Friday poem: all creatures great and small

24 October 2014

No one can lure us into noticing the natural world the way Jen Hadfield does in this remarkable, hypnotic poem. We’re not just offered a close-up of that tiny, persistent, oldest living whatever in the world, we’re aligned with it – taken down to rock level to participate in the attention it’s paying us. Huge, tiny and symbiotic, her words belong to both plant and human worlds. Like the lichen, they seem to grow from the page that anchors them. Notice how that simple, alliterative first couplet mimics the slow passage of time then opens out into a poem of startling language and imagery that leaves us wiser, larger, more watchful and more befuddled.

John Glenday


Who listens
like lichen listens

assiduous millions of black
and golden ears?

You hear

and remember

but I’m speaking
to the lichen.

The little ears prunk,
scorch and blacken.

The little golden
mouths gape

Byssus by Jen Hadfield 'Lichen' is published Jen Hadfield's collection Byssus, which has been shortlisted for the Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year. John Glenday's poetry collections include The Apple Ghost, Undark, and  Grain.

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