Monday, 23 November 2009


Autumn Leaves Watercolour by Ray Harris

Last Wednesday night I went along to the Tyne and Esk writers group in Dalkeith and read them ‘An Autumn Leaf with Attitude.’ It was the final stage in a project to develop a poem on my blog.
Was it worth doing?
I would say yes, because I enjoyed the whole exercise and I got some useful comments both from my writers' group and from the on-line community ‘Writers Circle.’ I was also very pleased that Zoë joined in and wrote an autumn leaf poem… she has gone on to write another (very good) poem – this time about her experiences and impression of India.
So, what have I learnt?
Some people do not like poems about nature. They get a feeling of irritation and boredom when they come across silky stanzas, which extol the beauty of nature. They have perhaps come across Victorian poets who used rich imagery in their poetry. They think that poems should have an edge and make you think. To the extent that poems shouldn’t be boring I agree entirely. I think that the core of a good poem hits on something real which other people reading it can relate to. I like poems that get the reader to look at a subject from a different point of view. Mandy Haggith in her book ‘castings’ does this really well. Her poem ‘Out in the Open’ describes the coastline where she lives from the point of view of a lover.

this morning she waded in up to her belly button
lobsters biting the backs of her knees
winkles in her knickers
fish having sex in her sex

by noon she was posing reflected in sunshine
only her muddy feet in the water
bladderwrack dress clinging to rocky limbs
underwear a squirm of slaters and stranded
knees crusty with barnacles
and that tell-tale white jelly stain on her skirt

now she’s inching back in, letting it lap up her legs
nudging a hundred heads, a thousand tongues
under her petticoats
letting the tribe of tentacles touch her
slapping as they come into her
splashing as she plunges to meet them

I hope that I will continue to be inspired by nature and I don’t think that will be too difficult because Scotland has such a lot of natural beauty to offer.

The project isn’t quite over. Tyne and Esk’s writer in residence, Brian Whittingham, took a professional look and suggested that I shorten the poem. I liked what he said, so there will be ‘An Autumn Leaf with Attitude2.’ This is the first version which I would like to stand in it’s own right.

An Autumn Leaf with Attitude

I am an Autumn Leaf.
One of many
and like you,
I have a story to tell.
I know a thing or two
about life.

My ancestors - all 123 seasons
left me a message of growth.
Another year unfolds,
I add to the story,
tick a ring on my Oak.

My season is done but
I’ll leave in a blaze.
I’ve changed already.
I’m a chameleon of earth colours,
fluttering at the tip of my branch.

Soon, I will join my cousins,
feeding the earth
or I might ride the burn
to some far away bank.

Until then,
I’m a note in the symphony.
Rising and falling
in the breeze.

Delight your eyes
on my delicate dance.
Watch me move,
vibrant, in the dappled light.

When the time is right
I’ll join the fall
become part of the ensemble
and fly on the wind

We will cover you
like a swirling storm
and children will play,
amazed by our bounty.

© November 2009


  1. Wow, I've just added a reactions widget. If you can think of any better reactions let me know.


  2. Or maybe putting in a reactions widget is a bit naff!!