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Each year the fledglings fall from cornered nests

into a perpetuity of sky, to sleep

in sky, wheeling on the upflown heat

and falling only to the muddy musts

of prodigy, clinging briefly, beaks

full of captured wings to fuel the future

that soon will drop in turn, footless, into light.


                 from; APUS APUS by copland smith








Beach glass


The Last Entomologist

A Woman Peeling Apples   

a male poet sits between two mirrors

Llais craig yn syrthiaw

Apus apus [Apodidae]





1 – BIOGRAPHY:  copland smith


copland smith, always small case, once a mathematician and ecologist, is a poet, fiction writer, songwriter, playwright, translator, essayist, Guardian letter-writer, naturalist, photographer and writing teacher. Born and adopted in Liverpool, brought up in Wallasey and North Wales, he now lives in Manchester, where he runs Manky Poets.

copland writes both serious and light verse, and has won many poetry prizes, including three times being amongst the runners-up in The National Poetry Competition - he was on the shortlist again last year. He has been published in many magazines, anthologies and in his, so far, only collection, one-eyed seller of garlic. The title is the answer to a particularly stupid Old English riddle.









We like to go on bike-rides,

explore deserted houses.

She laughs as every joke glides

as silky as her blouse is

and I would like to do it

with Arabella Hewitt.


She joins us in the garden

for tea, and whispers Salt please.

Of course, I stammer “pardon.”

She whispers pass the salt please

She knows I want to do it

does Arabella Hewitt


We seem to talk for hours

of Plath and Robert Lowell

and when we’re caught in showers

I dry her with a towel

and very nearly do it

with Arabella Hewitt.


At uni, off my head.

In love. Exalted. Smitten.

She married Tim, and said

I thought you would have written.

I never did quite do it

with Arabella Hewitt.


Arabella - The Best of Manchester Poets (anthology, 2009)


Beach glass


Ignoring the jet and quartz and amber,

you push aside the more ordinary stones

and in between these and the sea’s usual lumber

of crabshell, polystyrene and fishbones

you find tokens of translucent green:

sea-smoothed glass, in curve-cornered squares,

or triangles, that have lost all sheen,

all transparency.

“Whales’ tears,”

you say, collecting them to keep.

White is rarer, blue almost extinct,

and this green has faded from its deep


Once someone drained their drink

and tossed this bottle seaward. Or maybe

some castaway stoppered in an SOS.


The ocean worked. It stripped the label,

used stones to crack the glass

and filed away at the jagged edges,

then it spat the kernels out on this shore


for you to gather,

to make into badges,

or to drop in your mantelpiece jar.


Greenness goes, and transparency, in time,

from bottles,

from you and me —

I guess that was us in our prime.

And we’re not as we used to be.


Beach glass - rain dog (magazine, 2005)




I’ve reached the end of chapter one;

  I have some inkling of the plot

but when I look at what I’ve done,

  there’s nothing quite defined.

Nothing to say that what I’ve got

  is worth the trouble. I may find

            It’s not.


The Preface/Prologue took

  the best half of my life.

I may omit it from the book.

  I’ve reached the end of chapter one

at the foot of page thirty-five,

  but when I look at what I’ve done —

            at what survives —


there’s nothing quite defined.

  No recognition still to come

is worth the trouble. I may find

  the Preface/Prologue took

my marriage, job and half the life I would have liked, my children, relationships that I can’t begin again, my name, contact with all the friends that I’ve let down, my career (whatever that means), my sporting prowess, as I imagine it, and if I drown in all of this, I’ll drag down gods know whom . . .

  I may omit it from the book.

            No room.


Novel - Rialto (magazine, 1992) and one-eyed seller of garlic (Headland collection, 1994)


The Last Entomologist


was shown how to find

under stones, flat in figure-hugging hollows

under logs in their first rot,

beetles hibernating, waiting for the gallows

of the cyanide jar, and


waiting for eternity in a tube of alcohol,

Homo sapiens

collecting laurel leaves

to line the killing bottle,

collecting specimens for a long series.


In Edwardian cabinets, crystals settle,

Naptha sublimates around

the last populations. There is no sound.


The last entomologist - Outposts (magazine, 1991) and one-eyed seller of garlic (Headland collection, 1994)


A Woman Peeling Apples   

after a painting by Pieter DeHooch 1629-1684


In the light from a high

window, mother and child in linen hats

and formal layers. A clog beats,

scrapes the floor. A fly

settles on the white

prepared russets.

The child stands. Her mother sits

turns worlds against the knife.


A woman peeling apples - Ambit (magazine. 1990), and not otherwise (anthology, Poetry Business 1990) and one-eyed seller of garlic (Headland collection, 1994)


a male poet sits between two mirrors


On his left, a mirror; on his right another.

Whichever way he looks

he’s writing the same poem over


and over — making the same mistakes.

He’s part of a perspective of poets

sipping at similar drinks


from a synchronicity of pint pots.

All are short of money, tight with booze.

They look up as the pub door shuts.


They’ve all read Larkin, Heaney, Hughes

— pretend they’ve read some Hill.

He looks again — left, right and sees


receding selves — a crestfall

of depressives, a collective noun

of the dysfunctional.


There’s one won’t answer the phone,

another can’t make an apology.

They all say they’ll get it right soon.


Their problem’s the psychology

of rejection —

mothers that didn’t bond properly.


On the left, confessional,

on the right, the landscape

puts itself in words unfashionably


but make sure crows don’t creep

or bog-bodies emerge

Glob-like from the Selected deep


This pub’s a church

of cool reflections — backs

of writers arch


symmetrically. Pens like pricks

are held as if

in religious acts.


Head up, he is the performer

and all the watchers.

And each watcher,


in perfect time, looks,

then, head down, writes about his father

in one of many slim books.


A male poet sits between two mirrors - …therefore I am (anthology, CETH 2008)


Llais craig yn syrthiaw


The next moment we heard a blast, and then a thundering sound: “Llais craig yn syrthiaw; the voice of the rock in falling, sir,” said John Jones

                  ‘Wild Wales’ George Borrow


Half the slate in England, some time back,

was pulled by horses down a small canal

away from the sound of falling rock.


From this intruded granite hill

in a flashing silent film

I watch the black slope slip, begin its fall.


And I’d hoped for breathless calm,

for peace to mourn the broken stone.

The rolling sound engulfs. Press nail to palm


and the roar subsides. The moan

turns heads in a further valley.

They falter, muted one by one —


each man who hears his father calling:

llais craig yn syrthiaw —

the voice of the rock in falling.


Llais craig yn syrthiaw - Manchester Poetry 4 (anthology edited by John Silkin, SBT 1991); Readaround (Tarantula anthology 1995)


Apus apus [Apodidae]


Once, when swifts were larger, I discovered

death. In a crunch of bloody flesh

an untouched wing curved up — a bloodless arc

of lift: drying muscle, tendons, feather.

I scalpelled it to keep — a thing apart,

not of the airless ground where it had crashed.

A black, tight-feathered treasure, a slice of sky,

a cloud-sleeping moment from Africa’s season

lent to this of fresh emerging flies

that gave the long migration cause, lent reason

to the jerks of flight, from bite to chitinned bite.


Some years ago my mother threw it out.


Each year the fledglings fall from cornered nests

into a perpetuity of sky, to sleep

in sky, wheeling on the upflown heat

and falling only to the muddy musts

of prodigy, clinging briefly, beaks

full of captured wings to fuel the future

that soon will drop in turn, footless, into light.


Again I watch the no-foot no-foot bird —

the wing my mother chucked has rotted white

through bone and powdered bone to mealy word.

And still I watch the no-foot no-foot bird.


Apus Apus - Stargazy Pie (magazine, 2008)




Hover-flies co-ordinate the air,

framing the space I work in;

St Mark’s flies tumble in grass,

hunched in black polished armour.

Ladybirds fall from the cut branches.


I’ve honed the privet back —

its dark inside is opened;

Sycamores spear from the soil—

I pull them out.

There’s holly spiking from nowhere

and elder urging softly.


I’ve pruned the overhanging trees.

It’s tidier: light can filter through;

it seems I’m letting the world see in,

thinning the barriers. For now.


The age of a hedge can be guessed

from the number of species in it.

No matter how neat the facing,

there’s a space inside that grows

darker every season — some incurable species

whose root can never be found.


My father was my hedge against

the world, but something grew along

his branches — burst them open.


Fourteen years on, cutting this hedge,

I look up expecting to see him,

hoping he will, with a nod

and a well trimmed phrase, approve.


Hedge - Lift the Veil (anthology, The Writers’ Bureau 1994)



after Much ado about nothing Act II scene 3


I heard a shout from my master’s orchard.

Boy! a man called. He did not know my name.

Not my master — a guest called Benedick.

I ran to him. I said, Signior? I watched

and waited. In the window of my chamber

lies, he said, a book. Go fetch it quick

to me here in the orchard.

I am already here, sir, I said,

meaning I would be that fast. Instead


he showed his wit and said, I know

that. but I would rather have you there

and here again. And so I left, face full of blood,

and galloped to his chamber. At his window

stood a glass, half full of honey beer,

a comb for his curls, a discarded hood,

and, yes, the book — a golden glow

from its spine, and the smell

of its covers! — as if the calf were just killed.


I opened it. It was not my business

to open it. I opened it like the draw

of the curtains on my other master’s play

and saw the dark swirl, the characters

playing their parts, dancing on the floor

of the page, spouting words that may,

to those whose business

is reading, be heard through the book’s silence.

To those who do not have such talents,


this is a great magic. And so I closed

the book and ran back toward the orchard:

down the oaken stair; into the darkening garden;

through the arch of columbine and rose,

until I stood, alone, in that same orchard.


By Benedick and by William, I have been forgotten


and all that I will ever have said is:

Signior? and Sir, I am here already.


Much - 5th prize, National Poetry Competition (2007)



3 - Afterword

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