Poetry for Hen Harrier Day

The poems

We were privileged to have some great poetry contributions to Hen Harrier Day Online. Science and the law are hugely important but we must reach hearts as well as minds, and the arts are a sure way to do that. David Harsent is passionate about the wrongs of driven grouse shooting, so much so that as well as offering his own poem 'Bowland Beth' from his award-winning Fire Songs, he persuaded other fine poets and readers to contribute their work.

Additionally, Anneliese Emmans Dean, multi-talented promoter of creativity and learning, and some young assistants made a delightful video for us based on her poem 'Endangered'.

And, different again, David Mitchell (Mr Carbo) recited for us his splendid mock-McGonnegall poem raising a questioning eyebrow at the 'gift of grouse'.

Hen harrier food pass picture credit: Gordon Yates


David Harsent is a poet, novelist and librettist. In 2014, his collection of poems, Fire Songs, won the TS Eliot Prize and in this video he reads 'Bowland Beth' from that collection. The poem tells of the short life and sad death of a hen harrier in the North of England, one of many which have been illegally killed or gone missing in suspicious circumstances in the UK's uplands in recent years. You can see all of David's poetry collections here.

Nicola Nathan grew up in Wales and now lives in the Chilterns. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Edinburgh Review, Poetry London and Ambit. Her pamphlet, Tiny was published in September 2016. Living in the Chilterns, she has greatly enjoyed the return of the reintroduced red kites, which the poem she reads here celebrates.

George Szirtes is a leading poet and translator of the Hungarian language into English. He has received many international awards, including the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, the Man Booker prize and, in China, the Poetry and People prize. 'Matrimonial', written specially for Hen Harrier Day, concerns the skydancing rituals of hen harriers. But, like all good poetry, it has shades of meaning, perhaps of the evanescence of our modern relationship with nature. You can follow his work on Twitter and on his website.

Kathy Towers is a poet based in Derbyshire whose interest in the natural world is apparent through her work. She has published two poetry collections with Picador (The Floating Man in 2010 and The Remedies in 2016). The former won Seamus Heaney Centre Prize and the latter was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry. In 2019, she published a pamphlet of short lyric poems, The Violin Forest. She wrote the poem read here, 'This is a Hawk', specifically for Hen Harrier Day 2020. You can follow her work on Twitter and on her website.

Here, Julia Watson gives a reading of Gerald Manley Hopkin's famous poem 'The Windhover'. Julia is an actress as well as an editor and lover of poetry. She has edited three anthologies of poetry for Penguin but on our screens is best known through TV series such as Casualty and Midsomer Murders'. In theatre, she's played many roles including most recently in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. You can follow her on Twitter and read a recent interview with her here.

Anneliese Emmans Dean is a poet who seeks to promote creativity and learning through laughter, rhythm and rhyme. Based in York, her poems have featured in projects nationwide since the 1990s. Her work can be widely seen at literary and other festivals and in schools and theatres across the country. She has won numerous prizes and her work has featured on TV and radio including Woman's Hour and Today. You can read more about her and her wide range of projects and activities at theBigBuzz. Many thanks to Edmund, Finn, Iona, Lily (Scottish), Lily (Yorkshire), Luke, Ned and Ruby for their spoken and artistic contributions.

David Mitchell (aka Mr Carbo) is a satirical cartoonist who uses his work to routinely lampoon the driven grouse shooting industry as well as the politicians who fail to act and properly regulate it. He is also a talented and capable wildlife artist. You can read about his journey into the world of driven grouse shooting and raptor persecution, as well as seeing some of his work, in this War on Wildlife blog. Here he reads a humorous poem about the so-called 'Glorious' Twelfth.

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Hen Harrier Action is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC049943.

Registered Charity SC049903