Monday, 25 July 2011

Shropshire Butterflies - a book from Fair Acre Press, edited by Nadia Kingsley

Ringlet, Linda Nevill
New from Fair Acre Press is the extremely lovely hardback anthology ‘Shropshire Butterflies’.  It does do what it says on the tin, providing keenly poetic and sometimes scientifically observant glimpses of each one of the 39 species of butterflies wise enough to take up residence in Shropshire.  This book celebrates them richly in poetry and original artwork.

I must declare an interest at this point, as by a series of happy coincidences last year I met Nadia, and had the chance to join a frolicsome band of poets, cautiously shepherded by a very nice ranger, on a butterfly walk near Ironbridge.   On a soft summer morning we hovered beside bushes, waiting for a shaft of sunlight that would fetch our delicate quarry out to bask.  Then we made amateurish swipes at them with butterfly nets, slowly learning the neat wrist flick that turns the net to stop your butterfly simply fluttering free.  My first catch was a slightly shabby Comma, and able to see it so close up  I was entranced by its warm markings, and the tattered edge of its wings – this specimen had come through winter.  Later we stood under a row of old oaks and the ranger really did tell me that he’d seen Purple Hairstreaks flutter down to drink the dew on the woodland ride.

Grey Pilgrim, Ellen McBride

Nadia’s book is illustrated with a beautifully reproduced array of artist-created prints, drawings and sculptures which explore the vivid forms and lives of butterflies.  The book is arranged in the sequence of the butterfly year, so the 39 species appear in the order in which you’re most likely to encounter them.  Slightly unusually for an anthology, ‘Shropshire Butterflies’ is presented without any poets’ or artists’ names beside their work.  In the end I rather liked this, as I kept one finger in the back of the book for its comprehensive index and biogs, and so zig-zagged back and through, discovering many delightful things to alight upon.  (If you want to read one of my poems for this book, click here).
Brimstone, Barbara Gunter-Jones

There are wonderful poems in here by much published and award-winning poets of the calibre of Mario Petrucci, Roger Garfitt, Mavis Gulliver, Alwyn Marriage and Gillian Clarke, but there are also wonderful poems by poets I discovered for the first time.  I particularly like Marilyn Gunn’s work – here are the first lines of ‘Small Copper’:
Spark offerer,
you scatter cinders on rudbeckia suns,
those beckoning planets where the border
leans, bees in its flames.

and this, from ‘Presences’ by Rita Carter:
Level with the Long Mynd
white clouds brush the dark barrow
tent-cloud to war -

Twisting in the fosse, pellets of bone hollow under moss
as tawny Gatekeepers patrol each hedgerow
Butterfly Library, Francis Carlile
Carol Ann Duffy says on the back cover: ‘This is one of the most delightful ‘green’ poetry projects I have heard of in recent years.’ 
A  book for all your butterfly seasons, to flit through again and again.  You can buy it online from  and from various outlets in Shropshire, all detailed on the website.