Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Love of Penguins & Puffins

Connective tissue...This feature represents a geographical departure from Ellicott City Historic District to fly virtually to Swansea, Wales. Why? To feature some thoughts about poetry and the natural world surrounding my colleague and friend, Caroline Gill. We met, virtually, through an online journal, Quill & Parchment, and have been sharing poetry, photos, and thoughts ever since. Above: My penguin collection with a couple flying penguins; I inherited the collection from my Mother.

Connections...Penguins and Puffins are in the AUK family...And so it goes, the fabric of friendship across the miles. First, the poem that I find so engaging, while Caroline calls it something like "recording an Endangered Species." I was tempted to ask her where the magic of her poetry comes from, but dismissed it as more than unproductive--it is not possible to probe the magic of an artist's work and it is downright intrusive. Photo, Caroline Gill: David Gill.

I asked Caroline Gill, by e-mail of course, a few questions about her poetry over time. When did she start writing, for example?

She writes: "Greetings to Ellicott City readers of Kay's blog from Caroline Gill in Swansea, Wales, UK - hometown of the poet Dylan Thomas. My thanks to Kay, who has invited me to say a few words about my poetry. So here goes...

"...I realized early on that I was never going to be a nurse, a mathematician or an Olympic athlete, but it dawned on me gradually that writing was an activity I really enjoyed. We would sometimes be given a picture card in junior school, and I loved inventing a story to fit the illustration. I suppose this was a kind of early ekphrastic experience, the notion of illustrating some written piece! Language has always fascinated me, and we enjoyed playing word games at home on winter evenings. I fell in love with a child's version of Homer's Odyssey when I was about ten years old, then won my first poetry competition in our local Three Arts festival at the age of eleven, for a poem entitled 'Koala Bear.'

Leaving school at 18, I proceeded to read Classical Studies at Newcastle University, on Hadrian's Wall - where I met David, my archaeologist husband-to-be. I seem to recall winning a small student prize for translating a poetic Latin epigram into English. I went on to train as a high school teacher. Some years later I took a TEFL teaching certificate, and taught English as a Foreign Language in Rome, Oxford and Cambridge.

In the years since 'Koala Bear,' I have tried to develop my writing, attending courses and reading as much poetry as possible. My poems have been published in the UK, India, Romania and the USA. I won First Prize in the general section of the international Petra Kenney Poetry Competition in 2007, and attended a great prize-giving day at Canada House, the Canadian High Commission in London's Trafalgar Square. My winning poem was a Sestina: I enjoy experimenting with different poetic forms."

Finally and most important for this blogger, I asked Caroline Gill about the emotional focus of her work:

She writes: "I draw poetic inspiration from the sea and from the natural world. David, my husband, and I love to watch Red Kites in Wales. They were declining in numbers some years ago and their future lay in the balance. Thankfully conservation measures were adopted, and now we feel quite cheated if we go out into the hills and fail to spot these fine raptors with their forked tails...

...We have greatly enjoyed watching puffins on the North Yorkshire cliffs. These cute birds fly in to breed on the rocky ledges. The first time we went puffin-spotting, we were nearly disappointed.

We were about to leave when a kind man called us over and told us that he had seen a single puffin through his powerful telescope. We had a quick look - and determined to return on a future occasion. The following year we saw many more puffins with the naked eye. It was such an exhilarating experience that I felt I would try to record it in words.

Sadly UK puffin numbers are on the decrease at present, so I particularly hoped to highlight the plight of these sea-clowns (which are perhaps a metaphor for all forms of threatened life) by writing a poem about them. It is my hope that there may yet be a positive outcome if we can encourage folk to learn more about the lifestyle and survival needs of these enchanting birds."

Now, please click on the link below --first--to go to CAROLINE GILL's blog:

Once on Caroline's blog, please scroll down again to the link she provides to the competition web site and then READ her poem. And vote for it! I know I did --in fact I would stuff the ballot box for this one!

Blog: Kay Weeks; Penguin Collection Photo: KDW
Caroline Gill photo by David Gill.
Puffin photo: Caroline Gill.

March 10. 2010

1 comment:

Crafty Green Poet said...

Good interview with Caroline! I like your penguin tiles too!