Otters At The Bottom Of the Garden

Today we are asked to describe a place, then top off our description with a philiosphical bon mot or two. Fab. Of course, I immediately rifled my memories for sunlit riverbanks, demanded my imagination populate the scene with otters. But then I remembered a place I had already promised myself I would write about this month, a garden I pass every day, a garden blessed with… an ornamental otter!!!!!!!


This simple bench, its back against

the pebble dash, is a trap for sun

on which I sit, patient as bait.

In the eaves a host of starlings

whirr, click and chuff, discordant

choristers for a strange faith.

A road may be inferred beyond

the horizon of the garden wall,

from the odd passages of cars.

In their wake a sucking, slapping

almost entirely irregular boom.

I believe it is high tide. Yes, yes,

the bells of St Hilda’s nod agreement,

A stray beam of April illuminates

the pocket lawn, a square-cut emerald,

whose margins are as dense with foliage

and critters as a mediaeval Gospel.

Gargoyles and dwarves wink plastic eyes

under fancifully unscrolling hosters.

Amid bluebells, a goose gawps upwards,

its white throat a column of greed,

twice the height of the flamingo.

And at my feet, resplendent,

scampers the piece de resistance –

the moulded-resin, stone-effect,

not-quite-life-sized otter, apogee

of all that is good and pleasing.

It is not to have what you want,

but to want what you have,

that is true happiness.



The Literary Otter


You know it’s Sunday when NaPoWriMo only ask you to do a poem listing the book titles on your shelves! And what of an otter’s library? Well I’m sure you could come up with a fair few better ones yourself, but anyway here goes…

An Otter’s Bookshelf

Far From the Madding Otters

A Farewell To Otters

The Unbearable Lightness Of Otters

The Otters Of Wrath

The Otter Is A Lonely Hunter

The Girl With The Otter Tattoo

Fear and Otters in Las Vegas

For Whom The Otter Tolls

All’s Quiet On The Otter Front

His Dark Otters trilogy

I Know Why The Caged Otter Squeaks

No Country For Old Otters

Of Otters And Men

Tender Is the Otter

The Otter Of the Baskervilles

The Maltese Otter

Otters Are Not the Only Fruit

My Family and Otter Animals

All the Harry Otters, obviously

Tarka The Otter

The Shellfish Gene (bit of non-fiction there)

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (self-help manual)

Moby Dick (horror section)

Ring Of Bright Water (horror section)

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish


Not Everyone Likes Otters

Many of my poet friends have been digging deep inside their psyches for today’s NaPoWriMo prompt to write something that feels scary or uncomfortable to say. I, however, have been digging deep inside the (imagined) psyche of someone who finds otters scary or uncomfortable to be around. For some reason it sounds like a very bad pastiche of Wordsworth in there. Who knew.

Otter with a huge smile

The Lutraphobia Of The Wild Swimmer

I have oft-times swum delighted in the Tyne’s electric cool

and wild waters, in the summer eves by Corbridge. I have

eschewed pools municipal, those crowded echo-chambers,

named them no better than aquaria, where captive mustelids

might twirl in Perspex tanks, to the cooing of the crowd,

their stank spray festering the public air as rank as rotten fish.

Those same aquatic weasels now have barred me from my bliss,

ruined all my joy in open water. I cannot quite say when

the fear of them first grew upon me, cannot pinch the moment

their smiling faces first shaded with malice in my eyes,

but now the chance whisk of waterweed at my floating wrist

casts trembles through my traitor limbs as, unbidden,

images of hairy muzzles poised to claim my fingers,

to crunch needle-sharp through knuckles, darkens my vision.

Too often I have seen, or thought I saw, these denizens

slink from their sandy caves in the twilight, so now, alas!

the o’ershadowing doom descends upon me, and I seek

in swelling terror for paw print or foul spraint here

upon my favoured shore, as a man obsessed by contagion,

and though my mouth forms, faint-hearted, a continual ‘O’,

never can I bring myself to audibly utter the now-abhorred

name of my tormentor, the dreadful title – OTTER!



Every Girl’s Crazy ‘Bout A Sharp-Dressed Otter

When I read the NaPoWriMo prompt today, I thought I’d had it – otters haven’t much use for flowers. Can’t eat them, can’t play with them, can’t slide down them. But I hadn’t factored in the glory of random googling. “Otter flower” brought me a link to this delightful young man, The Modern Otter, a fashion blogger who has had some things to say about floral prints over the past couple of years, oh yes. He proved most inspirational.


The Modern Otter

The modern otter is not afraid of florals.

The modern otter has thrown away his plaid.

An avid consumer of articles sartorial,

He is nine parts hipster to one part lad.


The modern otter tries some unexpected chinos,

Balancing the flower print with simple chambray.

He dreams of days in Paris sipping stylish cappuccinos.

The modern otter wants to stroll along the Seine.


Transitioning to spring wear in optimistic camel,

Paired with indigo, or black, or dusty blues,

He folds a turn-up into his nether apparel.

Naked ankles shiver over waterproof dress shoes.


The modern otter favours crisply pointed collars,

Wants you to notice, but he’s too safe to be seen.

The modern otter is afraid of too much colour,

Though occasionally he’ll venture out in something hunter green.


The Curse of The Korean Otter

Good grief, we’ve managed a week of this nonsense! Everyone hanging in there? OK, today’s official NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a tritina, which just means I have to end my lines with the same three words, in different orders. It’s more of an instruction than a prompt, which mean I’m free! To choose whatever snippet of otterlore tickles my whiskers! So here you go – in Korea, a person who sees an otter will forever after attract rain clouds. What a fate.

otters-playing-in-the-rain-by-david-giffordI have seen an otter, and lost the sun.

From this day, I’ll always draw the clouds

to trail me, black and faithful as a dog.


I swear, at first I thought it was a dog

trotting through the long grass in the sun.

I called to it. My call became a cloud.


The callous skies are thickening with cloud,

and where I walk it’s raining cats and dogs.

At night I dream of basking in the sun,


but when the sunrise comes, I’m dogged by clouds.


Rain doesn’t seem to bother the otters much, or stop them from eating as often as hobbits, as you can see in this video.




Otters Eat As Often As Hobbits

Explore my relationship with food, NaPoWriMo? Surely you mean explore an otter’s relationship with food? But there are so many species (13), and they all eat slightly different things – should I write about Japanese otters keeping paddy fields free of crayfish? Or giant Amazonian otters being slowly poisoned by mercury from gold ore extraction accumulated in the livers of their favourite fish? Maybe later in the month. For now I am mostly distracted by a little Winnie-the-Pooh-esque ditty from the fabulous sea otter, those masters of the tummy buffet. They need to eat a quarter of their body weight every day to keep them warm in the seas off northern California. And they love abalone.

c4a0ccbf08cb65b72b968e9f67d7a0c2The Song Of The Feeding Sea Otter

Floating along on my own-e-o,

Smashing my abalone-e-o,

On my smashing stone-e-o,

I go whack! whack! whack!


Don’t ever cook it with po-tay-ter,

Celery, soy sauce, or to-may-ter,

Or gratinize it with a cheese gray-ter,

I just knock! it! back!


Rest assured that if I hear any more verses of this super-smashing happy feeding song, I will add them here.


My Significant Otter

I tried very hard (well a bit hard) to fit the official NaPoWriMo prompt about the strange names of heritage variety vegetables into my poem, but otters don’t care much for vegetables (which is why this zoo in Birmingham smuggles them into sushi, which they do like). What I really wanted to do was write a love poem for my husband, so that’s what I did.


Assessing My Significant Otter

When she asked me to describe you, I could have said

the north sea to a fishtank

is his heart to this small, bland room.


When she asked what she had missed, I could have said

there is a tangle of black razorwire deep down inside,

can he unspool it safely in this benign, neutral room?


When she asked me how this is affecting us, I could have said

he calls me to the window to watch the goldfinches.

When we sleep we hold hands like otters,

so we never drift apart.


Aquarius Or Otter?


Through the power of the internet, I just found out that my mother, stepmother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and best friend are all Otters! Yes indeed, it is Native American totem animal horoscope time here on Otter Madness (TM), and also time to ask these gregarious and chatty animals the official question for today’s official NaPoWriMo prompt – is April actually the cruellest month, or was TS Eliot talking out of his proverbial?  Otters? What do you say?

What month is worst for otters?

“Oh, wow, that’s a hard one, isn’t it babe? I mean, speaking as an Otter, I suppose I’d have to say late Jan, early Feb, just because of the flooding we’ve been getting? Which is totally ironic, because that’s our birth month so it’s sort of like our power month? But then like Gary says, I really showed my creative spirit last year when I dug in the fourth exit above flood level, he says that’s pure Otter you know, because we’re like inventors? And I made sure it opens to the north, which you know is our spirit direction? So I guess maybe I’d say August, September time, partly ‘cause the pups are off by then and I get a bit of empty-holt syndrome, don’t I babe? But mainly I think it’s just that time of year is all about Bear, and that’s not great for me, ‘cause you know I used to work for a Bear and she was just so fussy and uptight and expected everyone to work the whole time and all she wore was brown, like literally all the time, and you know the whole thing about her being my natural predator made for a bit of stress in the workplace, so I had to leave in the end? I used to call her Un-Bear-Able, didn’t I babe? Didn’t I? Call her Un-Bear-Able? Oh yeah, me and Gary are both Otters, so are the pups. Except Jamie, she’s a Woodpecker? Not sure how that happened.”

Boris And The Otters

“As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers.”

Boris Johnson, commenting on the 2012 Olympic Women’s Volleyball

tumblr_ljwl2fWEqw1qarjnpo1_1280In this quote, Boris demonstrates two things. Firstly, a certain deftness with sentence construction, a breadth of vocabulary and an almost proprietorial familiarity with fine art history that is entirely fitting in one who has received so staggeringly privileged and expensive an education. Secondly, a terrifying ignorance of the tendency of otters, according to Japanese folklore, to shapeshift into beautiful women with the express purpose of seducing, killing and eating unwary men.

As the official NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to write a fan letter, I have chosen to write from some imaginary Japanese shape-shifting man-eating volleyball-playing otter-women to the Mayor of London. (My cavalier use of ungrammatical pronouns is intended to give an eerie, ‘demonically-possessed baby doll’ feeling to the piece, not an uncomfortably racist ‘JaJa Binks’ vibe, just FYI)).

Boris And The Otters

Sexy otter girls, we

Sleek! you watch, Borisu-san,

But do not see we.


Silly! we see you

Feast eyes on we lissom limbs,

Silken like tofu.


Suave you phrases plash!

Rain from you lyrical tongue!

Favourite muscle!


Storehouse of treasure,

You brain sleep in marrow sea,

Soft, sashimi-grade.


Speak we of art now?

Great man, stories of great men!

You hair kawaiiiiiiiiiii, ne?


Shall we little claws

Scratch you noble back, broad

Like Kobe beef-cow?


Secret, we sharp teeth

Wait for you, ichiban man,

Steamy bean dumpling!


Shhhhhhhhhh!! you no mind knives

We whet them in you honour,

Delicious Borisu-san….



Otters V Capitalism

2012-09-20-350HuffPostChe501onRecTrail-thumbMany people say to me, Kirsten, we know that otters love jazz, but what of otter politics? I reply that I am convinced most British otters would vote Corbyn, where the Californian Sea Otter community has come out strongly for Bernie Sanders. (Many have donated a few clams to his campaign fund).

Some say this is grotesque anthropomorphism of the kind disdained by serious conservationists, others accuse me of projection. To them I can only say:


Otters Of the World, Unite!

Answer me this – what if otters were potters?

Does living by water make their clay wetter?

Do they throw sloppy pots that all teeter and totter?

Does holding down splatter make pots a lot squatter?

Surely it follows their kilns should burn hotter?

They must buy their wood from a local wood-cutter

(Wood-burning kilns being certainly better

to use than electric, when potting near water).


But what if the cutter bamboozles the otters,

never once offering wood on a platter,

but ripping them off with some shitty sales patter?

Lining his pockets, the cutter gets fatter,

while locked into poverty, knocked on their uppers,

the lot of the otters just never gets better!!

Will the otters not notice that something’s the matter?

Will discontent not sound its note in their natter?!

Revolt and rise up, oh you down-trodden otters!

Even fat cutters need pots made by potters!

Tear down the kiln-wood-monopoly rotters!


Don’t look at me like I’m some kind of nutter.


Todays’ poem is brought to you in lieu of the official NaPoWriMo prompt, which is dull as the bottom of my shoe.