Cold earth, crouched ¦¦ bides, marks time.
Crystal on spiked crystal, ¦¦ hoar takes hold,
blasts, grips, burns ¦¦ turns twisted twig to strigil.
Iced dawn scours ¦¦ as hungry buzzard cries,
hidden hedge pig stirs ¦¦ in debris nest turned brittle,
roe deer wakes, lashes ¦¦ quilled and needled ~
tine-whiskered buck ¦¦ stamps metallic clod,
vixen prowls, gimlet-eyed ¦¦ tawny, replete, hunches, sleeps.
This poem was written as an exercise for my series of workshops ‘A Poetry Year’. The first session in January began by exploring OldNorse/Old English /Anglo Saxon verse.
Previous to the Norman invasion in 1066, English verse followed Germanic patterns which made little use of end-line rhyme, but relied upon alliterative stressed half-lines to give a poetic effect. The verse is ideal for relating battle tales and verbal histories around a blazing fire. It is melodic and descriptive and often made clever use of Kenning – a device akin to riddle, where an object is not named but is described vividly – we still use similar expressions today – the camel is the ship of the desert for example.
Icelandic verse is still written this way today so the form is still alive and vibrant.
The exercise was to use the devices mentioned above to compose a poem inspired by January. Mine is set in the fields behind my Surrey home on a day when we had a heavy hoar frost and the landscape was transformed by the invading, frozen crystals.
The ‘Poetry Year’ course is a series of workshops held on the last Saturday of the month throughout 2013. It is an exciting project where poets explore form and poetry of varying types and from many eras so that each person can extend their poetic vocabulary and compile a portfolio of poetry for 2013.
There are still spaces on the on-line course for any poets who would like to join us. Enrolment details can be found at http://behindthehighstreet.co.uk/the-study/courses/