie’s nest in one of the trees behind the house, and whole squadrons of them terrorise the other birds, lining up like storm troopers in an ambush on the roof-tops and shouting at everything that comes too close. There is a robin’s nest in the hawthorns growing over the burn, and the trees lining the footpath are full of sparrows and bluetits, blackbirds, wren and chaffinches. The ground is very wet and all the burns are running high, but the soil is not so saturated that anything has come to harm.

    I have made a new propagation area beside the greenhouse where the noonday sun will hit it, and I reckon I will have a lot of plants to share. (If you’re in Glasgow and would like some, please ask!) I took cuttings and saved seedlings as insurance against the cold and damp of winter, but I lost very few plants apart from purple sage, and when this year’s seeds come through I won’t know where to put everything. I’m going to have a nine herbs bed beside the apple tree (the nettle is going to be hidden behind the shed) and a scented garden below the damson. Culinary herbs will be closer to the house, and flowers for cutting and drying and pollinators will be in the front, where they will make a change from the conventional grass and bedding. Someone asked me if my garden was full of weeds, and frankly, yes it is – but also bees and butterflies. Mercury is a very unconventional planet – I’m not surprised this garden is too.

    a herb plot with fennel in full flower centre, southernwood to the left, a rose bush to the right

  • StAnza 24 – the renaissance

    This year StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival (or as my daughter calls it PoetCon) was shorter than ususal, all the treats and sparkles and thunderbolts crammed into a weekend, instead of most of the week, and into one venue instaed of around the town centre. This made it more manageable for a lot of people, and much less expensive, and a lot of people took advantage of that. The Byre was busy, and very noisy, from Friday to Sunday as it is not only the setting for the readings, but functions as the poets’ gang hut. I always think of the line from Chrisy Moore’s Lisdoonvarna here

    Ramble in for a pint of stout
    You’d never know who’d be hangin’ about!

    though it is more tea and scones than pints – during the day at least. I have known evenings when StAnza becomes much closer to the gregarious shenanigans in the ballad. But this is where Scottish poetry gets together, meets friends, makes friends, spreads all the news – and the gossip. You will hear some of the best poetry around, a lot from Scotland, but also from the rest of the world. This is such an important dimension to the festival that there was an outcry when Moroccan poet Soukaina Habiballah’s visa was refused and the Home Office reversed its decision within thirty-six hours. However, StAnza offers more than a showcase to discover new talent or celebrate our icons. Most of all, it creates a space to take poetry seriously.

    For many of us, poetry is a solitary occupation. Once we leave university we mostly live in a world where poetry is exotic and arty and intellectual, and not really what the average person wants to talk about. Even writing groups are often more concerned about publication than poetics, and it’s easy to slide into a state where poetry is a self-indulgent irrelevance, a spare time hobby with not much value to anyone else. At StAnza, you are surrounded by people for whom it is a life-work, a way of engaging with all the most important issues of life, an art-form with the range and complexity to tackle everything from post-natal anxiety to bereavement, the war in Gaza to everyday sexism, from casual comedy to philosophy, lament and celebration. It’s a place where learning about form isn’t pedantry and developing craft isn’t elitist. It’s a place where spoken word, film, translation and collaboration can be explored without anyone asking ‘is that proper poetry?’ It’s where it’s okay to be excited.

    This is my big takeaway from this year. Yes, there were the fish suppers, the networking, the budget-busting trips to bookshops, walks along the beach and visits to museums, but this is the big one. The new Artistic Director hasn’t been in post long and things still feel a little improvised. But the buzz is back.

  • World Wetlands Day

    boardwalk in the Avalon marshes, grass and willows surrounnd it

    Today is World Wetlands Day. I have form with wetlands, since my poem about blanket bogs was used in an installation by the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh, and even featured on the side of a bus to advertise it. This is a later poem, however, from The Well of the Moon, which deals with the Avalon Marshes in real life, but also the landscapes of our hearts and heritage, and the myths we create to try to express them.

    Lost Roads
    I am haunted by wet places, the lure
    of rivers, reedbeds and green lands of ash
    and willow. The drift of water, pooling
    between the autumn stems and wind-frayed flags
    of common sedge and reed, is like the course
    of blood, of thought, deep in the mulch of me.
    There is talk of lost roads, boardwalks
    of planks and narrow handrails
    hid deep beneath the quaking ground
    with its stealth of buntings, stepping heron,
    its shattered tops of bulrush, spilling
    cottony seed for birds like new coins
    at a wedding scramble. The hidden past,
    with its myths of Romans and lost queens
    of the Iron Age, threads its careful way
    through thickets of imagined story, and I,
    not immune to this casual appropriation,
    imprint my own lost ancestors, finding
    or inventing the feel of home here, roots
    where there may be none, whole trees
    growing into the open wind and sky.

    I’ve been thinking about the celebrations that have happened this week, whether you call it the Feast of St Bride, Brigid’s Day or Imbolc. I am delighted that in Ireland it is being kept as a public holiday – goodness knows we could do with one at this time of year, and I’m not sure that Robert Burns Day quite has the impact. These spring celebrations are all about returning to the light, or bringing into the light things that have been nurtured in the dark, and so I thought I might write a little about my four poetry books, that don’t seem to have seen the light of day much lately.

    Wherever We Live Now came out in 2011, published by Red Squirrel Press. It has a lot of seasonal poems in it, a few about exploring my Irish heritage, and a sequence about the Orpheus myth, which was the closest I ever came to an artists’ practice statement. It has a cover image by the film-maker Alastair Cook, a Berneray landscape showing the land merging with sea and sky.

    The Territory of Rain came out during a very scary time in 2015 when my husband was hospitalised with myasthenia gravis, which probably explains the rather high proprtion of death poems in it. The hospital was wonderful and they discharged him just in time to come to the launch. This is the most explicitly geopoetical of my books, and has a very special cover image by Gerry Cambridge on the front. How special it was I didn’t realise until 2019, when his book The Light Acknowledgers (Happenstance Press) and I found it was a picture he had written a poem about.

    Haggards came out in 2018. It was centred around herbs and dealt with social and environmental collapse and regeneration. I think it is the most popular of my books, having been reprinted twice. Gerry Cambridge excelled himself with the design, providing not only the beautiful cover image, but a tiny wren hopping about on the title page of the sequence The Wren in the Ash Tree.

    The Well of the Moon came out during the pandemic. It has a lot of plant and herb and landscape poems as you might expect, but was inspired by mental health issues (my own and other people’s) which lead me to reflect on what ‘a person’ is, and what the sense of identity is made of. Gerry’s cover image this time features a crescent moon and a feverfew plant, which appears in the first poem in the book.

    The two most recent books are still available from the publisher, but the first two are out of print. I still have the last remaining copies, however, if anyone would like them. You can buy them from my shop, and I don’t charge for p+p in the UK. You don’t need Paypal either as I’ve enabled credit card payments.

    All of that was three years ago, and it’s probably time I was thinking of a new one. The news is, I am indeed. So far it is called The Midsummer Foxes, and is about land and belonging, magic and death, the self and the other – and music. It won’t happen for a couple of years yet, but yes, it is coming into the light!

  • Down the Rabbithole

    I have been down several rabbit holes since I last posted. Many of them are to do with the updated translation of the Charm of Nine Herbs I’ve been working on in a random fashion for a while. I have been pondering words like ‘poison’, ‘venom’, ‘plague’, ‘in-flying infection’. I’ve been thinking about ‘elf-shot’ and the notion that tooth-ache is caused by worms gnawing at decayed teeth. I’ve been wondering what it was like to try to heal people when you didn’t know much beyond the basics of anatomy, and didn’t have access to microscopes.

    I discovered historical records of a ‘yellow plague’ that ravaged this area in the 5th and 6th century, killing at least one local king, which led me to wonder about the other colourful diseases mentioned in the text. Epidemics, food poisoning and diseases caused by polluted water must have been common – are the words ‘plague’, ‘poison’ and ‘venom’ just the best guess for the causes of illness too small to see without the naked eye?

    I’m also querying my identification of atterlothe – I went for ‘burdock’ for what seemed to be good reasons – it is an alterative, native and well-known, exists in more than one species (because the only other use of the word refers to the ‘smaller’ atterlothe being used with betony for coughs) and generally fits the bill. But on the other hand, there is another Old English name for burdock – ‘clate‘, and down the rabbit hole I went. I looked at speedwell, which was indeed used with betony for coughs, self-heal (no mention in Old English texts), bistort, cockspur grass, Viper’s bugloss, which Culpeper says was used as a substitute for speedwell, and now I’m eyeing up cinquefoil and vervain (I would love it to be vervain!). The trouble is that Old English scholars tend to be poor at botany, and botanists tend to blank Old English. And both are a bit rubbish about monasteries. But that is another rabbit hole, and yes, I did go down it!

    I’m following up Kapka Kassabova’s excellent book Elixir, and some poetry following my venture into Irish last year. Obviously you’ll know Seamus Heaney and Eavan Boland, but can I recommend Doireann Ní Ghríofa? Brilliant!

    I have now deleted my Mailchimp account, following their decision to scrape all newsletters for AI content, and I’m in the process of building a new letter at Buttondown, which seems to be free of all such shenanigans. I kept a list of all my contacts, and when the first issue is ready I will email everyone ONCE to invite you to sign up. I won’t harass anyone after that, and I will delete the address of anyone who doesn’t, so there will be no spam.

    Ceasing Never has taken a back seat as we try to sort out some accommodation problems for a family member, and I’m knee deep in judging the William Bonar Competition. Also Celtic Connections is coming up, and I have a significant birthday fairly soon. But in February I hope to add some new essays and reflections – please feel free to comment or add to the discussions.

  • 2023 on the Hill of Stones

    chamomile plants in full flower

    I don’t know about you, but this year seems to have been a lot. We’ve had one major health issue, resulting in my husband spending six weeks in hospital, with the consequent falloutfor those dealing with that level of stress and uncertainty. We’ve had one grandchild starting school, and another doing crucial exams. We have been involved in finding care support for one family member, and arranging a move to a new flat which is closer to us, and less inaccessible by public transport. I’ve dealt with a few health issues myself, and I finish the year in a very much happier and more confident frame of mind than I started, but my goodness, it’s been a rollercoaster!

    The national and international news hasn’t been great either. War in Ukraine and Gaza, famine and destructive weather, no clear action proposed to tackle climate change and some very shoddy political behaviour at home have all combined to create a very gloomy outlook. But against that, so many people are resisting the drift to disaster – protesting against the wars, taking their own climate initiatives, helping at foodbanks and raising money for refugees, making it clear to the powerful that we are not for sale to energy companies or devious media moguls. There is more to us than the news!

    It hasn’t all been storm and stress, however. The garden has bedded in beautifully, and roses and lavender, sweet peas, marshmallow and elecampane have bloomed generously, and filled me with delight. I haven’t managed to do much with them, but I have more concrete plans for potpourris and balms for next year.

    bright yellow elecampane flowers

    Now that the greenhouse is established, I’ll be making more adventurous use of it, although it is the smallest one you’ve ever seen. I can still grow tomatoes and peppers, and take all the cuttings I want, so the herb garden is coming together.

    I feel that I haven’t done much writing this year, but I did bring out Charms for the Healing of Grief, a lovely project with Hugh Bryden of Roncadora Press, which is selling well ( as it should, with those beautiful illustrations, which you can see here). I’ve also had a poem in the anthology compiled by Gerry Loose, The Earth is Our Home, and reviewed by Alan Riach in The National in July, and an essay in Paperboats magazine about the foxes which have inspired the next poetry collection (but it’s a long time ahead). Lately, though, the poems have come back to me, and I’m thinking about the moon, alkaline soil, bees and foxes, which will build on work in The Well of the Moon, about the self and the other, learning and communication, music and ghosts – a lot of ghosts of one sort or another.

    I’ve edited six books of poetry for Red Squirrel Press, two pamphlets and four full collections. The on-line discussion website Ceasing Never started, but this busy year stalled it again, what with babies, (2) book launches, new jobs or houses, wrestling with medical diagnoses and bereavements. I told you 2023 was a lot! but I hope to be able to post a bit more often. I have done a lot of reading though, and I can recommend Nicola Chester’s Gallows Down and Kapka Kassabova’s Elixir. In new poetry, Jim Carruth’s long-awaited Far Field, Marjorie Lotfi’s Not the Person to Ask and Judith Taylor’s Across Your Careful Garden were highlights, but I also immersed myself in Irish poetry – Seamus Heaney of course, but also Eavan Boland and Doireann Ni Griofa, Anne Connolly and Jane Clarke. I started learning Irish but I couldn’t keep it up – and no wonder!

    There will be one more post this year (I hope), but I’m away to clean my house, help the grandchildren put up the tree, cook, wrap presents and play. I hope you all have the space and time to do the same. Have a very peaceful holiday everyone!

  • Hope for Cop 28

    There isn’t much of it. But if ever we could get the powerful ones together and make them listen to us, it’s now. So here is a canto from my long eco-protest poem The Wren in the Ash Tree which was published in Haggards in 2018. The Outcry isn’t mine – it’s the ‘outcry of the earth, the outcry of the poor’ which The Papal Encyclical Laudato Si’ talks about. And, just to add to the timely references, the line ‘enough of blood and tears’ was said at the signing of the Norway accords between Israel and Palestine in 1993.

    Canto 1: The Outcry

    The hanging man says,
    ‘Outcry of grief
    goes up and down the world-tree,
    grumble of ravens and chattering classes
    in tweets and rumours on smartphones.
    Her leaves are nibbled by squirrels,
    in curtained bedrooms and behind
    the facades of abandoned shops,
    browsed to the bark by greedy stags,
    in city suits and plate-glassed offices
    her roots undermined by serpents
    wasting the soil. The hedges are down,
    the fenlands drained and the red dust
    is washed off suburban car fronts.’

    The wren is singing in the bramble bush.

    The woman at the ford says,
    ‘On one bank of the river,
    there is a lament for the fallen,
    on the other, the outcry
    of those who have lost everything,
    and there is never enough
    of blood or tears.’

    El duende says,
    ‘This is the place of pain.
    To sing here you will need
    to open the heart,
    the lungs and voice,
    and meet it square.
    You can’t sing from hiding,
    nor drunk or afraid.
    You can’t sing this softly
    like chocolate in the sun.
    You must give yourself
    to the fight with all your strength.
    It will take all you’ve got.
    It will feel like death.’

    The wren slips between the branches
    of the birch tree without a sound.

    And the field says,
    ‘You can’t write my music.
    There ain’t no sixteen bars,
    no twelve bar phrases here –
    field music comes bursting
    straight from the heart.’

    The city is silent.
    All the roundabouts
    are wearing flowers
    dressed in cellophane
    and there are soft toys
    on every doorstep.

    The song from the city is sung
    behind a proscenium arch,
    in other voices, not ours,
    And we are shamed by silence.

    The wren is hidden
    among the leaves of the ash
    and sings without ceasing.

    And the púca sings
    in the depths of the sea,
    ‘The water is poisoned with oil
    and the krill are scarce. We are hungry
    and choking on plastic.
    There are small boats, sinking
    beneath the weight of sorrow
    and the men with guns who turn
    the lost ones away from their coasts.’

    And the völva is casting the runes.
    The leather bag is thick,
    tough and unbending,
    and gives away no secrets,
    but the stones mutter
    and grind against each other.
    The black angular lines –
    tree, hammer, wealth,
    ocean, ice – will come together,
    fall in the right configuration,
    give their bleak verdict soon enough.

    The rune for harvest is the same
    as the rune for the day of reckoning.

    And the wren sings on the bare branches,
    sings without ceasing.

  • William Bonar Poetry Prize 2023

    Once again I will be taking part in the judging for this competition in memory of the dearly loved and much missed Glasgow poet, William Bonar. The prize is really special, so please polish up the poems and let us have them!

    The William Bonar Poetry Prize 2023
    (supported by St Mungo’s Mirrorball and Red Squirrel Press)

    Submissions are now open for the third, 2023, annual poetry prize for Scottish-based poets in memory of William Bonar. This gifted and well-loved poet was the co-founder of St Mungo’s Mirrorball. He published three titles; his second pamphlet and full collection were published by Red Squirrel Press.


    Entrants should be over 18 years old and currently based in Scotland. They should not previously have had a pamphlet or collection published by a publisher. Entry is free but restricted to one entry each year.


    Entries should be of 10-12 poems, must be the original work of the poet and can be in English, Scots and Gaelic. The poems should not be more than five years old and entries should be accompanied by a short biography in a single document. Email entries marked ‘The William Bonar Poetry Prize’ to jimcarruth63@gmail.com


    The judges are Sheila Wakefield, Founder and Editor of Red Squirrel Press, Elizabeth Rimmer, (Red Squirrel press poet, reviewer, editor), Eleanor Livingstone (Former Director of StAnza), Padraig MacAoidh (Gaelic judge) and Lynnda Wardle, writer and William Bonar’s partner.


    The winner will receive the following:

    • Publication of a pamphlet by Red Squirrel Press
    • 30 free copies and 50% discount on unlimited further copies
    • Editorial support in developing their pamphlet from poet, ‘The Dark Horse’ founder, editor, essayist, typesetter and designer Gerry Cambridge who is Red Squirrel Press in-house typesetter and designer.

    Closing Date
    The Closing date is 31 December 2023 and the winner is expected to be announced in February 2024. Last year’s winner of the William Bonar Poetry Prize (2022) was Jane Picton Smith and she read from her winning pamphlet at St Mungo’s Mirrorball on Friday 6 October 2023.

Latest Posts

Blog Categories

Archives by Date


Tag Cloud

admin arts birds Burnedthumb charm of 9 herbs Charm of Nine Herbs Colin Will Cora Greenhill dark mountain Double Bill editing eurydice rising Expressing the Earth family fiction garden gardening Geopoetics Gillian Clarke haggards herbs home Interlitq Jim Carruth Kenneth White knot garden newsletter Norman Bissell Northwords Now photography poetry reading Red Squirrel Press review Sally Evans Scottish Poetry Library seeds Stanza the place of the fire The Territory of Rain The Well of the Moon walking the territory Wherever We Live Now William Bonar writing