Happy New Year to wildness and wet! Because there’s plenty of that stuff round here. It brings to mind ‘Inversnaid’ and I know I won’t be the only one muttering “Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet!”, although maybe I don’t absolutely mean it. Not after the last few weeks.

I’ve never been to Inversnaid village, which is on the shores of Loch Lomond, seventy odd miles to our west. But right now it’s soggy underfoot in Fife too. My new-ish trainers, I noticed this afternoon, are letting water in. Perhaps they didn’t expect quite so much of it.

It hasn’t been raining continuously, I guess, but all the same, it’s profoundly, deeply wet, with the winter woods bare and shining. Drifts of dank leaves are sludging all the pathways. Ditches are waterlogged. Drains are clogged. Burns are swollen with brown, muscly water. Brand new ponds have invaded fields and woods as if they intend to stay. Mud and muddles, dubs and puddles. Boots on, and headgear, gloves and scarves.

It’s not cold though. More faintly misty, grey round the edges. Mysterious. You see the tails of squirrels frisking just above your eye-line. Anything could happen in weather like this. The ground under our feet could sink and we could go with it. We’re walking in clouds.

Only one poem will do, and Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote it in the 1880s. It’s the antidote to gloom, even if the “beadbonny ash” (the rowan with its glorious red berries) had all its jewels eaten by the birds before Christmas. No matter! It’s beaded with raindrops now.

[Illustrations courtesy of poet Eddie Gibbons, who called in a little AI and worked magic]


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew,
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.


Standing room only at the Torriano on Sunday – and now a double debut for Richard Osmond!

I waved the new pamphlets around in London on Sunday but very few people have seen them. HappenStance has never before published two pamphlets at the same time by the same person. Two different pamphlets, that is. One is Shill, which is Richard Osmond in twentieth century mode. The other is Variant Air, a set of poems in the mode and style of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

I hope people will buy both at the same time. You get a price reduction if you do. Here is an unusual young poet, at the start of a long and strong writing life. Catch him now.

Richard’s London launch is on Saturday May 3, at  the Johnson Bar in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese,  Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2BU. This historical pub has a network of cellars and tunnels once frequented by Yeats and his rhymers club, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and more. How delicious!

There’ll be a couple of brief readings, but this is a relaxed informal affair. Come even if poetry is not your favourite food. Drinks (excellent beer at this pub) and merriment.

ps Check out Poor Rude Lines for a review of Shill.