Poetry Collection: Hermes with Gift by Dawn Wood, published 2011

 Published 2011

Copyright © 2011

ISBN 978-1-899796-24-3

Designed and typeset by Shona Norman BA (Hons), MBA

University of Abertay Dundee

Printed and bound in Scotland by the Abertay University Press

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Forbes’ de rerum natura

In the quest for knowledge, squirrels’ pouched paws

hooked on to pollen make the devils’ own work;

jerry-work hems, not in the same league of ruby,

make the angels’ , whose swift wings switch

and ruffle to coat a bucky-ball of their own alternate flour.

Incompatible as brandy-boilings and marbles,

there are enough worlds to go round, each mouth

sieving its element, hungry for the absence of purity.

That swallowed grit easily cradles the gooseberry bush

that gives rise to a monstrous pearl or a rose.

Hermes, however, follows his nose, snap-shots

of where he was at his heels and the look of budgerigars –

who’d buy a book of Peters and Pauls, caged?

Is he the god who doffs his bowler to grant

parking-spaces and cancellations? Certainly,

at his behest, luddites avoiding meetings bow

to blow blackberries at diligent attendees,

though strains of seas run dry will never threaten

that wickedly happy maverick playing

his murder-winking game – has he ripped

the smiles from those upper angels to ruche his boots,

or are they giving him gyp, being his powdery parasites?

Herculean advocate, his is the message to change things.

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Hermes with Gift

Dawn Wood

 This collection presents poems and images which relate to the human-nature relationship, based, as it is, on connection and disconnection, clarity and ambiguity, creation and destruction. The poems of Forbes’ de rerum natura are derived from a series of works created by the Scottish artist Ronald Forbes, during his Leverhulme Trust-sponsored residency at the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Perthshire. The poems and images draw on classical myths and literature: de rerum natura, for example, which can be translated both as On the Nature of Things, and On the Nature of the Universe, is the title of Lucretius’ poem on Epicureanism and early science. Lucretius’ poem, a manifesto on behalf of nature, scientific atomism, and Epicureanism, has significance well beyond the first-century BCE, when it was composed. It is a coherent and beautiful depiction of the natural universe as whole and creative. The title itself gives a clue to the power of language to express profound and mysterious relationships – the wholeness of things is related to the wholeness of the universe.

 Lucretius’ early science is contemplative, non-interventional, rational. How can poetry depict science? If science is understood as natural philosophy, then poetry can help. Lucretius demonstrates that poetry is mimetic – language, used creatively, can mimic the creativity of the whole universe. But visual art can also be mimetic, as Ronnie’s work shows, in his veils of paint which conceal and reveal connections between the twenty-first-century scientific quest, the myth of The Garden of Eden, and classical scenes with Arcadian gods. Laboratory-coated scientists have wandered from the usual remit of biotechnological research into landscapes derived from Cranach and Poussin. We could say that the scenery of the Scottish Crop Research Institute at the Carse of Gowrie is provisional – underneath lie other landscapes, other events. Before it played host to tunnels of raspberries and strawberries, the Carse was famed for its orchards. Adam and Eve hold an apple. This mythological scenario denotes the origins of agriculture, human hunger for knowledge, and usually raises the possibility of ethical implications.