Interview by Zoë Brigley
“This poem was unusual for me in that it was written very quickly. Although I experimented with different stanza lengths, this version is close to the very first sketched out draft which was in couplets”
The Mistle Thrush
I walk after the storm and before the storm coming and as the storm abated the Stormcock sang and I wondered, what is it like to be a bird not knowing the names of storms what is it like to be a bird weathering storm after storm and in that moment I knew and I would tell you but I have no words for that tune and no voice to sing in
I am always very intrigued by poems that pay close attention to nature or the more-than-human. Would you describe yourself as a nature poet?
I don’t really like the term ‘nature poet’; I don’t like the idea of being pigeon-holed into a particular category. I worry that ‘nature poetry’ might be thought of as a genre that is not relevant to everyone, maybe even seen as elitist. Having said that, most of my poems are about nature – or more accurately about humans and nature. My subjects are sometimes about how human relationships are played-out in the natural world and sometimes about the relationships between humans and nature.
How has your relationship with nature developed in your poems and do you have any favourite wild spaces?
My relationships with nature and with poetry has been developing in parallel over the last few years. In common with many others, I started paying more attention to birdsong during lockdown and then started making sound recordings of birds, including their calls during nocturnal migration. Writing helps me focus on these experiences, explore them, and document them.
Probably my favourite wild spaces are the sea cliffs of North Devon and Dartmoor near to where I grew up, and the moors of Northumberland close to where I now live.
You use couplets here. Is that a favourite form of yours? And how do you decide what stanza length to use?
Actually, I don’t often use couplets. This poem was unusual for me in that it was written very quickly. Although I experimented with different stanza lengths, this version is close to the very first sketched out draft which was in couplets. It seemed appropriate as the successive ideas are given space, and the pace is restrained, allowing for contemplation. If I am not writing in a pre-defined form, then often I usually start by writing without any stanza breaks and then as I read through the poem and start editing, stanza breaks suggest themselves.
There’s a very beautiful unfolding in this poem of a quick, clear thought about how little we know despite ourselves. I like the sense of humility which seems fitting in the face of ecological disaster, right?
Thank you. In some drafts of the poem, I had ‘knowing’ as the title, as this is really the subject. It is true that we know little, but the poem is also saying that we can know more, even if can’t express this in words. If we ‘tune-in’ to nature then we can learn and know more, even if our language is inadequate to articulate this knowing. I think poetry, paradoxically, can use language to express something beyond language. Or maybe you could say poetry tries to expand language. Yes, I agree the sense of humility is appropriate. I would like to think also that there could be some sense of empowerment in the idea of atunement with nature.
Jim Lloyd is a winner in the Rialto ‘Nature and Place’ poetry competition. His poems have appeared various magazines including: The Rialto, Stand, Wales Haiku Journal, and One Hand Clapping. He is studying for an arts practice-based PhD at Newcastle University, considering avian perception. He lives in Northumberland.
You can find out more about him on his website https://www.jamesjosephlloyd.com/
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