The Henry Williamson Society

Flights of the Mind

Flights of the Mind

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This is Richard Williamson's first collection of poetry, containing 68 poems. Vividly descriptive, often poignant, these reflections on the natural world offer much to the reader.

by Richard Calvert Williamson. 72pp., paperback, Yew Tree Publishing, 2022. With linocut illustrations by John Davis.

This is Richard Williamson's first collection of poetry, containing 68 poems. Its provisional sub-title of ‘Thoughts – mainly about birds’, although omitted from the published book, is an appropriate and succinct appraisal of its contents.

Pam Waugh, reviewing the collection, writes that:

When you are holding Flights of the Mind in your hand, you will probably feel that you have an anthology of poetry about birds. And, indeed, you have. But Richard’s poetry is so much more than that. He will transport you into an atmospheric world of different landscapes, full of the colours of night and day, dawn and dusk; sometimes a corner, quiet and peaceful, sometimes a vast and wild space. Often you will hear music. In the midst of these vivid landscapes you will find birds – a very wide range of birds.

Richard’s powers of observation are without equal. As a lifelong naturalist his knowledge and experience of birds has developed from early childhood. He knows how birds live and die, how they react, their fears and their joys. In ‘Ring Ouzel’ the first line reads ‘The Brontës knew these birds’ and, immediately I can see north country moorland, wild and desolate. In contrast, the Treecreeper, ‘A bird just bigger than a bumble-bee / Creeps indecisive’. His words convey drama: the swifts scythe away our summer days’; the peregrine eyes a grouse ‘And like a javelin he makes his dive’.

In addition, there are fascinating stories. The ‘Nuthatch’ begins:

Was the nuthatch once a kingfisher

A million years ago?

And there is ‘The Fisherman’s Friend’, a gentle tale of mackerel fishing. The skipper has a pipe and ‘St Bruno’s wafted sweet around us’.

There are too many single lines, and verses, that I would like to quote, so just one more, the first verse of ‘Snow Buntings’:

Do you recall those birds we saw

Like living snowflakes on the shore

When we were young and cold was warm

And we could weather every storm.

Richard’s poetry is enhanced by the inclusion of seven beautiful linocuts by his friend John Davis, each one illustrating a poem.

You can refer to the characteristics of all these birds in your bird-spotting book. But if you want to immerse yourself in their lives and their world, you need this book.


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