Four New Animal Poems

As a species, some of our first forays into art were inspired by the animal kingdom, suggesting that underpinning all our most scrutinised later taxonomies there has always been a creativity and a sense of wonder. In the late eighteenth century, even at the dawn of our more systematic studies, Gilbert White suggested that: ‘Faunists, as you observe, are too apt to acquiesce in bare descriptions, and a few synonyms: the reason is plain; because all that may be done at home in a man’s study, but the investigation of the life and conversation of animals is a concern of much more trouble and difficulty, and is not to be attained but by the active and inquisitive.’ This week we have four new ‘active and inquisitive’ poems from Paul Hyland, Michael Rose-Steel and Isabel Galleymore that explore animals and our relationship with them.




by Paul Hyland


The vet came from a liquid lunch

to drench the bloated cow

with emulsion and morphine.


I stood firm, bracing myself

against the beast’s swollen belly

as the drunken man punctured it


with a cannula under the ribs.

The cow let a small bellow

leak from her throat, while


foul air pissed out steadily

filling the stall with stench

spiked by the vet’s breath.


We strained to keep the cow

upstanding, and us on our feet.

I think I slept and dreamt


myself hunched under a hot cloud

of cow, suffering evil weather

and waking intoxicated, aching,


to late sunlight in the yard,

the vet revving his Jaguar

the cow upright and deflated.






by Mike Rose-Steel

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by Mike Rose-Steel


What is the ‘what is’ of it all

in the marbled eye of an eagle-owl?

This eye, that turns a head that turns

a wing to catch a mouse, is

all vowel, a drawn-out empty fall

into the wind’s growl

and what it sees lags off what it learns

from the rustle in night-grass.






by Isabel Galleymore


Once, Barnacle was a larva
passing through 5 instars.


This was his most creative period –
voicing his body differently


in response to the waters

that warmed or cooled.


Then Barnacle committed

to the underneath of Endeavour.


Barnacle is cemented
to this boat by his forehead:


a tiny writer hunched over a desk
in the corner of a squat ivory tower.


He travels the world without realising –

only sometimes his operculum doors


slide open and his feathery limbs

filter, select, draw the outside in.





Paul Hyland is an award-winning poet and travel writer who lives in Dorset. He has published travel writing, literary criticism and guides to writing poetry. His Art of the Impossible: New and Selected Poems was published in 2004 by Bloodaxe and collects together poems published since 1974.


Mike Rose-Steel is a PhD student exploring the inexpressible and the limits of language in poetry and philosophy. He is also a founding member of the poetry collective exEgesis, a group responsible for all manner of poetry ‘happenings’ in the South West.


Isabel Galleymore is a PhD student at the University of Exeter where she is researching the role of metaphor in ecopoetics and nature writing with the support of the AHRC. Her poems have featured in Poetry Review, Poetry London and other magazines.


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