Our previous writing prompt from Jill Munro explored list poems using her poem, A Catalogue of Phobias, as an example. This week, with the help of Jane Lovell, we look at definition poems. Jane has shared her poem, nunatak, as an example of this form and discusses it below.
a stone ridge exposed by wind,
a lip of stone curled at the glaucous wind,
its harrying across blown snow;
a skyline ridge, blade-and-socket spine
of something fossilised, claws sunk
in the hidden world below;
a ridge of stone, a pebbled egg
abandoned in its cleft, the embryo
a shock of livid skin in frozen oils;
a granite ridge, its icebound edge
orbited by tracks of lupine shadow
swerving out across the void.
Sometimes the only thing that breaks up the endless, snowblown Arctic wasteland is a nunatak, a stone ridge, the summit of a mountain protruding through the ice. By using a series of definitions, I hoped to approach the nunatak, drawing closer not just across miles of snow but across the timescape, from fossilised ancient history right up to the tracks left by today’s snowmobiles. The harshness of the environment is symbolised by the egg which, like the tracks, is a repeated metaphor in a sequence of poems I’ve been writing about landscape, wayfinding and exploration.
Poems written using this prompt can be submitted when the submissions window opens at the end of March.
Jane Lovell is an award-winning poet whose work focuses on our relationship with the planet and its wildlife. She has been widely published in journals and anthologies in the UK and US.
She has won the Flambard Prize (2015), the Wigtown Prize (2018) and the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize (2020) and has been shortlisted for several other literary awards including the Basil Bunting Prize, the Robert Graves Prize and Periplum Book Award.
Publications include Metastatic, One Tree, Forbidden and This Tilting Earth. Her prize-winning collection, The God of Lost Ways, has just been published by Indigo Dreams Press.
Jane also writes for Dark Mountain, Elementum Journal and Photographers Against Wildlife Crime. She lives in Kent and is Writer-in-Residence at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
More information can be found at https://janelovellpoetry.co.uk.