rvs_250x250Ruth Sharman is an English poet based in Bath. Her poems have appeared in a number of anthologies, and in national newspapers and magazines.

Scarlet Tiger, winner of the 2016 Straid Collection Award, is Ruth Sharman’s second full length collection of poetry and is published by Templar.

Her first collection, Birth of the Owl Butterflies, was published by Picador, and the title poem won second prize in the Arvon International Poetry Competition. The poem also appears on one of the International Baccalaureate’s English exam papers.

Ruth’s poems have featured on Radio 4’s Something Understood, The Song Inside (broadcast along with an interview in January 2015), and in a short film by Jesse Lawrence entitled Borderlands, part of a sequence exploring the theme of special places, and the relationship between place, inspiration and art.

Ruth read Modern Languages at Cambridge and went on to publish a PhD under the title The Cansos and Sirventes of the Troubadour Giraut de Borneil.

She lives with her son and works as a freelance editor and French translator.

The Birth Of The Owl Butterflies

They hung in our kitchen for days,
a row of brown lanterns that threw no light,
merely darkened with their growing load.
Pinned to a shelf among the knick-knacks
and the cookery books;
ripening in the radiator’s heat:
six Central American Caligo chrysalids,
five thousand miles from their mountain home.

My father had brought them here,
carefully packed in cotton wool,
to hatch, set, identify, and display:
these unpromising dingy shells plumped up
like curled leaves, on each a silver spur,
a tiny gleam or drop of dew
Nature had added as a finishing touch
to perfect mimicry.

For weeks the wizened fruit had been maturing.
Now, one by one, the pods exploded,
crackling in the quiet kitchen,
and a furry missile emerged – quickly,
as if desperate to break free,
unhinged its awkward legs,
hauling behind it, like a frilly party dress,
the rumpled mass of its soft wings.

It clung unsteadily to the cloven pod,
while slow wings billowed with the blood
that pumped them full.
The dark velvet began to glow
with a thousand tiny striations,
and there, in each corner,
boldly ringed in black and gold,
two fierce owl-eyes widened.

Uneasy minutes, these, before Caligo
can flex its five-inch wings and fly.
They drooped still, gathering strength,
limp flags loosely flowing.
When two butterflies hatched too close,
and clashed, each scrabbling for a footing,
one fell and its wings flopped
fatly on the kitchen floor.

I pictured them shattering later
on taps and cupboard corners;
but my father gauged his moment well,
allowed a first few timid forays,
then swooped down, gentle-fingered,
with his glass jar for the kill.
The monstrous wings all but filled it,
beat vigorously, fluttered, and were still.

(from Birth of the Owl Butterflies, Picador, 1997)

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In Borderlands, a short film by Jesse Lawrence, Ruth Sharman walks to an unassuming Neolithic Long Barrow, on the way revealing the themes that inform her work.

Watch the film on Vimeo here