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Notes from a Mountain Village

By James Thornton

Category: Poetry

Formats available: Paperback, Ebook

Pages: 70

Publication date: 24/09/20

ISBN-13: 9781909954366

ISBN-10: 1909954365

The Irish-American poet James Thornton is known globally as a world-leading environmental lawyer working to save the planet. In this second collection he returns to the same French Pyrenean village every Spring. Over 25 years he has settled at his desk, the flanks of hillsides beyond his window, and captured in verse the life and nature of the French Pyrenean village that is his second home. James’s poetry conjures the lives of ancient villagers. snakes, turtles, fish, birds, flowers, crops, insects, hogs and children. And here’s ‘Old bones’ as a sample taste:

Old bones

Because his old bones know
that growing things will in the end
unmake everything we build
the ancient I meet on my morning walk

was standing in the rain today
supporting himself with one hand
against the wall of the house
long vacant, he’s lived

across from all his life
and, using his cane
in the other hand, carefully
methodically, extinguishing

every green thing that had
found a purchase in the wall
Looking slowly up, he gave me
an uncomplicated “bonjour”


‘James Thornton speaks as both a poet who has colonised science and a scientist who speaks a poetic tongue.’ – E.O.Wilson, double Pulitzer prizewinner.


This book of poems was a wonderful gift. The ancient mountain village opens up and I was taken on an inner journey of discovery. Each poem so succulent I could taste the cherries villagers offered to the new comer. The language is simple, yet rich. The local dog who follows the poet on walks through the Pyrenees; the birds, the bats, the ants that eat sugar cubes. All are my friends by the end as the poet holds them in love. I have the sense of a life lived with grace, and that the author and the town have merged over 25 years of gentle observation. I will return to this little book. It is deceptive for within its pages is a life unassuming, but grand.

- Sarah Walton - Amazon *****

‘A poignant and evocative paean to an ancient village high in the French Pyrenees, where the
reinvigorating miracle of the natural world is tinged with reflections on mortality.

- Homero Aridjis, Mexican Poet and former President of PEN International

‘Weaves quiet perception and poignant reflection on humans, animals, and landscape into a shimmering
pattern of southern French light.’

- Olafur Eliasson, creator of In Real Life exhibition at Tate Modern in 2020

James Thornton

‘One of ten people who could change the world’ – The New Statesman Born in Douglaston, New York, James’s life had taken him to South Bend, Indiana for the world’s first Earth Day. When schoolmates quit school to hit the streets in environmental protest, James stayed behind. He was desperate to save the natural world from ecological collapse, and study was somehow a part of it. That study included poetry, the violin, French literature, philosophy (specializing in Kant and Wittgenstein), and entomology (the first attempts to breed tarantulas born in …

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