Monday, April 21, 2008

Find and keep

(This piece is also posted here)

A couple of months ago the Guardian Poetry workshop had a very interesting exercise designed by a poet called David Morley.The exercise requires us to find poetry in nature or descriptions of nature. Morley says that very often even the most prosaically intended, quasi-scientific descriptions of natural things and phenomenon in such material as field guides can be astonishingly beautiful; he is very right.

Being a birder and Indian I naturally turned to Salim Ali. My difficulty then was to choose a passage; they were all variously lovely. So I opened a page at random as suggested. I just took most of what I found and placed it in a ‘live’ context. It (the context) happened to be the intended one and one I am most familiar with.

Here’s the result-


Could it be

the unmistakable cousin of the Indian Pond Heron

Upper parts chestnut-cinnamon


Stripe down foreneck

Strike two.

Female duller

A male then.





very similar to those of a Little Green Heron

Bookmark and flip:

When surprised

on its nest

or cornered assumes

characteristic attitude of the tribe

termed the ‘on guard’.

Ocular note:

Neck stretched perpendicular,

bill pointing skyward,

the bird freezes,

astonishingly obliterated

amongst its reedy environment.

That’s a wrap.

But just to know:

Nests – in the south west monsoon

Nest – a small twig platform

Eggs – four or five


Note: Chestnut Bittern; nos: 1