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Centenary of The Great War’s Armistice

November 11, 2018

Blackawton Armistice Centenary Poppies collage

Towards the end of The Great War, two conscripted soldiers were standing shoulder to shoulder when an exploding shell scattered shrapnel into their trench. One was killed instantly. The other received a life-saving ‘Blighty one’ — temporarily lamed by shrapnel embedded in his foot — and was stretchered away to the safety of a sanitorium. The survivor was my grandfather. As a boy he had kept pet rats — used to carry them around with him in his pockets — which made the presence of feral rats in the trenches less upsetting for him than for many. It was hearing the story of the night he was enrolled for action, from his daughter, my mother, that inspired the poem below:

Soul-Mates, 1916

He sat there, pale and frozen, locked in fear
while, all around, the freshly harnessed men
waved their pints and drove away their troubles
the only way they knew, in drink and song.
When morning came their blurred heads turned to chalk,
goose-flesh trembled, no-one spoke a word;
he alone took on a new tranquillity,
his fear outreached itself and burnt away.
They looked and could not understand his calm,
not noticing his silence through that night,
when their bravado, raucous, loud and long
had swallowed up his lonely suffering.

Spirits cruelly dampened in the trenches,
strong men cried and glory lost its shine,
songs died in thin air, the music faded;
all-pervading squalor claimed their minds.

This man, whose long artistic fingers often
painted sunsets; sketched a gentle world,
reached out now to tame the rats; befriend them,
his intellect admired their ready skill,
saw sharpness in their clever speedy learning
to pierce the ration-tins of Nestle’s milk,
on either side, to make the sweetness flow;
their rodent wit resigned him to their raid.

Vermilion summer skies of English evenings
had moved this man to tears long before
the brutal war had forced him into khaki,
yet even now it could not steal his soul.
His fellow-men, their swearing and their cursing,
the dirt, the damp, the fear, the degradation;
all these he would have born in isolation,
had not his human spirit searched elsewhere:
companionship he found, at last, in rats.

© Celia Warren 2018

*     *     *     *     *

The photo above shows the finished display of over 1000 knitted and crocheted poppies at Blackawton village church. It commemorates the centenary of Armistice Day at the end of WWI and includes 15 poppies that I crocheted.

pile of poppies crochet

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For a Change …

September 19, 2018

On 4th October 2018, this year’s National Poetry Day, the theme is CHANGE and if you scroll down you can find two poems that I’ve written about COMPLETE change – that is metamorphosis. I wonder if you can guess which two creatures feature in my poems? But FIRST … have a look at this wonderful new anthology, hot off the press:

I am the Seed that Grew the Tree Anthology Fiona Waters Nosy Crow

I have to call this beautiful anthology a tome – it’s more than a just a book – it’s four-and-a-half pounds of pure delight in word and illustration. Collected by Fiona Waters, and gorgeously illustrated in full colour by Frann Preston Gannon, I am the Seed that Grew the Tree – a nature poem for every day of the year – is likely to become a classic and a daily delight to young and old. All of which makes me very proud to be in it among favourite poets long past, recent past, and present – from Clare to Causley, from Masefield to Mitton – and me! (Click on the link to look inside the book!)

Published by Nosy Crow in association with the National Trust isbn 978 0 857 637 703

Word of warning though: if you’re thinking of buying this as a Christmas present, try and deliver it by hand – it’s heavy to put in the post!

And now for a couple more nature poems. These do not appear in the book above, but they do exemplify change. There is no bigger change than complete metamorphosis, when a creature’s form entirely changes even though it is the same entity. I hope you enjoy these poems, but please note that they, and all the content on this site, are copyright. If you wish to print these poems elsewhere – including online – you must seek permission. Thank you.

peacock butterfly © Celia Warren 2018

Metamorphosis

Do you believe in butterflies?
a caterpillar said.
Butterflies – that we become
after we are dead?

Another young grub nodded.
I’ve seen one just today:
a lovely butterfly with wings
to help it fly away.

I don’t believe in butterflies,
another one pronounced;
The concept of an after-life
was long ago denounced.

I’ve never seen a butterfly,
said he who asked the question;
The only one I thought I saw
was born of indigestion.

And yet, he persevered, you know
I hold the firm belief,
that though I’ve never seen one
they’re as real as this leaf

And, if we keep on chewing,
and do as we are told,
then we won’t die, we’ll learn to fly
when we are fat and old.

In fact, he said, it seems to me
that flying would be super.
With that he yawned and spun around
and turned into a pupa.

The other caterpillars stared:
their hopeful friend look dead.
He has no wings; he cannot fly,
one to another said.

They crawled away and never saw
what happened by and by:
The pupa split and there emerged
a brand new butterfly.

© Celia Warren 2018

And now, one final nature poem about change …

Frogspawn in the Pond

What lies beyond
frogspawn in the pond?

   Tons of tiny tadpoles.

What lies beyond
tadpoles in the pond?© Celia Warren 2018

   Lots of little frogs.

What lies beyond
frogs in the pond?

   Lots more frogspawn.

What lies beyond
frogspawn in the pond?

© Celia Warren 2018

 

Enjoy National Poetry Day!

Holiday reading?

August 5, 2018

sea poem holiday bookmark.JPG

Being on holiday – at home or away – is always a good time for relaxing with a book. And if, like me, you read in short bursts, in between swimming in the sea or taking photographs, you’ll need a bookmark. So here’s one that you can copy and print on thin card. Cut it out and it’s ready to use. On the back, you could draw a picture of your own favourite holiday place and write your own long, thin poem.

I am very lucky to live by the sea, so every day feels like being on holiday (when I’m not working, that is!) But wherever you are, enjoy a break from work.

 

Fabulous pictures to illustrate poems

June 4, 2018

It’s been rather quiet on this website-blog lately, but it’s only because I’ve been so busy. Here I am sharing some of my poems recently in Chew Magna, Somerset. Meanwhile, a performing at Chew Magna circle select  I’ve been enjoying how sometimes my poems inspire pictures. Here, eight-year-old Lucy has added a beautiful dimension to some of my poems with her pictures.

turtle poem illustrated by Lucy June 2018

And, below, is a picture of the star of my poem Lion, that begins:

I have a box
in which I keep
a shoulder I may cry on.
I lift the lid
and there inside’s
a large and lovely lion …

You can hear me perform the whole poem here.

Lion illustration by Lucy + tagline a

(I like the caring way that Lucy has added air-holes to the lion’s box – very sensible and thoughtful – although, as he is a magic lion, he will always be fine in his magic box.)

I hope to share more of Lucy’s lovely illustrations another day.

Meanwhile, if you have drawn a picture of one of my poems, and would like it to appear on this website, please do send me a jpeg copy.

 

 

 

 

1st, 2nd, 3rd …

April 4, 2018

…4th April, and I’m delighted to feature on poet Liz Brownlee’s Poetry Roundabout A-Z challenge running throughout April 2018. Liz is presenting her challenge working from Z-A this year, with poets attached to each letter. Z, Y, X, W … Warren, Celia – that’s me! And as it happens, it’s W for Worms, too.

You can read one of my favourites from my collection Don’t Poke a Worm till it Wriggles (published by Bloomsbury) on lovely Liz’s Poetry Roundabout.

DONT_POKE_A_WORM_CVR

Every day this month you can meet more children’s poets and read more lovely poems on the Poetry Roundabout. Enjoy!

World Poetry Day, 2018

March 20, 2018

World Poetry Day 2018 is a great time to celebrate an often neglected area of our literary heritage through reading, writing, performing and sharing favourite poems.

I was delighted to be invited to judge this year’s poetry writing competition open to students at New College, Stamford, Lincolnshire. It’s always exciting to read the fresh voices of young writers. The competition’s theme – ‘environment’ – offered broad scope of interpretation. It was over-ridingly evident that all entrants enjoyed writing their poems – this came across in their work. I won’t announce the winners here, but will congratulate those who took the top three places, especially the First Prize winner.

Here in South Devon our environment has been layered in deep snow – a rare occurrence in England’s West Country – but to happen twice in one month is amazing. This time around it stayed long enough to be enjoyable, but thawed quickly enough to avoid being too much of a nuisance: perfect!

aftermath of snow collage

Today the thaw began. It reminded me of one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets, perfectly describing today, the first day of spring:

Thaw – Edward Thomas

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

PS   *** If you had snow over the weekend, did you build a snowman? ***

They don’t last long, do they? And maybe it’s just as well. Have you read Roger McGough‘s poem The Trouble with Snowmen? It’s poem #26 in my Schofield and Sims anthology A Time to Speak and A Time to Listen. It’s a poem to make you think!

 

World Book Day – Write your Own!

March 1, 2018

School’s closed because of snow.
On World Book Daywrite your own!

Think of a setting – Under the sea?
Inside a sofa? Climbing a tree?

Plan a good character: Girl? Boy?*
Pick their pet hate, their greatest joy.

Decide an ambition your character has.
Create something or someone that stops them.

Consider some ways their wish can come true.
Find them friends, but obstacles, too.

Write their adventures – some chuckles, some screams
on their way to fulfilling their dearest dreams.

© Celia Warren 2018

* or an animal, a mythical creature, an alien, a live toy or YOU!

Good luck!