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That journey from four hens to over 170 mixed species here on our land has been one of equal amounts of joy, sadness and hard graft. It has also been – without wishing to sound trite – the most significant personal development I could ever have undertaken. And the poetry has kept pace alongside – I think that the poetry only exists because of where and how I live, and how connected I feel to this very particular world around me, especially the animals.

The title poem for my first collection Reward for Winter took that experience of awakening to nature, to the land and animals, and tried to portray both the sensory and sensual aspects of that experience in a form that is free and unfinished. I often write in traditional closed forms and this marked the beginning of an exploration of structure without constraint, allowing myself to wander intellectually as well as physically across the land. I write mostly at night, so this depiction of a night-time scene out on the field is both real and metaphorical. The choice of internal rhymes and deliberate switches of punctuation to mark changes of pace helped not just on the page, but also when reading aloud at events or for the media.

Reward for winter

For the first time in her adult life, she allowed herself to sweat, to leave dust under her fingernails, to be imprecise. As spring leached into summer, heat snaked through pores and found her chilly core that hadn’t seen daylight or action in years. No amount of SPF could block her thaw once it started; the field licked folds of her mind with a green velvet tongue. Every night she inhaled the sky, tasted clouds and stars, heard ten million blades of grass sing for rain. She stroked the dark like a cat, rubbed against rough wooden fence posts till warmth spread inside out, urging her on. And when she came back to herself, she could smell every animal she’d touched on her fingers, their oils and dirt mixed with her own. She’d never felt so loose, so unfinished

My process of writing is also allied to this outdoor wandering and wondering. I don’t really draft – the start of a poem is always with a line or title in my head, which then gets turned over and over and ‘chewed’ as I walk the field and check the animals. Once I’ve thoroughly chewed the cud of that line or idea and it’s in a digestible state, then it’s time to put it down and expand it. Writing the poem itself is usually very quick, but cudding can take weeks or months.

One idea that I particularly wanted to explore as a poem was the evolution of lines or pathways across the field by the different animals who live here – their marks of life on

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