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Green Words Poetry Anthology: Exeter

Discover poems written by members of the local community inspired by the city of Exeter. These poems are part of the Green Words Poetry Anthology curated by Riddler in Residence Aly Stoneman. 

City Bats by Jules Young

Dusk closes in and brings 
city bats, tiny hunters
swooping through cool night air, 
circling moth prey with electric precision.
The silence chipped by their squeaks of joy
at the invertebrate smorgasbord before them. 
Leathery wings outlined in moonlight,
tiny bodies twist and turn to chase their
fluttering meals and then vanish into
the night like puffs of smoke. 

Ears of Exeter by Micha Colombo

After attending one of Emma Welton’s sound walks around Exeter together with my son.

Sun roasts our heads. Baked thoughts stumble
over roots and rumbles. We listen with ears cupped and eyes shut,
earnest acolytes. But you refuse, look your own way,
tolerate with boredom these adults and their obscure play.

Discordant seagull pierces water weir and traffic roar for
this is nature decomposing human noise.
Sweaty leopards, we tense in silent fascination,
while you toe the hot edge of my shadow.

Later we sit where swing slacks over water, quiet as germs.
Wendy scribbles. Lizzy leans. Emma remembers.
Your jaws still clench and yet, my love, you hear it all,
apple-crunch clear, nestled by nettle-kneeling cricket.

Shall we splash ahead like that defiant swimmer,
brim bobbing, to first-second-third waves and hidden depths?
No. Let’s stay bathed in birds, cradled in leaf and muscling love.
Rest on me and I will listen.
This is our quiet space.

Print by Sarah Furby


An Exeter Meadow by Isabella Beckett-Smith

In the grassy meadow grow
a trunk, a forest, still and stone
at the compass we shall meet
in nature, a reminder, not alone.

Wander through the windy streets
the wind whispers and she groans
Hear my voice, let me speak
my work here – still as stone.

Can all the people hear?
a sound, a cry, help our home
a new point we shall begin
in worship, singing, divine tone.

Let the grassy meadows grow

Apricity by Carlin Steere

The air is a little colder now —
the kind of weather you’d gladly sink into your wool coats and scarves in —
the kind of cool you savour your sunlight in, soaking up the light with fervour
as the babbling of children and the cooing of birds echo around you.

Someone touches the stone near the city gates.
You say a prayer with your hands clasped, then outstretched.
Your limbs and mind whisper in unison
as if they’re the back-and-forth of adolescents or the seagulls overhead.

You’re generating your own heat, with some aid from the sun.
You’re bundled up, with words murmured soft.

A note from the poet: ‘Apricity’ was written about the incoming months and the solitude found in visiting Exeter Cathedral, even during its busiest moments.

Exeter Is…
By St Petrock’s ‘Wandering Words’ Group

a pop video with Keith Allen and

a cat
looking out of a window
near the Bowling Green pub,
master of its universe, and

lyrics by Goss: ‘everybody’s going down’ –
folie à plusieurs (delusions of the many);
shop’s closed, time to move on.

Sometimes, I find the city suffocating
– it used to be so quiet…
rooted here, I know it since childhood
– so many changes, and opportunities…
now a battleground
– teasels and bushes, brambles and briars
waging war on bags and bottles,

and above our heads, the calls of seagulls
wearing high heels.

Down by the River by Vasile and Gabriel

It is hard, living in a tent,
down by the river;
it is hard to live in the street
on your own.
It is easy to get into trouble
But hard to get out of trouble.
You have friends, but
friends are often temporary.
You have to be strong.
Faith is important.
So is finding food and coffee,
having a shower and
charging my phone.
People help, I don’t forget
what they do; and I help
others, when I can.
It doesn’t matter
where someone comes from.
People survive together.

I go into the trees
down by the river.
Not everyone has the power
to sleep in the forest,
but if you can, the forest
gives you everything.
I learned this in the army.
Before I go to sleep
I pray.
For the moment, it is safe.

When I put my head down,
I hear foxes and squirrels
searching for food.
It is important to sleep
because tomorrow
I have a meeting at the job centre.
Last week I didn’t get the job
Because I don’t have a place.

A man who drives a big jeep
asked how long we will be staying here –
myself, my friend, and the old man.
We don’t use drugs, we don’t bring alcohol
We don’t do something wrong.
Maybe a couple of days.
Maybe a week, or more,
If we stay quiet.

If in your heart
you feel happy, there is hope.
It is not a great distance
from being in the street
to living in a house.
It is just a couple of steps
along the river.

Vasile and Gabriel are members of the St Petrocks’  ‘Wandering Words’ writing group.

The Reef by Tom O’Connor

See, from Shillingford, a little ship
Still amongst the whitecaps of the city.

Green waves fold and roll around the bark –
Anchored, unmoved by the roiling world.

A heavy, cresting wave looms over Ide
The shadow of a hare against its slope

Eyes bulge, long feet thrum the deep red clay
Darting uphill, the salmon of the field.

Gold and greenfinch school from hedge to hedge
Shimmering – the minnows in the lanes.

The swallows tease the kestrel for a lark –
Porpoises and sharks against the sky.

Beneath a tarp a clutch of baby voles –
Pink, blind plankton in the polytunnel.

Fungi bloom a coral reef around
The harbour of the city and the ship;

A pulsating, living atoll, embraces her
Barnacled hull and weathered masts.

Dark Haldon shelves and rises to the moor
Roving giants rooting in the deep.

A note from the poet: Musing on my day-to-day growing vegetables in the hills above Exeter which teem with life, above, around and below. I’m lucky to be able to stop regularly and admire the sweep of the city, which sits like a quiet reef in a sea of green, with the moored hulk of the cathedral at its centre.