Sunday, 5 January 2014
THE GLASS BIRD
It's not very often that you learn the full background to a poem, but I have a poem that has a long and quite happy story to go with it! It began when fellow poet Sheila Hamilton and I set ourselves a challenge to write a poem about glass.
Mine began with staring into the window of a Chester shop called Pyramid which specialises in Scandinavian glass. In the window was a glass bird made by the Finnish artist Toikka who makes a series of wonderful birds in glass: there was his Anniversary dove, a beautiful bird in white with blue and green splashes, and so elegant I couldn't take my eyes off it! A poem arose from all that staring which later won me a third prize in The English Fellows' Association Prize for Poetry, along with a decent cheque. I went with a friend to the awards night, held at the British Academy, London - canapes and wine and lots of prize-giving- for children's books as well as for poetry. I met Fellows from Sussex University where my late husband had had a fellowship long ago, poet Jane Draycott and fellow prize-winner Francis Thompson, among many others.. a very pleasant evening.
If that wasn't enough, I plucked up the courage to tell the owner of Pyramid about the poem's success and source of inspiration. She was thrilled, copied it, and sent it to Toikka. It was featured in the Itala glass factory's newsletter and on their bulletin board, and Oiva Toikka sent me a signed copy of his marvellously illustrated book "Moments of Ingenuity", a collection of essays which traces his artistic career.
And finally I spent some of my cheque on the bird itself!
Which you might think is the end of the story, but not quite - it won 'Poem of the Year 'honour on the Second Light website and you can hear it being read there by Anne Stewart.
It is an appropriate poem for this time of year when we begin to get frosts and ice, and maybe snow sooner or later, so here it is:
Glass Bird in a Shop Window
Surely the maker of this bird is
one whose winter months are lived
among deep silences of snow,
who understands the blue and purple
bruise of folds among the drifts,
the strange transparency of ice,
the way light toes on it
a fragile dance?
I have been standing here so long
my feet have slipped into
snow is settling on my shoulders
under dank green pine
and snow-locked birch.
Ice splits: a bird flies up.
freckles the freezing air
A shudder of snow
ushers its escape.
A very Happy New Year to everyone!