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Home :: Books :: For Children, Parents and Teachers :: A Treasury of Plants

A Treasury of Plants

A Treasury of Plants

by David Donaldson

This rich Collection of over sixty poems explores the world of plants from a variety of perspectives, taking in the Earth's different climactic regions and the evolution of the plant world over time, delighting in its abundance and vitality.  
It includes many common plants which have come to be woven into our own folk lore and mythologies and also explores how our own human processes of growth and development as free, conscious beings, are rooted in and belong to the same unfolding evolutionary process.

110 pages.
21 x 15 cms.

ISBN 9780 946206 889

Review by Matthew Barton, reproduced from New View.

Following Donaldson’s fine book of tree poems, A Treasury of Trees, he continues in a similar vein in this new book with excursions into the realm of other botanical beings. Writing about flowers is not by any means necessarily the same as conjuring them into life, coaxing them alive on the page; but Donaldson does often succeed in delving back into the archetypes different plants spring from so as to kindle our own imaginative engagement with them.

    His language, at its best, can use its tools – its mix of vowel and consonant, its imagery, alliterations and sense of line - to recreate the qualities of a rose, a mushroom, lichen or sunflower, the different surprise and wonder of each.

    Crocuses are ‘packaged / Floral fireworks…’ which the sun’s match lights before they eventually go the way of all things and ‘keel over, flat on their sides, / Like so many shrunk balloons.’ Mundane, ubiquitous and rather easily overlooked grass, that is ‘provident whether cut, / Crushed, trampled, browsed or grazed…’ has ‘Blossoms no more than spikes’ but suddenly also the striking beauty of ‘…feathery panicles drying to gold // On the summer breeze and rippling / Like dry waves over acres.’ Sunflower is ‘dressed / For the occasion: flaring frills / Of yellow petals, face bronzed dark’ but soon the party ends and ‘its flare of petals…curl and shrink, / The shorn head begins to droop…’

    It’s easy to sing a sunflower perhaps, but I am particularly taken by Donaldson’s equal attention to more inconspicuous plants lurking in dank and shady places – mushrooms rising ‘from underground overnight, /Sunshields in place. Strange white blooms…’ that are ‘On a mission to prise apart / What needs breaking down.’ Or bracket fungi ‘Pursed like grossly protruding lips…’; or the insidious insistence of parasitic fungi itemised in a rather wonderfully teeming list as ‘Downy, powdery mildews, moulds, blights / And wilts, scabs and rusts…’.

    There are many riches here, and the poems work best where they take imaginative flight, as they often do, in a flourish and ferment in which facts, images and sounds coalesce convincingly, creating the same kind of living union in words that plants themselves create, each in their own unique unfolding and uplift.

    At places, the very scale of the task of singing so many plants seems to overwhelm the author and drag him down a little from the imaginative into the merely descriptive or even information-cramming mode. Though each ‘curled, four-lobed blossom’ of white lilac’ is a ‘tongue of fire’, that latter kindling seems a touch burdened by the precision of its preceding description. The same could be said of the corolla of daffodils that ‘Unwraps, pale petals first, outer, then inner, / Two folded sets of three extending wide // To release their transformed pedicel…’ etc. To marry the scientific and the artistic is a task that we’re all still working on.                       

    These are brave sallies into that unifying realm, and naturally work better in some places than others. This union of observation and imagination can only perhaps be achieved at moments of grace, and sometimes in the least expected contexts. I think Donaldson comes close to it in his earthy, vividly accurate and imaginative ‘Onion’, whose sounds seem often to embody the squat, planet-like and visceral rotundity of the very thing itself:


... Bedded in earth as the Earth-globe
In its field of stars. Plumped

To squat on the surface
Held by rudimentary threads.

Peel back the tunicated leaves,
The papery brown membrane,
Its longitudinal lines tapering
To meet above, below; progress
Layer by layer through green
To white, each with its own
Fine, slimy film, each tunic
Enfolding another: a cosmic
Earth laboratory busy throughout
The growing season cooking all
That the warmth-laden force fields
Of light, air, moisture can provide. ...

[New View issue 98, Winter 2020/21 –]


Product Code: WP6889
Weight 250.00 gm
Price: £8.99