Friday 2 October 2015
Last time I was at Vincennes Zoo, for the summer nocturne opening hours, Simara the young female jaguar ran rampage in her pool under the waterfall. She ran back and forth and pounced at the water, racing towards me. I've never seen nature so forceful. She kept it up for an hour while I watched. It was 9pm, I was alone in front of her cage. Afterwards I wound my way towards the exit, but thought I'd check if the fossa was out, preparing myself for disappointment, as he hides in his den most of the time. He wasn't at first, so I turned homeward, then remembered to check the other window. There he was! That night I wrote two poems, one featuring Simara and one about the very strange fossa from Madagascar. Both poems are attempts to describe what it was like for my mother to go mad, to be in the throes of mania and psychosis, in my book in progress Mama Amazonica.
It has been a turbulent time for me, for the first time in thirty years I've moved house, from London to Cornwall, to a remote rural spot near Bodmin Moor. My cat-love of my life Shiva died just before the move. I haven't quite settled in yet, but the garden office is set up, and the beds have finally arrived. When the settees come perhaps Basil my Siberian forest (rescue) cat will come out from his camp under the bed. Mouse who is feral is in paradise in the garden and fields. Yesterday she saw sheep for the first time, her eyes went huge, then she looked outraged that they were reaching into the lane-grass by our gate to munch grass. Molly also ventures out to explore and hunt.
With me came 145 books submitted for the TS Eliot Prize, as I'm chairing the judging panel this year. I sat on my campbed reading one after the other, making notes, keeping the boxes safe among the hundreds filled with my books and household stuff. I'm writing this in the Holiday Inn at Heathrow, at 5am, on my way to the Dromineer Festival today to read. From there I'll go to Swindon Poetry Festival, then Preston, then teach for the second time this year at Ty Newydd. I got back from Totleigh Barton, teaching an Arvon poetry course last week. November will be quieter, it will. December I'm going back to Paris to see Simara and hopefully Aramis the black jaguar, and who knows what? I've one year left to finish my book. Maybe they'll be together by then, and he won't be stuck in the back enclosure. What I've learnt from my many visits is that it's worth sticking around all day, even if they're asleep in the bushes, they will eventually emerge, just like poems.