Poetry en plein air

On a cold and drizzly Sunday morning in February a select group of hardcore poetry enthusiasts gathered for Matt Merritt’s Hidden Nature writing workshop on Attenborough Nature Reserve. I’d been planning this workshop for about a year now, and it’s turned out to be one of my favourites. Matt is not only a poet but also a wildlife journalist for Birdwatching magazine, so he knows his stuff and we went away buzzing with newfound knowledge.

Like that birds use motorways for navigation—and probably Long Eaton power station, which can be seen from 50 miles away—and take pit stops in the gravel pits excavated for motorway construction. That birds have a sub-song, a wintry, melancholic rehearsal of their song proper. That male and female robins look and sound alike (I’d always assumed the females were brown and speckled…and retiring creatures, spelt with a ‘y’, rather like female dwyrfs). And that some species of bird have local dialects which help ensure a mix of genes, as the females won’t mate with a male that sounds like he comes from less than 10 miles away.

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