top of page

World Poetry Day 2020

poems of joy in solitude

When shall I at last retire into solitude alone, without companions, without joy and without sorrow, with only the sacred certainty that all is a dream? When, in my rags—without desires—shall I retire contented into the mountains? When, seeing that my body is merely sickness and crime, age and death, shall I—free, fearless, and blissful—retire to the forest? When? When, oh when?

Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek   

ubmitted by Tony Valsamidis

«Πότε λοιπόν, επιτέλους, θα τραβηχτώ στην ερημία -μονάχος, δίχως σύντροφο, με μόνο την άγια βεβαιότητα πώς όλα είναι όνειρο; - Πότε με τα κουρέλια μου -χωρίς επιθυμίες- θα τραβηχτώ χαρούμενος στο βουνό; - Πότε, βλέποντας πως το κορμί μου δεν είναι παρά αρsρώστια και φονικό, γεράματα και θάνατος -λεύτερος, άφοβος, όλο χαρά - θα τραβηχτώ στο δάσο; - Πότε; πότε; πότε;»

from The Garden

Andrew Marvell

Fair quiet, have I found thee here,

And Innocence thy Sister dear!

Mistaken long, I sought you then

In busie Companies of Men,

Your sacred Plants, if here below,

Only among the Plants will grow.

Soviety is all but rude,

To this delicious solitude.

                       Grails of light...

                  Gary Bills. Ledbury


A low breeze rising pleats the rolling cloud;

Engenders calm. Our heads, for fear of gales,

Tilt skywards to that certain darkening

As beds of shadows rock upon the sea.

High, in the swaddling vapours, squalls are born

As light pays homage. Meanwhile, on the land,

The leaves swept rattling over cottage roofs

Announce the stirring drum-taps of a storm...


...And yet, a dawn will break from time to time

Like grails of light slow-poured upon the sea,

To fleck the darkest waves and make them fair;

The fabric of the ocean's golden-lined.

Sometimes the Sounds are still, the sea-paths safe

When grey geese wing towards their northern lakes

And breezes stir a billow in the sail

As if by some decree; and I have faith.

from The Echo and the Breath, Peterloo 2001

End of the day

Patrick Williamson

Friday. Time passes. The black crow

cloaked by shadow –

slump into armchairs, stoke the coals.


Huddled, the flickering stops

abruptly, test card, hum, listen.


It whistles out there. Drift

leaves, drizzle, nothing.

The Pomegranate Tree  ('Punica Granatum')

Ailenn Ballantyne

In Isola San Giulio
at Elisa’s palazzo,
if she lets you in,
you can climb the four steps
to the fleur-de-lys door,
lean into her garden for the 'melograna',
hold the tree’s fruit in your hand,
all supple yellow leather,

those four ruby tears to tempt a daughter,
unformed still,

and October
just another word for summer.

Extract from 'The Children's Tree', in Aileen Ballantyne's debut poetry collection, "Taking Flight" published by Luath Press.

Dawn Chorus in Amherst

 Maggie Butt


Afterwards the lonely coo of a pigeon

and the rush-of-the-wind in the trees,

a long distant echo dyingaway

while the birds go quiet down the walk


as if they’d never sparked up a firework display

of song, erupting overoneanother in chrysanthemum

bursts of scarlet-and-bronze, comets-rising,

rockets-soaring and exploding in rainbowstars,


counterpointed Catherinewheels, waterfalls, 

Romancandles, silverfountains, goldenrain,

pyrotechnics louder even than our clamours

as their siren throats swelled with air and hope


to exhale a spectacular finale, a technicolour

torrent-of-sound, reminding, insisting, in spite

of everything – there is joy in the world,

there is so much joy.


Caroline Carver. Cornwall


talk to your tree       it knows you’re there   

reads you like a spectrograph assessing its patient

for evidence of voiceprints insta-messaging

cosmic shifts   virtual waterfalls


you don’t look too good, sweetie


the others riffle their leaves and sigh

they too want to hug and be hugged by you


a goldfinch flits from tree to tree

and the new stream is so busy with love    

it’s laying out footprints of moss

maiden hair fern    and the welcoming rockfoil


 ‘hygge’ is Danish for happy encounters, togetherness


            Alwyn Marriage

The windows are rattling,
the light inside the room is dim

and outside, so far, so near,
the storm is raging.

A fat pigeon lands on a branch
just beyond the glass,

sways, too heavy for the delicate
tracery of bare winter-clean twigs

and looks at me. Does he wish
we could change places?

or is he just clinging on as hard
as possible, waiting for calm to ret


Miriam Calleja Shaw. Malta

Disregard my tangled breaths

Quieten down my beating drums

Don’t listen to my skin vibrating

Ignore the haste,

The rush, that’s bursting out of every pore

Don’t look back

At me

As I come apart

Rest assured

And please be sure

That I will rise again


link to Miriam Calleja Shaw

You and your stars

Rebecca Bilkau. Germany


And finally you stop the argy bargy

with the planisphere, set the telescope

aside, stop yearning for an astrolabe


for dummies. Admit all you ever wanted

was to loll in A Girl’s Own Story Book

of the Sky, unencumbered by science.


Your favourite star is the one on the left:

orange, it’s called Seraphina Springsteen

after your first bicycle and The Boss:


the gendrification is incidental,

incidental and will change the next time

you look up, as might your favourite star.


The glimmering constant is you, titchy,

far off – even from yourself, if you’re honest.

you and your star are lovers, pets, cosy


as loners sharing a bus. You're silent,

but know the air joins you, shivering,

made-for-each-other, tricks of the light.

from 'instructions for a quiet life' , Oversteps 2018

Veronica Aaronson 11th April, Iona

Alone in the garden of the Heritage Centre
I’m spooning courgette and garlic soup
sprinkled with white flowers,
enjoying the new-born green of sycamore leaves,
the contrast of the three-cornered leeks against the dry-stone wall
with the aw, aw, aw of rooks filling my head
every bud of me
into blossom.

Jenny kiss'd me

Leigh Hunt


Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

In Forests (a sevenling)

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley. Penzance


In forests all things green and brown unfurl.

Pale tendrils, creeping roots, and leaping leaves

in shadows tend to sweet conspiracies.

There insects scuttle, burrow into loam, while

squirrels chatter, skittering through trees. 

A priestly jay’s blue-painted wings speak sudden prophecies.

Life’s thus construed, and heaven leaves us full.



 Maggie Butt


Groping into our bedroom in the summerdark

to deter moths, midges and mosquitos

by closing windows before lighting-up the house,

I’m puzzle-stopped by the sight of fairylights

looped through the trees across the road

glistering and sashaying in the nightbreeze.

Clichés vault-to-mind – chinks of champagne

glasses, a saxophone riffing on summertime,

high-voices bubbling in the humid air.


I look-and-look, then slip out to investigate,

staring up at the jitterbugging illuminations

until what I’m seeing clicks into place,

satisfying as lego, or the last jigsaw piece,

and I realise it’s the shimmering gloss

of holly leaves, of glistening ivy glazed

with linden-sap, flecked silver by streetlamp,

star-tipped for nobody but themselves,

decked with nothing but their own glory.

To read: The Prisoner's Wife by Maggie Butt


Staying Alive, real poems for unreal times, edited by Neil Astley. Bloodaxe

Gill Learner

Some days

have a light of their own –

like long-dead stars

they shine for centuries.

That day was one.

Forever, larks

launched from a hillside

where dogs and shadows race

towards blue distances,

will evoke those eyes,

that laugh

and an hour to two

of borrowed happiness.

bottom of page