New York born, but raised in London, Mark Waldron was in his early 40s when he began writing poetry. He has gone on to publish four collections, two with Salt – The Brand New Dark (2008) and The Itchy Sea (2011) – and two with Bloodaxe; Meanwhile, Trees (2016) and Sweet, Like Rinky-Dink (2019).
In March, Waldron had been set to join us for an evening of poetry inspired by the natural world in a special edition of National Poetry Library Lates celebrating Hayward Gallery’s exhibition, Among the Trees. But with our current closure meaning the unfortunate cancellation of that event, he instead provided a poem from his latest collection, for us to share here on our website. But before that, we also asked the poet to do as many of us our right now, and consider how we can bring the outside world into our indoor existence.
Southbank Centre: ‘Bringing the outside in’ – what does that mean to you?
Mark Waldron: Bringing the outside in, or the inside out, can make things visible in a new way. Everything is animated by its context. I bought a plain little stick home from the park a little while ago and gave it a bit of prime real estate on my mantelpiece. It quickly took on an immense, sweet power and gentleness. It made even the prospect of death bearable.
Describe as best you can the image which comes to mind when you think of ‘outside’
I think of the corneas of my eyes as windows. Everything beyond those windows is outside. There is a tendency to drag everything that exists outside in, and make it part of the inside, heat it up a bit with the body’s warmth, and scent it with the body’s scent. Writing, for me, is partly a struggle with that tendency.
Have you got a favourite tree? And perhaps a second favourite?
As a child I had favourite trees. I had trees I could communicate with. Now I’m old enough to know better, so I can’t communicate with trees at all. I still have favourite types of tree though. Elms (which were almost completely wiped out in my teens) and oaks. Those were the tree families I felt most able to connect with when I was a boy.
Please tell us a bit about the poem you're sharing with us, ‘Trees, Breeze and Rabbits’.
It’s through nature that I’ve felt most connected to my own life. As a child I think I was a pantheist without knowing that the term existed. This poem is the most recent of a few I’ve written which have expressed a kind of mock-ambivalence towards nature and trees in particular. I think I go there because saying the opposite of what I feel seems more vivid than saying what I actually feel. Or perhaps I access what I mean by saying its opposite.
by Mark Waldron
Trees are made out of wood in
a deplorable waste
of a scarce resource that could have
been used to fashion cots for orphans,
or wooden legs for victims
of industrial accidents.
Just look at those nasty trees flaunt
their leaves, each one a tra-la-la.
“Suck it up!” say the trees,
and the giggling breeze wantons
in their leaves.
What a horrid nincompoop,
what a waste of space the breeze
is, with its heartlessness
and its insubstantiality!
And the rabbits, each, in itself,
just a small portion of meat,
but add them all up, add up all
the world’s rabbits, and then
they’re one enormous bunny.
A behemothic rodent which could
mindlessly hop on top of my house
and crush my wife and children
as well as myself as I attempt
to rescue them. I hate you all,
trees, breeze, and most of all, rabbits.
‘Trees, Breeze and Rabbits’ was originally published by Granta, and then in the poet’s 2019 collection, Sweet, Like Rinky-Dink (Bloodaxe)
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