This is derived from French poetry and involves a tight rhyme and syllable scheme. I also wanted to write about my encounter with a frog and snake when waiting by a friend’s pond while the car was being repaired. Would this form work for this wild encounter?
On time well spent ( Nouveau Lai)
Stay still by the pond
Only time has gone.
With those legs so long
To those depths belong
Of cold without sun.
Before the day’s done
The birds still their song.
A snake creeps along.
Back and forth darts tongue.
Where is right and wrong?
Only time has gone
Stay still by the pond.
Frog on phone in May ( Lai Form)
This frog could be friend
So photo must send.
All follow the trend
To share without end.
Watch life learn to fend
For food not a friend.
I had been quite transfixed by this wonderful wild encounter and lost in time and also knew I wanted to write about the experience. As it involves a frog and snake it brought to mind D.H. Lawrence’s poem ‘The Snake’. I thought free verse, with one thought or impression to each line might be worth trying. We were also at a recent talk at the Alajar Renaissance Festival listening to some local poets. One topic was about Magia, the magic philosophies that brought about the renaissance and liberation from religious thought to scientific discovery. The talk was about the unifying power of ‘poesia’or poetry within nature.
I was inspired by Frank Hubeny’s poem https://frankhubeny.blog/author/frankhubeny/ because my encounter was in the soft light by a pond and these were mysterious things. The snake did not eat the frog but was perhaps on the look out for reasonable sized fish. It was not interested in insects, tiddlers and tadpoles which were all in abundance. Both animals remained so still for so long and so did I! Were we all watching each other?Perhaps a lot is scientifically known about frogs and snakes and a lot of animal stories have made characters of these creatures,but being so close to both these wild animals accentuated for me their mysteriousness and evoked that sense of wonder if not awe with the evolutionary magic of the natural world. We do not know everything about their worlds and we cannot capture everything on photo on our phones.
After desperately trying to clear the memory of my phone for a photo of this frog so close by it moved away.Of course! A bit later the frog came back onto one of the lily pads. And then the snake began its arrival, slithering so easily, then vertically down into the water and then swimming really fast. It didn’t seem to catch anything but perhaps it did and was then still when digesting it. I have to admit to being a little nervous but identification suggested a harmless grass snake. By that time my phone was dying so I had to sit and just watch. It became a competition of who was going to keep still the longest. Frog, snake or me! This became a much deeper experience and observation rather than trying to take endless photos which get lost in clouds!
Notes on the Form
The Nouveau Lai is a five syllabled couplet followed by a two syllable line. The number of lines in each stanza is fixed at nine and the couplets must rhyme with each other, as the two syllable lines must also rhyme. In English this line is probably the most difficult part of the poem. French is also a syllable timed language unlike English which has stress/accent on certain syllables and many words can also be unstressed eg prepositions.
The Lai is a very old French form and tradition states that the short line must not be indented, it must be left dressed to the poem. This is known as Arbre Fourchu (Forked Tree) there is a pattern meant to be set up as a tree.
The number of lines in each stanza is fixed at nine. The number of stanzas is not fixed and each stanza has its own rhyme pattern. The rhyme pattern is… a. a. b. a. a. b. a. a. b.
I cannot believe we have spent nearly 5 weeks in the UK and with no rain falling. I realise now why the blossom was so beautiful and for so long; no wind and storms to blow the blossom away. We certainly had our fill of spring flowers in our new home in Greater Manchester and I got to spend plenty of time with my 18th month old grandaughter. She is now a chatterbox and knows the names of so many different animals now; ra ra for the pet rabbits and others, bear, maow for cats, ba and sheep too. Some confusion with the variety of dogs with a long eared one being called a ra ra. She is also learning some sign language in a fun signing class for under twos. Lets hope we can all support action to improve the future prospects for the planet and all the young ones.
I enjoyed being in Marple and we met up with friends and new neighbours.We went for a walk by the River Goyt and saw goosanders, very elegant and love clean, fast flowing water. We even went to a RSPB ( Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) talk with photos about the Donana wetlands that is close to us at Navasola in Spain! The speaker had visited many times and built up a very good range of photographs. He also looked at the concerns there are about protecting these precious wetlands. ( if interested look at my post in March on Donana) Another talk at the Marple History Society was about the Vale of Avalon by Glastonbury and the wetlands now have visiting birds like spoonbills, ibis and egrets that can be found at Donana. As the crow or ibis flies just over 2000 kilometre more to fly from Southern Spain to Middle England. The RSPB also have a bird song cd out which they want to top the charts this spring and create awareness for the songbirds and others that migrate such long journeys and their numbers are in decline.
Meanwhile in London over Easter the protest group Extinction Rebellion was building up massive support for understanding and acting on the consequences of climate change. Greta Thunberg visited parliament and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party spearheaded meetings. The BBC presented a documentary with David Attenborough talking about the facts of climate change and the changes he has seen for the natural world.
Finally, as the Brexit farce cooled down over the Easter holiday the real issues that we face were raised to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness in a variety of ways. I feel proud to be in my country and experience such support for issues I have long been concerned about. But action is needed and this is if anything far more complex than Brexit
Declaring a climate emergency is only the start but the ideas for a citizens assembly are well founded. All of us will have to make decisions and change our habits to minimise carbon emissions and restore nature. This may be better received if not just from politicians and their supporters and ideologies. A mix of people with access to well resourced information could help with moving forward ways to support people and change our habits.
On our trip back to Sevilla via Brussels there was a young persons climate protest. As I have followed these issues for a long time now and am an ecologist at heart it is heartening to see the young becoming engaged with this and gaining knowledge about many facts.
As we are now of limited means on our pensions and live a rural life the cost of new hybrid or electric cars is phenomenal. Also on looking into the cost of taking the train rather than plane between the UK and Southern Spain it is exorbitant. Why? Alternatives to flying must br found across land masses like Europe. We used to travel on long train journeys in India and these were often great experiences. Ways forward are not impossible but need to be planned to avoid our present ways ‘costing the earth’ and creating more inequalities. For me some travel between our home in our woodland and back to UK is crucial. Travel for many is one way of opening up our awareness to other cultures and to differences.
It was interesting to visit Brussels and see a very multicultural and multilingual city at work and play. The Atomium seems very symbolic of the advances in Science of the 20th Century. Some of these with devastating consequences. It is true that we haven’t quite managed to ban the bomb and there are too many wars and conflicts and displaced people. But the EU was a very European way forward to bring different nations together after WW1 and WW2.
I was very moved by meeting a man of Palestinian heritage. We ate at the restaurant where he worked or managed and ate some delicious middle eastern mezze food. On talking we discover that he was born in the Lebanon in the year and month that I visited in 1975. He went to Beirut University and learnt some English there but 20 years ago left for Brussels. His parents had come from Jaffa a place he has never seen. So many changes and conflicts for a family. He was very welcoming, friendly and so similar to the many people I had met those many years ago in my travels through Syria and Lebanon. His past, almost 45 years,has been very different from mine. I feel I should look at this more and create a short story about this meeting which affected me deeply.
One of my reasons for being in Brussels was to take some photographs to turn into drawings for my novel. My artist friend and I are now trying to create some illustrations as the fantastical journey of my animals takes them to many key areas of Western Europe. In mini Europe where there are small scale reproductions of famous places throughout Europe the weasel manages to ‘pop’ over many of these and then find the old toad. These areas were the old wetlands for many toads and now there is so little left for them.
If my grandaughter lives to be 100 in 2117 she may have to witness the loss of so many of the animals, birds and trees that she takes such a delight in now and a world changed beyond what we would hope for future generations. We are already seeing drastic changes now but are to some extent sheltered from the reality of loss of nature and caught up in the short term issues of business as usual.
My Three Pivotal Points for Planetary Progress
Cut carbon emissions drastically from now. Work together and recognise the urgency of this.
Restore nature for nature not just for us. Natural ecosystems when working well will support life for all on this planet. Rainforests, all native forests, the ocean, coral reefs, wetlands. Peat bogs capture carbon naturally.More wild places are needed. There are many NGO groups that have been working for decades and with some success in holding back the tide of human destruction and conserving many important places. More must be done and especially for the oceans.
Circular and sustainable economies as the foundation for all human activities. Food, agriculture and waste are key areas. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has been working on ideas from sailing of the circular economy and many other groups too have very positive ideas.
These are issues for all of us and we will need to reach out towards these three pivotal points for planetary progress. For politicians these are cross party issues and lets give those politicians their due who recognise this. And decry those who still dare to deny. I have still to find out how the Donana wetland issue has panned out but the Spanish elections are now over and hopefully all will focus on what must be important to us all. A long term and healthy future for the living planet and all species. This will not be easy in the current economic climate but many businesses, local councils, the British parliament ( recently agreed on a climate emergency but needs the government to also accept this) and many others also recognise that action needs to happen now.
I will look into my travel options and cutting more dairy from my mainly vegetarian diet of the last 45 years and look at more ways I can be involved to improve conservation of the natural world.