Saturday, 16 June 2012


Today my intention was to write an uplifting blog about poetry.  The older I get, the more I enjoy poetry, and I love feeling inspired by it.  So, I thought, how best to share this delight?
But now I sit down, and it’s been raining almost non-stop for two days, and we have localised flooding forecast, and I’m no longer feeling so upbeat.
Which made me think about how much mood – for me – is affected by what is going on around me, and especially the weather.  And although this can be depressing (living in Scotland, the weather is often, well, depressing), I realise it can also be useful in my writing. 
I can use the dreariness of a dull day to help me describe the dreariness of my character’s life, or the brilliance of a Spring morning to engage with their happiness.  It doesn’t have to be dull weather, or Spring-like, in the story.  It’s the emotion I’m using, as one of the many ways we draw on what is happening in our lives to delve deeper into our characters’ feelings.
Of course, it doesn’t always work.  It’s not so easy when you are trying to write about a character who is feeling sad about leaving the heat of southern Africa, while you are experiencing the cold dampness of a Scottish summer!  Then you just have to look to your memories, or some other way of creating the atmosphere you want.  And one of those things I turn to more and more is poetry.
So there we are – I’m back to my uplifting blog about poetry!  And to tie in with the weather theme, I want to mention one truly uplifting poem which has weather at its heart.  I could never express this nearly so well as the wonderful Ted Hughes does, but I can tune in to the emotion he is feeling, and use that in both my life and my writing.
I remember the first line of the poem as ‘This house has been at sea all night’ … but my younger son, studying it for Standard grade, told me (sighing) that actually the words are ‘This house has been far out at sea all night.’   Which sent me to look out the poem so I could read it again.  He was right.  And the poem is as brilliant as ever.  Here is the beginning:
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,

For copyright reasons I don't want to put the full poem here, but it's well worth reading.  See 


  1. Really good blog, Gill. I like the idea of using aspects of the weather to develop your characters' moods. And I love the Ted Hughes poem, which is one of my favourites. Trouble is whenever I want to write about a wild wind blowing and the trees sounding like the ocean I remember this poem and think I'll never write anything so good.

  2. The weather does have a powerful influence on our lives and our moods, or at least in Britain where it is so changeable, but I'm sure in other countries too where it is even more intense. The poem illustrates the stormy wind so well. I love poetry and this almost makes me wish I could write it too.
    In our local region the weather will have ruined the pageant and parades of the Riding of the Marches today - an annual event of most Border towns.

  3. Thanks,Gill.A reminder of a poem I'd forgotten and am delighted to be re-acquainted with.For me, it's the unpredictability of the weather which makes it so fascinating.It's a truism,but we really should enjoy every (good) day!

  4. Myra, Gwen and Mary - so glad you can empathise with my weather pre-occupation. And the poem. It is a great one. But Mary, you write great poems too, so don't be intimidated.

  5. The title couldn't be more apt for me today....wind was so high the washing was revedrse-vertical on the line.....think Ted would have put this much better than I have...:)

  6. Whoops...that should have been reverse.....:)

  7. Truly atmospheric poem, Gill. I didn't know it but I shall cherish it now. I think weather can be used to such good effect in all kinds of writing. Must be some compensation for what we endure, especially this grey summer!

  8. Great post, Gill - love his poems. How could we live in Scotland and not be affected by the weather! But I like the changeability (sp?) of it all.

  9. What would we grumble about if we didn't have the weather? Yet this poem is so brimming full of description without a single complaint.

  10. Thanks for all the comments. It really is a great poem, isn't it? It's inspired me to look out some more Ted Hughes.

  11. I too have a son studying literature who puts me right on quotes (and books and authors!) The TH poem certainly sums up the weather we have been having.

    I have always enjoyed poetry - especially romantic, although I did go through a time when it was war poetry for me and I still have quite a collection of ancient war poet books. I don't read them now so much -they always made me cry!

    Great post Gill!