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.
GIN & MORPHINE
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
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.