'Great White Heron' by Chris Hubbard is Write Out Loud Poem of the Week

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The new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is ‘Great White Heron’ by Chris Hubbard. The poem is about a heron seen in the Loire valley in France, but is also about eagles circling above. In his responses to our questions Chris nominated “the natural world” as his best source of inspiration “in all its majesty and intricacy”. Chris is an Englishman who now lives in Perth, Australia. It is the second time that he has had a Poem of the Week.

 

Is poetry an important part of your life and can you remember when and why it became so?

Poetry is certainly an important part of my life, and has been for something like twenty-three years (1994). I was starting a bachelor degree in social sciences in that year, and included a unit on creative writing almost on a whim. I was hooked on poetry from that point on. I found I enjoyed it for the creative freedom it gave me, and as a foil for the heavy lifting of my degree major units. I just found poetry exhilarating in a way that my other creative activities (oil painting and sketch portraiture) did not approach. There was also the slightly daunting aspect of exposing one's inner life to the big bad world; "flying without a safety net", if you like.

 

If you could only have one poet’s work to read (desert island book) which one would you choose and why?

My desert island book would have to be Dante's Divine Comedy, especially in Clive James' new translation, which I have dipped into recently and enjoyed. There are few truly transformative works of literature, and this is one of those few.

 

How do you think your poetry style has changed since you started writing?

I do think my poetry style has become more eclectic over the years, as well as being more self-assured, which is to be expected I suppose, if only as a result of the amount of practice I have given myself!

 

Do you perform your work and if so, what advice would you give to other young poets like yourself just starting out? If not would you like to in the future?

I have performed my poetry a grand total of once. This was my other POTW work ‘Lost’ at the Northbridge Cafe here in Perth. I was really nervous at the time - unusual for an ex-university lecturer, I suppose, but that's a measure of the effort I put into each poem I write. By the way, I'm no spring chicken at the ripe old age of 64. More of the same is in my "to do" list, although my travel itineraries have so far put a big crimp in this aspiration. I will be doing ‘Great White Heron’ for certain at the same venue.

My advice to young poets starting out is just to give it a go. Many people are scared rigid by the prospect of talking to groups of people on a stage and behind a microphone, but I can guarantee that the process is relatively painless, and also ego-boosting to boot. I remember reading a quotation from William Carlos Williams, essentially urging aspiring poets to ignore the rigidity of formal or accepted ”poetical” forms and to set their art free.

 

What inspires you most when gathering material for new poetry?

My inspiration comes from many sources, of course, but I would nominate the natural world in all its majesty and intricacy as top of the tree (pun intended!). Needless to say, I will always put off what I'm doing when a David Attenborough documentary is coming on.

 

 

GREAT WHITE HERON

by Chris Hubbard

 

A great white heron struts through

tangled water meadows

in search of boneless morsels:


 

eyes fixed, silent in stealth,

its dagger-beak sudden

doom for fry and fingerlings;


 

now stops, stretches shuddering,

lifts alabaster wings asplay,

and springs in air,


 

stick-legs dangling, describes

a leaping spiral, its neck retracted

in an 'S' of disdain;


 

indifferent to hungry

short-toed eagles,

gliding above, silently.


 

Below, on the damp reed-bed's

prospect, made jagged by sedges

and smoothed by quiet waters,


 

the big white bird alights as

day falters; becomes

by degrees a shadow puppet,


 

intricately displayed as

a rich screen silhouette

by the brief and falling sun;


 

the wide Vienne at Chinon,

for a moment a dimmed backdrop

to une ombre chinoise.


 

On its darkling concrete banks

human predators stir, quietly

fingering dagger-blades,


 

seem to hunt their prey

for an evening feed,

shrinking from last light


 

as eagle-eyed gendarmes

pick out a crouching figure

on a grassy levee:


 

torch lights, shouted orders;

another boneless morsel

in the bag.

 

 

 

 

 

◄ 'God's eyes were stained glass, and his voice was pipe organ'

Katherine Pierpoint wins £2,000 Troubadour prize ►

Comments

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Chris Hubbard

Mon 11th Dec 2017 13:06

Hi Ray
I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. I think that too many people ignore or just cannot see the infinite beauty that surrounds us everywhere; from the mundane or everyday, the smallest to the greatest, the natural world is its own poetry, its own reality. I hope David Attenborough would agree.
Thanks again.
Chris

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raypool

Sun 10th Dec 2017 21:47

The pace and languid style really support the nature of the bird Chris; I have tried the three line approach and always find that it leaves air to breathe yet impels one on. A really lovely studied poem that inspired us to consider the subject. I wonder if David Attenborough appreciates poetry? If so this would be a fitting study for him. Congratulations on being chosen this week.

Ray

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Chris Hubbard

Fri 8th Dec 2017 14:52

Hi Adrian,
Yes, the pace of a poem is something I'm interested in exploring. It connects in some ways as poems used for storytelling and is important in portraying many aspects of life, from relationships to people in landscapes.

Another aspect, I believe, is working towards engaging your reader by using carefully drawn detail and background to draw him or her along with you as you lay out your context and ideas.
I sometimes use contrast, such as light and dark, and complementarity here as well.
All the best,
Chris

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adrian metcalf

Fri 8th Dec 2017 00:11

I love the pacing, really really good. In fact, I’ll try that style in my next poem!

Also your imagery is very nice. It’s soft and delicate like the bird and what, presumably, you intended.

Nice work,
Adrian

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Chris Hubbard

Thu 7th Dec 2017 12:15

Hi Jon,
Many thanks for your comments. I remember when writing it that the structure slipped into place quite easily. That's a good reason, I think, for using one's own experiences as the foundation for engaging your audience.
All the best,
Chris

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Chris Hubbard

Thu 7th Dec 2017 12:09

Hi Hanna,
Thank you for your generous comment. I think your advice to read the poem three times is wise and useful. Most creative efforts return a second or third viewing to an audience. There is usually plenty more to absorb.
Chris

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Hannah Collins

Wed 6th Dec 2017 19:54

A very special poem. The beauty and the danger.
Read it three times.

Hannah

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Jon

Wed 6th Dec 2017 10:24

Hi Chris
Beautiful poem. I came away with a sense of wonder for the Heron due to your description. Very clever to start and end with both the Heron and then people fishing.
Also the bird itself being visually seen as part of a shadow puppet type display (for a moment a dimmed backdrop to un ombre chinoise) is worded stunningly.
Well done also on Poem Of The Week. Well deserved.

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Chris Hubbard

Wed 6th Dec 2017 01:32

Hi Martin,

Thank you so much for your kind words. There is nothing quite like the critique of one's peers to provide reassurance that you're on the right track.

It is a privilege to be able to provide enjoyment (and receive appreciation!) through this excellent online community, and beyond.

Chris

Martin Elder

Tue 5th Dec 2017 09:56

A great poem Chris and a wonderful description here. I also draw inspiration from the natural world whenever I can although not as you have done with this superb piece.
congratulations on POTW. I look forward to reading more of your work

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Chris Hubbard

Tue 5th Dec 2017 01:39

My thanks to both Graham and Colin. Chinon itself feels like it's in a medieval time warp. I stayed in a Fourteenth Century wooden house on the Grand Carroi which happens to feature as a photograph in Wikipedia's entry for the town.

I will have to come up with some more French "travelogues".

Chris

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Colin Hill

Mon 4th Dec 2017 17:01

It is always a pleasure to read your work Chris and as I missed this one when first posted I am very grateful that it has been picked for POTW. Well done! And thank you for providing such interesting responses to the Q&A's.

The natural world is certainly a great provider of inspiration and for that reason alone surely we should take the utmost care of what we have around us - for ourselves and future generations. All the best, Colin.

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Graham Sherwood

Mon 4th Dec 2017 09:52

I know Chinon very well (was there as recently as October) and this piece depicts the wildlife of the area perfectly.

What continually amazes me is how such a graceful bird (whilst standing) can turn into such an ungainly mess (in flight). Captured well in this piece.

Well done Chris.

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