Winged Collectives

The quartet of poems here need little explanation. What links them is their number. And, as I write, this is after a few hours dancing Biodanza with Olga Bastable facilitating and where, as a group, we became birds. [The heron is one of Biodanza’s four creatures which we embody through dance regularly].

It reminded me that birds find safety in numbers and that we, too, are not solitary creatures (even if our companions are sometimes only four-legged or - at worst - made of pixels).

Photo Credit Barth Bailey | Unsplash

Photo Credit Barth Bailey | Unsplash

We start with a poem the penning of which made me aware of the insatiable hunger to write. I was transported from the middle of a maths lesson to an ethereal place, landing with a goose quill in my hand. My wise Form Teacher, Elaine Worsfold, left me in peace. I owe her a lifetime gratitude, not only for that, but for teaching me the joy of precis, of which (to me) poetry is its highest form.

Volery, congregation, assemblage, flight, host, raft, sedge, peep, fleet, covert, murder, dole, love, convocation, parliament, charm, gaggle, wedge, lag, trembling, leash, party, deceit, tiding, richness, stare, pride, rookery, bevy, mustering, mutation, knob, chime... to mention a few.
— Feathered Facts Sourced from Steve Palin

‘Birds of a feather flock together’. The ways and the words for these various ‘flockings’ are themselves multitudinous and have their own lexicon. Here are a few entries with thanks to Steve Palin and his beautiful illustrations from ‘A Murmuration of Starlings’ many of them onomatopoeic .


And although it may sit better in the Tea House, the poem below celebrates four of these collective nouns, although it tells a slightly sorry tale… I have waived copyright on the poem so you are free to share it (with accreditation) if you wish:

Come Alone

I prided myself in bringing all of me to the table
but I never came alone…
assumptions in my pocket
a volery of adjectival missiles ready should you use
your mobile phone

I prided myself in bringing all of me to the table
but I never came alone…
a parliament of owls passed silent judgement
on your chat - all fluff no bone

I watch how nature brings herself to my table
hungry, feathered in the soft unknown
can I join your small talk murmuration?
could we be a fall of woodcock here?
can I speak of weather, cake and tea
discovering as I meet the one of you
the one of me?

We close with a poem read by Chris Barltrop, since it emerged out of a conversation and he was also the person who gave me Steve Palin’s book - thanks for both! To hear it best, put a gentle index finger on your lips…

P.S. When I wrote ‘The Geese’ I submitted it to the school Poetry Prize - and won it! It’s the first, and to-date the last, prize I’ve ever won for poetry and it was totally unexpected… like the utterly unexpected tales which follow.

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