Earthly delights

16th January 1998 at 00:00
ANTHOLOGY FOR THE EARTH. Edited by Judy Allen. Walker Pounds 14.99.

DEAR FUTURE:Time Capsule of Poems. Selected by David Orme. Hodder Pounds 3.50.

SAY THAT AGAIN. Edited by Mairwen Jones and John Spink. Pont Poetry, Gomer Press Pounds 4.95. STARGRAZER. Poems by Robert Hull. Hodder Pounds 3.50.

Who wants to savethe planet? You will, and so will your pupils, after reading this beautiful new green anthology, writes Gillian Clarke

As the title leads us to expect, Anthology for the Earth is, a collection of "green" stories, parables, poems - and a few sermons. Designed both as a homage and a warning, it is also a beautiful book, every page a lovingly-created separate piece of design and illustration.

Contributors include well-known writers and nature- lovers such as David Attenborough, John Seymour and Gerald Durrell; poets and novelists such as Hardy, Chekhov, Betjeman and Alan Paton; and artist-illustrators such as Nicola Bailey, Michael Foreman and David Gentleman.

Editor Judy Allen, whose story, "Tiger", is one of the most striking pieces, has used her childhood notebook of favourite passages on the natural world as a source.

It might have been wiser to have placed more of the poems and stories at the beginning, leaving the more difficult extracts and essays to be discovered slowly. Still, who reads a book from front to back, unless it is a novel?

The young planet-saver for whom this book is designed will be content to browse in the wilderness until arrested by a wolf or a bear, the felling of a tree or the song of the seals, then pause to read.

The more lyrical words and images are moving, certainly, but so, too, are terrifying hard facts such as these: "Most of the extinctions since prehistoric times have occurred in the last 300 years. Most of the extinctions that have occurred in the last 300 years have occurred in the last 50, and most of the extinctions that have occurred in the last 50 have occurred in the last 10." (Mark Carwardine, "Last Chance to See").

I must declare an interest in this week's second selection, Dear Future: Time Capsule of Poems: I have two poems in it. But that should not stop me recommending this slim volume, especially "MM to MMM" by U A Fanthorpe, a real message to the future; "The Green Man Dances", a beautiful poem of warning by David Greygoose; and "Take Note", a comic-tender poem of a boy's young love by Ian McMillan.

Say That Again is a paperback of more substance in quality of paper, content and intention. This is certainly one for the school library - a book full of interest, provocation and things to discuss in class. If you care about the variousness of Britain, do not pass Pont books by. For Pont (it means bridge in Welsh, too) is building bridges. It publishes for young people books that include Wales and take a long-angled Celtic look at Britain.

Despite cultural differences, life, the universe and being a teenager are much the same anywhere. This anthology presents poems and brief introductions by five poets, four of whom are more usually associated with poetry for adults.

Nigel Jenkins is in teasingly ironic, republican mood, Jenny Sullivan on comic form, Iwan Llwyd, translated from Welsh, shows how open and contemporary Welsh poetry can be, John Idris Jones represents good, traditional craftsmanship, and Sheenagh Pugh shows herself to be one of the most musical and tender poets writing today. The book is worth owning just for the sake of her "Inter-City Lullaby" .

Finally, Stargrazer collects the poems of former teacher and creative writing tutor Robert Hull There are many styles, many voices and varied quality here. My favourite is "Frog at take-off": "On wet grassnib-facedsquat Concordeupangledfor take-off ready to powerinto the airfor the split-secondcrossingof the pond".

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