8th May, 2021

Crowd-sourced poem captures the arrival of spring

Rugby Editorial 21st Apr, 2021

Hundreds of people across Britain have contributed to a piece of nature poetry that details the nation’s feelings about the arrival of spring one year into the coronavirus pandemic.

The piece, Spring, An Inventory, by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, weaves together observations made by 400 members of the public on March 20 this year – the first official day of the season.

It reflects the frequency of words that appeared in the submissions, with lines such as ’51 blossoms on the cherry swell’ and ’35 suns in the speckled moss’.

The National Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which were behind the initiative, hoped it would show the role nature played in people’s lives during the year.

Contributions for the piece from people of all ages were collected on the National Trust’s social media channels over the weekend of March 20.

They included observations from gardens, local countryside and through windows.

Nature writer Dr Burnett said:

“It was a privilege to share in so many people’s experience of spring in this way.

“I chose the form of an inventory for the poem as a way of mapping common themes across submissions and presenting a more hopeful tally of numbers than we have been used to seeing in the past year – in fact, the word hope itself recurred 54 times.”

The project, which has been running for three years, follows a long tradition in nature writing of celebrating spring’s arrival.

In March last year, hundreds of people contributed to the creative essay Hope’s Heart Beats by Natasha Carthew.

Entries included descriptions of birdsong by people in self-isolation, sightings of wildlife through windows and reflections on health and family.

Celia Richardson, director of communications at the National Trust, said:

“After a year when we have consumed more facts and figures than ever before, this is a data set of a different kind.

“The feelings of relief and hope are palpable in the contributions – as is the sense of connection to nature.

“People have spent more time listening to birdsong and noticing wildlife this past year, and that appreciation of the small things in life, of everyday nature, really shines through.

“Given that the environment needs a helping hand now more than ever that can only be a positive thing.”

In a recent YouGov poll, more than one third of adults said they were now more aware of the changing seasons compared with the first lockdown.

More than two thirds of adults agreed or strongly agreed that spending time noticing nature around them had made them feel happier in the most recent lockdown.

– An extract from Spring, An Inventory:

Fifty-four hopes in the hardwood held,

slow, the hour brightens

through damp roots and fused shoots the pressure wells,

fifty-one blossoms on the cherry swell,

tiny beech leaves ripen.

Fifty-four hopes in the hardwood held

slow, the hour brightens.

Forty-four trees in the waking woods,

forty-one spilling gardens.

Five cherry trees where the blackbirds stood,

thirty-five joys through their gleaming broods,

thirty-eight buds nectar-guarding

in forty-four trees in the waking woods,

in forty-one spilling gardens.

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