“The Frantic Clamour of Spring”: an anthology

11 diverse responses to the theme of 'The Frantic Clamour of Spring.

Introduction to “The Frantic Clamour of Spring” by Amanda Tuke (workshop co-leader, anthology curator and nature-writer)

Contributed by 11 nature-writers, these are eleven diverse responses to the theme of The Frantic Clamour of Spring. These ultra-short Thumbnail Nature pieces are the astonishing output from a nature-writing workshop held on the 17th of April 2021 as part of the Festival of the Great North Wood which was jointly led by myself, Great North Wood nature-writer-in-residence and Jane Adams, a Dorset nature-writer.

Nature-writing on the theme of spring often leads to a plethora of clichés, but not among these pieces.

From Kerry Brown’s ‘mousebrown pingpong ball’ and Alan Newland’s ‘puffed-up tit’ to Antje Ayala-Torales ‘Green Arrows’, there’s a fresh new take on the ultimate spring cliché - the dawn chorus.

Bonnie L. Boucek’s ‘thawing season’, Sarah Keevil’s swamp where ‘eggs lie ready to burst’ and Rebecca Zimmerman’s ‘cacophany of languages’ all hint at an ambivalence towards the season.

In a contemplative mood, Nicola Hunt writes that ‘the beginning is also an end’ while Sarah Wheeler smells the ‘scent of memory’.

And, finally, Britta Benson celebrates the sheer exuberance of spring in a ‘frothy orgy of frog’ as does Leah Watt in the ‘frantic yelp’ of dogs and Rosemary Cantwell with swallows ‘nuzzling in eaves’.

Enjoy!

This was made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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The rumble and grind of traffic, like giants gargling pebbles.  Constant background humming of cars. Eclipsed by birdsong; rattling magpies, reedy robin, tuneful blackbird, electronic starlings. But I win, I outsing them all. A tiny mousebrown pingpong ball with a machine gun call, louder than everyone. I am here. The Wren.

Painting of a wren, perched on a branch

Wren by Kerry Brown

Kerry Brown, a Hertfordshire girl born and bred,
loves nothing more than sitting with
a cuppa and slice of fruit cake while watching
the avian antics in her tiny suburban garden

 

A breeze’s sigh, then the wind blew the wrong way, heaving the North Circular’s drone over the top, spoiling an April blue dawn. A modest dunnock - trilling from a sycamore’s highest branch, sang for a mate but found a foe. A puffed-up tit - lower, louder, shrilling higher still.

Alan Newland teaches and writes about education
but does so from his north London garden
(in summer) or looking at it (in winter)
listening to birds.

 

 

The bird voices blend into a joyous symphony, the robin’s clarion call complementing the urgent whisper of the wren. The blackbird soars above them all, a tenor to the wood pigeon’s baritone. Overhead, a pandemonium of parakeets screeches loudly. I look up and witness the fly-past of the Green Arrows.

Antje Ayala-Torales, originally from Germany,
loves exploring the small outdoors in
London's beautiful local parks and her garden

 

The oppressive cacophony  of shivering, sheltering green leaves hide away the darkest secrets Nature births every thawing season. Rough-skinned trees cloak the poisoned perfume of dainty luscious scarlet and white berries dotting the branches. Unsuspecting, wary travelers seek refuge within this wonderland – soon trapped inside the insidious web of Nature.

Bonnie L Boucek

 

At the swamp, ducks drift through dark webs of drowned trees, where eggs lie ready to burst with soft down. As I approach home, two uprooted blackbirds swoop towards my hair. I gaze up at torn metal flashings now covered with wire, ashamed to have drawn them into the light.

Sarah Keevil grew up in Ontario, Canada,
where summers at her cottage on Lake Temagami
inspired a lifelong love of nature.

 

Spring is not silent. It is a cacophony of languages- cheery chatter from squirrels climbing trees, throaty croaks from frogs squishing in mud, squawks and chirps from birds advertising, “For a good time, call me.” Silence means one thing - predators approaching. Either sound must die, or an animal will.

Rebecca Jania Zimmerman grew up in Chicago, IL, USA, but she decided to call northeast Wisconsin home after college
and loves being able to write about the nature
found inside and outside her city.

 

Light slices into the room
sliding down the curtain edge.
Dawn.
A symphony of song.
Unlimited, unrestricted, unadulterated.
Familiar phrases startle me from my sloth
then, a hoot of an owl.
The beginning is also an end.

As a child Nicola Hunt would write
stories about the creatures in the garden inspired by the colourful birds and insects visiting
the feeders and flowers.

 

They pierce the near-night silence, even before the Overground rumbles. Robin calls, sharp and insistent. Blackbird, shrill and strident, sends a warning volley.

Early sunlight strokes my sleep cold face. Wild garlic and crushed bluebells, the scent of memory, drift through an open window. Like this London morning, welcoming Spring.

Sarah Hill Wheeler.
Fledgling writer, sometime urbanite,
returned to her rural Wiltshire roots
to build nests and dream

 

 

Narcissus bends down
his curious yellow head,
gasping unashamedly
into our garden pond,
his mouth wide open,
drooling into this witch’s
cauldron of earthly delights:
Spring’s bubbling potion,
this frothy orgy of frog upon
frog, of sun and pot luck,
the ingredients of life.

Britta Benson is a happiness-blogging,
circus-skill-instructing
& common-butterfly-following German,
a writer, performer & linguist living in Scotland,
her chosen habitat since the year 2000.

 

 

A cockapoo greets a friend with sharp, happy snaps
A boxer interrupts with frantic, urgent yelps
and across the park, a breed I cannot see lets rip a reverberating howl, like when we were kids, the noise we used to signal to each other playing Hiding in the Big House.

Leah Watt lives in North London
and hangs out in the park a lot.

 

Swallows sweep swooping
Sailing by sunshine
Rays of hope and light
Beam through my window
Nuzzled in eaves
Nests of fledglings
Learning to fly
Swallows in spring

Rosemary Cantwell.
Art for hope, joy, peace and goodwill worldwide