CHASING THE HOOPOE
Poems by John Weston
John Weston studied at Sherborne and Oxford where he read Greats. After 36 years with the Diplomatic Service working in China, Continental Europe, and the United States, he retired in 1998 as UK Ambassador to the United Nations in New York. He now pursues interests in education, the arts and the voluntary sector, and has served on the boards of BT and of Rolls-Royce. His own voice ('no longer moving in the shadow of another’s assumptions') emerged recognisably when he began writing poetry in 2002. Since then he has had many poems published in magazines. He won First Prize in the 2004 Peterloo Open Poetry Competition for his poem "May Lane, Birmingham", and was one of five poets in the Shoestring Press anthology Take Five 04. He is married with three children and one grandchild. An Honorary Fellow of Worcester College Oxford, he was knighted in 1992. At 67, this is his first collection.
'Chasing the Hoopoe is a remarkable first collection by a poet in his sixties who it is hard to believe only began to write poems a few years ago. Cosmopolitan in the range and reach of his experience, at once profound and urbane, John Weston is gifted with the rare ability to lift the accumulation of detail toward what, in one poem, he calls 'the birdlike grace of equilibrium'. Whether documenting exotic travels, closely observing the natural world, casting a classicist's eye on society's foibles, responding to the numinous in mundane artefacts or celebrating the continuities of family life, these poems are consistently engaging. They also display a high level of technical accomplishment.' John Mole
'His collection exhibits a relish reflected in his readiness to tackle an impressive variety of subjects and forms. While the world of his poems is densely packed, some of his best work also admits a welcome breath of airiness and intimacy.' Lawrence Sail
'His is a classical temperament, and I greatly admire his version of Catullus.' A. Alvarez
'A good read. Full of salt and pepper.' Harold Pinter
May Lane Birmingham
(After Gardeners’ World)
His coriander shooting green tongues,
over his rake Mohammed Ali says
people who do allotments aren’t made.
Bean-sticks, bird scarers, plastic bottles
stake out these patchwork acres where
you follow string straight down the rows
or skip a sort of ballerina hop-scotch
from one to another, not surprised to see
rumps rear up like errant cantaloups.
Jahangir Singh navigates with care
to nurse his crop of marrows and courgettes
as one who ferries souls to their salvation.
Whipping thoroughbred race-horse manure
to curds of liquid amber guarantees
Thomas’s dahlias beat all the odds.
While Arthur sticks to planting Kestrel spuds,
for gooseberry juice calypso-style Cynthia
spikes her mix with Guinness on the spot.
Ask Teresinha how she grows colours,
fermenting leaves to blend wode on cloth
dipped to deepen bluer under daylight -
they are like photographs developing:
Friends discovered clutching their first fruits -
a perfect set, growing together, laughing.
CHASING THE HOOPOE
Price £7.95 per copy post free (£5.35 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: Wallpaper sample, c.1910, Natalya Sergeevna Goncharova, Private Collection, Moscow, Russia / The Bridgeman Art Library
Publication: AUTUMN 2005 (102 pages) – paperback edition