swifts flying around the museum tower against a cloudy sky

Swift Inspiration from the Sky

By Chris Jarvis, Education Officer

Swifts circling the Museum tower

Many of us at the Museum are inspired creatively, as well as scientifically, by the wonders of the natural world. So it is always uplifting to see that the Museum building and its collections evoke similar feelings in our visitors. However, apart from the odd, sneaked peek over the shoulder of someone busily sketching a specimen or spandrel, it is rare that we get to enjoy the results of their inspiration, which is why it was so nice to receive the poem below from Tony Owen.

Tony emailed us to say that, whilst teaching on the Summer International Programmes at Hertford College in 2018 and 2019, he often visited the Museum and became aware of the colony of swifts that annually nests in the Museum tower. Tony read about their fascinating lives, watched their progress through the breeding season on our live nest box cams and Swifts Diary, and enjoyed seeing them screaming around the tower itself.

This led to the inspiration for Tony’s poem – The Swifts. In putting pen to paper, Tony joins many other poets who have found inspiration from these amazing birds, including Ted Hughes, Anne Stevenson and Wilfred Owen.

It was very kind of Tony to share his poetry with us so we thought we would share it with you in the hope that it may inspire your own creativity from nature.

**

The  Swifts

By Anthony David Owen

From the African horn

ahead of the storm,

screaming parties

careering across the sky.

Slicing through the steam

of the Savannah and plain,

upon Saracen scimitar wings

that chase the rain.

Elusive and as quick

as the spring,

gliding high upon

the saharan westerly winds.

In meadows the grasses

and wildflowers are dry,

they sun their wings

and chase spiders and flies.

In airstream waterfalls

of cloud, air and sunlight,

they whirl and twirl

then skim and scythe.

To etch and Scribe

with black dagger wings,

upon the slate and tile

of Gothic and Victorian

spires and skies.

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