IRON PRESS Editor PETER MORTIMER is branching out into the natural world.
I spotted a news item this week - squeezed between 48 pages of Brexit news - that the Ministry of Education is to encourage tree climbing.
This somehow seems far too imaginative an idea to emerge from any ministry office, especially the Min of Ed, known for decades of stultifying and soul destroying directives on how best not to ‘educate’ our children.
No matter. Climbing trees is not simply for children. I have often done it often myself over the years and were I not now 186 years old, I would still do it more frequently. Climbing and being a part of a tree is a spiritual experience that puts us strongly in touch with the natural world and thus helps regain something lost in our age of staring endlessly at screens of various sizes. To be edging along a tree branch brings an extraordinary mixture of calmness and adrenalin, plus a sense that for a short time you and tree are as one.
Trees say nothing but express everything. They have no need of travel, speech or learning yet somehow seem to possess great wisdom. Not long back I read the marvellous book, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books). This inspired me in many ways. Firstly to relate much more to trees, so that myself and my partner Kitty now head off at every opportunity simply to spend a few hours walking in woodland. Being close to Northumberland, you can do such a thing usually in splendid isolation, miles of deserted tranquil wood or forest in which the soul is slowly rediscovered.
But it also led me to literary activity. Suddenly I wanted IRON Press to bring out an anthology of new tree poems and I wanted to be one of the editors. Such a collection needs a male and a female editor so I asked the poet Eileen Jones to join me. Eileen has successfully edited two previous IRON poetry anthologies, a task entailing a great deal of work, virtually no pay or recognition and endless complaints from writers whose contributions you have declined.
The work can also be stimulating and you come into contact with a whole host of authors previously unknown to you. Some, you need to keep at arm’s length, some you hope never to hear from again, but the majority make it worthwhile.
I sent an email to Broadleaf, the fine monthly magazine of the Woodland Trust and they agreed to print a piece on the planned collection, suggesting readers send their poems to IRON Press. This has already led to a whole clutch of tree bards submitting their work.
When approaching Broadleaf looking for publicity, I sent them a copy of a new tree poem of my own just to show them the sort of thing. They are not a poetry publication and don’t usually publish the stuff. This poem won’t be in the anthology; the IRON rule being that anthology editors are excluded from collections they put together, but Broadleaf offered to publish it along with the article. Which they did. And so you may as well see it also. I hope you like it.
If it, or anything else inspires you to write some tree poetry, why not submit it to our Trees anthology? Still plenty of time, though first check our website www.ironpress.co.uk for guidelines. Good writing! Good climbing! And all hail the Ministry of Education!
Though it could take time
Find a tree that is yours.
When you are certain, stand
A breath’s distance away.
For a required period
Let your time
Be the tree’s time.
Like the tree, expect nothing.
At a certain moment
something will pass between you;
Do not leave before this moment
Or the time will be just time
The tree, no more than a tree
And you, no more than human.