December 7th, 2020

The Power of Nature

Week One: Jackie Kay

Portait photo of Jackie Kay
Who are we and where have we come from? These are the questions that run though Jackie Kay’s poetry. Very often, the answer is to do with the things we imagine and the stories we tell.

Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, brought up in Glasgow, and now lives in Manchester. In 2006, she was awarded an MBE for services to literature. Since 2016 she has been Scots Makar, the national poet laureate of Scotland.

Her other work includes the children's novel Straw Girl.

Red, Cherry Red

A book of captivating and powerful poems, featuring Scotland's beautiful, wild landscapes and a cast of captivating characters. Flashes of crimson run through the poems in the form of fire, a fox, red shoes, a red balloon. Here is one of our favourite poems from this collection:

The World of Trees

Sycamore. Mountain Ash. Beech. Birch. Oak.

In the middle of the forest the trees stood.
And the beech knew the birch was there,
and the mountain ash breathed the same air
as the sycamore, and everywhere

the wind blew, the trees understood each other:
how the river made the old oak lean to the east,
how the felled beech changed the currents of the wind,
how the two common ash formed a canopy

and grew in a complementary way.
Between them they shared a full head of hair.
Some amber curls of the one could easily
belong to the other: twin trees so similar.

Sycamore. Mountain Ash. Beech. Birch. Oak.

Some trees crouched in the forest, waiting
for another tree to die so they could
shoot up suddenly into that new place;
stretch out comfortably for the blue sky.

Some trees grew mysterious mushroom fungi -
shoelace, honey, intricate as a grandmother’s lace.
The wind fluttered the leaves; the leaves flapped their wings;
birds flew from the trees. Sometimes they’d sing.

The tall trees, compassionate, understood everything:
grief - they stood stock-still, branches drooped in despair;
fear - they exposed their many roots, tugged their gold hair;
anger - they shook in the storm, pointed their bony fingers.

Sycamore. Mountain Ash. Beech. Birch. Oak.

The tree’s knew each others secrets
in the deep green heart of the forest.
Each tree loved another tree best.
Each tree, happy to rest, leaned a little to the east,

or to the west, when the moon loomed high above:
the big white eye of the woods.
And they stood together as one in the dark,
with the stars sparkling from their branches,

completely at ease, breathing in the cold night air,
swishing a little in the breeze,
dreaming of glossy spring leaves,
in the fine, distinguished company of trees.

Sycamore. Mountain Ash. Beech. Birch. Oak.

Jackie shares some tips and advice on writing poetry

Jackie reads her poem Bush Fire

Jackie reads her poem The Moon at Knowle Hill

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