09/07/2012 06:59 BST | Updated 08/09/2012 06:12 BST

Read Alice Oswald's 'Beaufort Poem Scale'

Beaufort Poem Scale is taken from Conversations with the Wind by Alice Oswald, a new collection of eight poems specially commissioned for outdoor arts project Battle for the Winds.

The poems are acting as a core text for the project, which is part of the London 2012 Festival, and have been woven into performances across the South West over the past few months.

Battle for the Winds culminates in three days of spectacular outdoor theatre in Weymouth and Portland from 26 - 28 July, marking the opening celebrations of the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events.

Conversations with the Wind is being hosted on the Battle for the Winds website, with one new poem added each week until Thursday, 26 July. Readers can also win a beautifully illustrated, signed copy of all eight poems, laid out to fit into a specially designed air mail envelope.

To read and win the poems and find out more about Battle for the Winds, go to

Alice Oswald said: "Everything you write about the wind really has to be about something else, because the wind itself is so non-existent. I like the way the Beaufort Scale [a system used to estimate wind speed based on observation of its effects] categorizes something so abstract and undefinable.


"That is partly what drew me to the project. I regard the words as secondary to the silences in my poetry, so I'm drawn to write about things that will exist without the words. The poems are full of gaps and silences through which something that isn't linguistic can be heard.

"I also love performance and very much believe that poetry is one of the performing arts - I prefer it to be a sound than something just on the page. For performance you need strength and simplicity. If it's too complicated it won't come across, particularly if the words are being spoken out on the street. That fits with my work; even if the process of creating it is complicated I believe the final structure must be clear and emphatic.

"And it's nice to hand the poems over to the performers. I see poems as tunes, so really they're a set of tunes for people to take and use in their own way."

Beaufort Poem Scale by Alice Oswald

As I speak (force 1) smoke rises vertically,

Plumed seeds fall in less than ten seconds

And gossamer, perhaps shaken from the soul's hairbrush

Is seen in the air.

Oh yes (force 2) it's lovely here,

One or two spiders take off

And there are willow seeds in clouds

But I keep feeling (force 3) a scintillation,

As if a southerly light breeze

Was blowing the tips of my thoughts

(force 4) and making my tongue taste strongly of italics

And when I pause it feels different

As if something had entered (force 5) whose hand is lifting my page

(force 6) So I want to tell you how a whole tree sways to the left

But even as I say so (force 7) a persistent howl is blowing my hair horizontal

And even as I speak (force 8) this speaking becomes difficult

And now my voice (force 9) like an umbrella shaken inside out

No longer shelters me from the fact (force 10)

There is suddenly a winged thing in the house,

Is it the wind?