To think that one agonises for weeks or months over what will be read or recited in a moment. A poet can but hope it is the sweetest moment in a reader’s life, echoing in his soul for a lifetime thereafter.
Yesterday, for the first time, I saw a fox! I had heard of fox mischief during my childhood but had never actually seen the creature, and so I was stunned to spot one in broad daylight, making its way up a hill, turning briefly to watch me scramble for my camera. The photograph below was the frantic post-scramble result, taken with a hopelessly inadequate lens, as I was set up to photograph landscapes, ill-prepared for the zoom necessary in the moment.
It was, undoubtedly, a Cape Fox (Vulpes chama), also called the Silver-backed Fox, a small animal—about 50 cm (20 in) long, the tail adding a further 30 or so cm (11 in); about 30 cm (12 in) at the shoulder—supposedly nocturnal.
I also saw a shrub in bloom on a north-facing slope which, like so many species of fynbos1, had been unassuming throughout the year, suddenly to impress in late winter. Unable to come sufficiently close to it, I could not identify it; however, it may be part of the Sutera family—a wild guess, based upon vague similarities with certain species in that family. When next I am in that spot, I shall make the precarious uphill climb and attempt to inspect it properly.
Another sighting (this time, photographed with a more appropriate lens) was of an adult Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus)—a bird I have photographed many a time, and which I captured in hallmark circling flight, three years ago2.
- Fynbos (Afrikaans for “fine-bush”, pronounced [feynboss], with the [ey] in “feign” and the [o] in “or”, but shortened)—so named for the relative fine-ness of the shrubbery in the Western Cape province of South Africa—is an extremely heterogeneous heather-like vegetation exclusive to the region: indeed, the province (roughly the size of England) has more plant species than the whole of Europe.
- Whilst recording footage for the “Verse One” short film. I shared the unused footage in question to both Facebook and Twitter.
“A Pear Tree” is complete, and I have moved to the next sketch, “A Late Winter Morning” (originally “A Partly Cloudy Morning”). Outlined in a rough stanza eleven days after the original “A Pear Tree” sketch, it describes the countryside at sunrise as it appeared to me upon an August morning in 2018.
Incidentally, I have reverted the titles of two finished poems to my original choices: “A Walk II” (wherein I remember my first Great Dane) is once again “You and I, My Hound!”, which necessitated the removal of the Roman numeral from “A Walk I” (wherein I remember my late friend, Jacques F. Visser).
Yesterday, I bought three books from my favourite second-hand bookshop1 on subjects of particular interest to me: maps, Ancient Greece and the Romanticists. I was especially pleased with the atlas2—to date, the second in my possession—which shall be a source of endless fascination (I wrote about my love for atlases in “This October”3.)
Presently, I am reading Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by H. R. Rookmaaker, which gives a Christian perspective on modern art. Though I am an atheist, I find it most insightful. After I have finished it, I shall read The First Poets: Lives of the Ancient Greek Poets—writers from a culture I hold in the highest esteem—by Michael Schmidt.
Wordsworth is the finest Romantic poet. Whilst I own several digital copies and one softcover of selections of his works, Wordsworth: Poetical Works “contains every piece of original verse … published by the poet himself, or of which he can be shown to have authorized the posthumous publication”4—a treasure to a Wordsworth devotee!
- Quirk & Leopard in the seaside town of Hermanus in the Western Cape province of South Africa; all hardcovers, for less than 400 ZAR (South African rands, approximately 24 USD, 21 EUR or 19 GBP)—a steal.
- The Times’ Concise Atlas of the World: Ninth Edition.
- In the “I bought an atlas” section.
- An extract from the front flap of the dust jacket.
A Late Winter Launch
Today was another winter idyll. It convinced me that late winter is the ideal time to launch this anthology: the days are crisp and clear, flocks bleat on the hills, and the pear tree blooms in the valley.
There are fourteen sketches left to develop. It takes me around four weeks to transform drafts into complete poems. Therefore, I project the compositions will be finished next year, about this time.
Protracted, but Appropriate
That would mean two more years before I publish them, if I were to commit to this late-winter launch date. This suits the project, since some time must be spent on producing the handmade books.
Moreover, I intend to devote a considerable amount of time to the creation of items supplementary to the anthology—a year to attend to these suits me well—wherefore I anticipate a launch only in 2022.
Look who blossoms, yet again in mid-winter! Here in South Africa, July is the second month of the season, but the weather is mostly autumnal, with crisp and clear days: misty in the morning, but later sunny.
Seeing the pear tree covered in flowers this early should come as no surprise, yet the sight never ceases to amaze. Naturally, I recited to it “A Pear Tree”—and I think it approved of my modest effort to praise it.
It is winter in my country, South Africa, and one of my favourite sights is the radiance of this road in the rain. When the clouds part, it shines silver in the sunlight—a simple occurrence that is an integral part of my sense of place1.
In the original 2012 version of the poem “Autumn” (my first Romantic work), this scene appeared; but, in the revised 2020 version, instead of the road, it became the river reflecting the sun (to preserve the concept of the stanza).
- By “sense of place”, I mean one’s conception of “home”, as shaped by environmental components, such as topography, architectural style, rhythms, rituals, sights and sounds.
I was fortunate, this week, to photograph an African Harrier-hawk (Polyboroides typus) in flight. It is a large bird of prey, approximately 60 centimetres (24 inches) in length.
Today, I completed “A Pear Tree”, poem 31 in my prospective anthology of 42 lyric poems. A response to a pear tree in early bloom at the beginning of August (the last month of the South African winter), it has two short quatrains gushing over the unusual spectacle. Now that the poem is complete, I can recite it to the tree when it flowers (early again, I hope), this year! This, incidentally, is my first centre-aligned composition—a detail that seems to me wholly appropriate as a reflection of the tree’s symmetry.
When the Southern Double-collared Sunbird male displays to attract a mate—its chief concern, this time of year (mid-winter in South Africa)—it reveals yellow tufts on its shoulders that are usually concealed. So far, I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to photograph it in this state—somehow, it is either too windy, or the bird refuses to keep still, or (as was the case yesterday) the light conspires against me. This was the best of yesterday’s set, with heavy adjustment to the shadows to make the feathers in question visible.