This morning I listened to ‘Natural Histories’ with Brett Westwood on Radio 4. I can hardly believe the effect a 30 mins programme can have! Heart beating with excitement, and, honestly, pure joy… listening to an exploration of the dung beetle – in poetry, literature, music and art.
As one of the contributors mentioned, when describing how the dung beetle navigates using the Milky Way, it makes his chest ‘feel expansive’… such astounding wonder! I feel this too - and also when listening to these programmes!
Artist Billy Childish performed his dung beetle song and an entomologist described how they are ‘relentlessly optimistic creatures’ and that you can see it in their eyes 😊 It takes 20 mins to create their dung ball and then, if a female comes along, she climbs onto it, walking backwards on top of it, like a great circus act, whilst the male rolls it along, backwards! in an astonishingly straight line… oriented by the stars.
How beautiful and comical and deeply poetic …. x
And Sarah Watkinson’s beautiful poem x
DUNG BEETLES NAVIGATE BY STARLIGHT*
I track my treasure home on star beams, hide
my finds in caverns, steer them clean away,
before I’m stranded in the clueless day
with all my musky gleanings dull and dried.
Straightness is all. The constellations guide
my angled legs. The facets of each eye
lock on to glimmers. Sensed how? Who can say?
The system works for me. I’m satisfied.
I know those lines of light shine down for me,
the dung deposited on dewy ground
a providence. Through moonless dark I see
in multiple dimensions beacons round,
and every blessed night miraculously
Precipitates new turds for me to find.
*Dacke, M et al., 2012. Dung beetles use the Milky Way for orientation. Current Biology.
From Norwich Writers’ Circle Open Poetry Competition 2013 Anthology, poems selected by George Szirtes
A while ago I created a felting of a woodlouse and moon, inspired by a celestial woodlouse in conversation with a poet... and have created needle-punch sketches of beetles, flies, grasshoppers, woodlice and snails ...and a Moloch Horridus.... there's something about the tiniest of creatures, or the seemingly most reviled....something sacred and divine....as all of us.