Sarah Watkinson

In this collection, prize-winning poet Sarah Watkinson provides a unique glimpse of the natural world, seen through the eyes of a poet-scientist.

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Sarah Watkinson is Emeritus Research Fellow at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford. Her debut poetry pamphlet Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight won the 2016 Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize. She was inaugural Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods from 2019 and has co-organised annual science poetry conferences at the University of Oxford. She is married, with two children and four grandchildren, and lives in Oxfordshire and Northumberland.

In this vivid, wide-ranging and reflexively-aware collection, Sarah Watkinson is a poet who is also a scientist, rather than a scientist writing poetry. She brings knowledge and experience, professional and personal, to her poetry and demonstrates mastery of her medium. She addresses important and profound themes but always with a light touch - and humour is never far away. This is an impressive first collection - and a model of informed nature writing.
- Steve Ely, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Huddersfield

In this collection, Sarah Watkinson provides a unique glimpse of the natural world, seen through the eyes of a poet-scientist. Most of us are simply incapable of putting into words how we really feel about the animals and plants we study. Thank goodness we have Sarah to do it for us.
- Lindsay Turnbull, Director of Undergraduate Biology Teaching, University of Oxford

Postcard from the Cat

Of their many prostheses the saddest of all are forks
to correct clawlessness. So many,
and so many different. Detachable, ranked by size,
the smallest for pinning down food -
detestable, pre-killed pap. I pity

their soft bodies propped at tables, in their paws
unresponsive metal that will never retract,
never clutch and tear with the whole arm's force,
but instead turns weakly over into a mere scoop
to push mush between their hairless lips and pointless teeth.

They never drag in a bird fully-feathered
to eviscerate, each ripping off his own piece -
but place it, plucked and too hot to lick, on a table
for the Tom to take a two-clawed 'carving fork'
and fussily dissect: first legs and wings, then breast.

And neither of these 'dinner forks' is any use
to prepare a latrine. For that
they use a 'garden fork' in a fastidious hand;
turn and pat the earth, toss plants aside,
but then, forgetting their purpose, fail to perform.

From Six Villanelles

III. All One Breath

A body's how a genome meets the world;
the tree's an aqueduct from earth to sky.
Light sang to the shoot, and the frond unfurled.

Air's a strange country to the unborn child.
Our first-drawn breath's exhaled upon a cry;
the body, a new genome in the world.

Power swells in the plant cell, tight walled;
stems hunt the sun, the dark side giving way;
light sings the shoots up, and their fronds unfold.

Life on land is tensioned by Earth's hold;
braced and guided by her gravity,
each species fits a genome to the world.

Leaf to leaf, our crops have tiled the field
to harvest every photon from the day.
As light hits each new shoot, new layers unfold.

All that humans are, the trees foretold:
soul and mind and hand and heart and eye.
A body shows a genome to the world.
Light sings to the shoot and endless forms unfurl.

© 2021 Sarah Watkinson

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