Reading Rilke

Hello, today, I have been reading Rilke, loving the words and wondering what I miss in translation. I keep coming back to this poem, so thought I’d share it here:

Days in Autumn by Rainer Maria Rilke

There’s a poetry film here, with a slightly different translation

Rilke Poetry Film

This seasonal poem is one I have known and loved for some time.  The first seven lines celebrate the fullness of the time, in rural elegy, descending to the more stripped, brusque absence of a more urban landscape in absence and separation are more real than ever before.

The notion of God disappears in this poem, somewhere after the first seven lines. The profuse growing time, leads to the desolate pavements and a lyric flowering of loss.  The fruits ripen late and dry before separating from their stems, before the more ominous tone of the poem and season carry us through to its conclusion.

Maybe this is what turning to the dark half of the year is, the gathering in, the hurry to harvest, the bravery to let things go or leave them as they are. Maybe we all read the world differently and take different meanings from symbols and signs, depending on how are shaped by, and how we shape language.

My own thoughts on autumn are below.



To begin at the beginning

Hello, and welcome to my new blog, Green Fire Poetry.

Why Green Fire? You may be wondering about the title. When thinking about poetry and where it comes from for me, and the ingredients that poetry I like has, there seems to be a common factor. I am moved by poems that use the natural world, in writing a sense of connection to place, and allowing the poem to be a space which is not simply autobiographical. Poems that root in the natural world can seem to allow echoes of culture, history and memories to manifest between narrative disruptions and challenges to the lyric ‘I’, challenging straightforward binary interpretation.

I am interested in poems that works through layers, poems that tread the borders, and poems that bear witness and revision connections between nature and humanity. I would like to start by looking at Kathleen Jamie’s poem, Meadowsweet which looks at acts of creation, and the Gaelic tradition of burying women poets face down in the earth.


Jean Johstone reads Kathleen Jamie’s Meadowsweet from her beautiful handmade book of the text.

In this poem, the poet is in her grave, supposedly dead, while summer seeds twine in her hair and grow towards the light, showing her the way out of her grave. At the end of the poem, enhanced by the natural world, the woman returns more vibrant than she was before, young again her mouth “full of dirt, and spit, and poetry”.  An entangling nature with the poetic, seems to enable a new way of being, humanity and nature being interconnected. In contrast with the “drab psalm” intoned at the poet’s funeral, which leaves her lifeless, the act of nature growing from her body gives her new life and restores her voice.

Maybe our inability to accept the blurring and connections of both humanity and the natural world have led to human dilemmas surrounding nature and a historically dualistic model of nature poetry and false construction of the world around us into spaces that are wilderness, and historically, must be tamed. In this blog I will be looking at our connections with the natural world, and how these might be expressed, through writing. Though I will mainly be looking at poetry, there will be discussion of other responses too, including prose, travel writing, visual arts and music.

This is the beginning of an evolving project, and my own poetic thoughts on it are below,



Given time,
rain and sunlight,

we unwind ourselves,
amongst the old things
rotting down to nothing,

and reach up to feel the air.
You cannot see us moving
beneath your feet, waiting

to emerge. Assertive shoots
persuade old roots to make room,
to step aside and part the way.

We can force through tarmac,
and concrete is no barrier
to many of us – so many of us.

Blind, we push up through
and beyond, knowing only
the pull of the sky.  We

hibernate in winter, burrowing in,
shadow sleepers, dreaming wheels
and spring rising, equipoise.

Not weeds, but ancestors,
hearts and hands, clawing through.
We cannot help our resurrection,

knowing only that we must rise again,
to inherit the loam, and exhale green
into the spaces that hold our place.