Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Don't Give Up the Hunt for the Green Man

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Don't Give Up the Hunt for the Green Man

Article excerpt

Two surprise books arrived to brighten this bleak midwinter, during which we lost some talented people. Less noted here in Britain than the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman but a huge loss to poetry was the death of C D Wright, who once called herself:

   ... the poet
   of shadow work and towns
      with quarter-inch
   phone books, of failed
   roadside zoos ...
   A poet of spiderwort and
      jacks-in-the-pulpit,
   hollyhocks against the
      tool shed.

She was a poet of searching insights and great integrity, and she will be sorely missed.

The first addition to my library this Christmas--the Natural History Museum's luxurious edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America was a family gift and wasn't entirely a surprise, considering the number of hints that I'd dropped. The second was entirely unexpected. Nina Lyon's Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man is the story of a search, not only for what traces of this mythic figure remain in these islands but also for an understanding of his significance in our time. Because of the circumstances in which I read the book--travelling, first around Germany, then returning to the east coast of Scotland--what came across most clearly was the importance of woodlands, forests and even single trees to the inner life of the human creature.

Many German cities enjoy both an abundance and a wide variety of trees: trees with character, trees that do not act simply as street furniture. In Berlin, this is heightened by the presence of the Grunewald, which, at 3,000 hectares of diverse forest, is the city's playground and casts a kind of spell--the spell of deep woodland--on its residents.

Diversity is key. If the trees lining a leafy suburb or the banks of the Thames in central London are too uniform (London has historically relied heavily on plane trees), they are more susceptible to loss from disease. …

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