The Forest

I was saying a bit about various environments or scenes that helped me think up poetry and which appeared in my poems. I’ve had my say about the sea, the shore, estuaries, rivers, skies and hills. There isn’t an endless list of such things, but I felt there was one more worth mentioning – forests or woods.


Living in lowland England, I walk in woods far more often than on the hills. In Britain the higher hills are generally covered in grass or heather and not trees, though many such areas were once forested. The open hills, like the sea and the sky, convey a sense of great, perhaps limitless, space. This makes some people scared, but for me it signals liberation and “the oceanic feeling” of linking with something bigger.


Among the trees, though, vistas are rare. You feel encompassed in the forest as you might feel underwater. In reality, after a while you’ll find a view of fields or moors or even houses, but it’s quite easy to forget this and imagine an endless or inescapable forest (I mean one that, once you enter it, allows no exit). Forests are full of life, both plant and animal, but they are dark (small woods are often less dark both because of light entering at the margins and because they’re often managed to provide spaces). We know that much of our land was forest, that once forest stretched from the English Channel to the southern Highlands of Scotland without break. In England there is no primeval forest left, and in Scotland only small, straggly fragments of the great Caledonian pine forest, but we remember and imagine the primeval forest and perhaps imagine the ghosts of those who inhabited it as elves and the rest.  Real primeval forest, for example the Bielowieza Forest in Poland, is immensely powerful, living, rotting, foetid, pulsing with birdsong, peopled with wolf, beaver, lynx and bison and, in imagination, with extinct animals such as the aurochs and our own Neanderthal Man.


Forest appears in my poems less than the sea or the open hills, but it appears as a place of strange life and suprises, of whispers and shadows. This is the forest of fairy story where children may get lost and find strange things.





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  1. I have to agree, there is something about forests that just bring imagination…fear…whispers…shadows and things of that nature to mind. I like how you write that feeling that a forest is inescapable when you enter it. I doubt that i go into one…it just holds some many eerie feelings :). But they make for great imaginative stories and poems.

    • Thanks, Boomiebol. I go in them quite often, though round here it’s mostly small woods and not real forest. I remember being quite startled on my one visit to the States (Georgia, Florida, Tennessee) to see from the air (the freeways give no idea of it) how much of the southern USA was still forest.

  2. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

     /  July 15, 2012

    deep within where light is dim
    the songs of the ancients sing again

    I like this one best , I am an earthy sorta person,
    nad forest feel like home to me…
    we have so many still standing here, several that have been
    left untouched due to wise individuals that nderstood the sacredness of them..
    Take care…Smon…

  3. I’ve never really walked through the woods…the forest has always been in my head….

    • Interesting comment, neel. You’re right – the forest is in our heads- but exploring a real forest can not only be fascinating for finding birds and trees, but also for finding our forest in the mind.


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