Wild Orchids: Simon Fletcher, Offa's Press

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Simon Fletcher is a freelance writer, editor and poet who lives in Shropshire, and has published a number of poetry collections. He runs workshops in green spaces and places, and was commended in last year’s Michael Marks Environmental Poet of the Year award.

His latest pamphlet collection is centred in a world of wild orchids and long-abandoned stone quarries, “these low worked-out limestone hills”, now the haunt of jackdaws and falcons. The opening, title poem of the collection contains Fletcher’s manifesto, with its echoes of the war poet Wilfred Owen, who was born locally in Oswestry, and the patriotism of another reluctant soldier, Edward Thomas:


     It’s often said that poets go to war

     to save their homes,

                                           the people, language, place,

     but I find love in all diversity,

     I’ll happily fight for this.


Simon Fletcher talks of polluted rivers and fields, and the need to re-wild the countryside, and takes poetic potshots at “oblivious” Sunday walkers, regarding them as intruders (‘Mist Walkers’). In ‘Daisy Riot’ he looks at two gardeners’ differing reactions to daisies in lawns, one eradicating them, the other nurturing: “Yet when we’re both no more, have clocked our hours, / we’ll both be pushing up the vivid flowers.”

Fletcher’s poem ‘Badger’ has those of Clare and Hughes on the same subject among its lineage. He focuses on that all-too-common sight, of a dead badger by the side of a road. He wonders whether the animal was dumped there, a victim of baiting:


     The frosted hairs are yet no clue,

     its face too mangled to be proof;

     the shape of death is all too clear,

     familiar scene, we drive off quick …


A key poem is ‘Under the Hill’, with the poet resting among his favourite landscape of old quarries:


     Along the track we think we see faint shapes

    of working men; one hammers odd-shaped stones,

     the other rests his weary hand on hip.   


Such a setting provides a haven:


     Then we stroll through the orchid fields, to gasp

     with pleasure, shock, at what old nature does

     when left alone to follow its own path.  


Towards the end of the collection there is a series of poems about climate change from a countryman’s point of view, citing evidence from what he has seen about him: heather burning on moors, wild flowers blooming out of season, species migrating, lost cuckoos. The final poem, ‘A Greener Song’, sums up his message of growing concern: “It doesn’t have to be like this, / we know the steps we have to take.”

Simon Fletcher’s tone in this collection is of celebration, warning, and protest. There is much well-observed detail to appreciate and delight in here, and much to be alarmed about as well.


Simon Fletcher, Wild Orchids, Offa’s Press, £7.75



◄ Earth Walker: Ros Woolner, Offa's Press

When did performance poetry get so serious? ►


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Stephen Gospage

Sat 27th May 2023 07:30

This sounds like a wonderful book, on the only subject that really matters now.

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