Among hornbills and queleas, I became
a seed of the baobab, a long pod
of the sausage tree, picture of pure
contentment, not to be undone

by all waiting for me beyond
the Zambezi and Chobe.

— “Swept Away” (Heaven Underfoot, Codhill Press, 2023)

Book cover of SWAYING ON THE ELEPHANT'S SHOULDERS by Dr. Diana Woodcock features a figure riding an elephant through a landscape filled with fog.

© 2024 Diana Woodcock, Ph.D.

Swaying on the Elephant's Shoulders

Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women Winner

Expressing a three-fold concern for human rights, refugees and ecology, the poems in Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders capture one of three states of readiness as the narrator is either poised to fly, held back, or drawn to the light. Each poem seeks to lend balance to the universe as it portrays the anguish or the joy of humanity and the pervasive sense of wonder available to us all. These are poems inspired by refugees, people living under communist rule, and fragile cultures and ecosystems on the brink of extinction. This collection, devoted to the threshold where silence and language meet, is an effort to promote worldwide justice and caretaking of the earth. It is a celebration of life, a protest against violence and greed, and an exploration of humanity's relationship with and interdependence upon nature and fellow human beings.


“The poetry in this volume sweeps across many histories and geographies to interrogate and accuse, to unearth and resurrect, to offer testimony and exact judgment, yet its most important and characteristic impulse is to validate and affirm. Diana Woodcock’s attention bears down with a scrupulous eye for determining detail, investigating far corners of the globe for the stories and materials which will yield the opportunity to witness the vast and mysterious operation of the saving graces which are ever at work in the fulfillment of ancient prophecy and infinite promise. It is an offering of light.”

– Gregory Donovan, author of Torn from the Sun

“Diana Woodcock’s poems of place and politics are not mere geography lessons. They build bridges we should all cross. They make us want to hop on the next bus, camel, kayak, or swallowtail and help all living ‘…things find their place.’ These poems of conscience ‘… stay with us—forever caught/in the rearview mirror…’ of our minds. To read them is to find the center of what is human in us all.”

– Myrna Goodman, Toadlily Press

“Diana Woodcock’s powerful collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, takes us on an unforgettable journey across the jagged yet resilient geography of the human spirit and its home, the earth. The poet’s concern for people living in extreme circumstances: ‘… wind whimpers through cracks in the wall. / Bits of sod roof fall onto our bed. / All day the dread of sunset and the cold of night.’ and for their fragile cultures, for ecosystems on the brink of extinction, powers each poem. We grow to trust this poet who takes us into personal worlds with her courage to confront anguish and brutality, extinction and emptiness, ‘…In the silence and solitude, you’ll learn to / love your neighbor for who he is…’ Her astute empathy and the images she divines to carry it make us glad to follow her ‘…into a land where even flies and fleas must be spared, then rise on the wings of unspoken chant.’”

– Roselyn Elliott, author of Ghost of the Eye

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Bibliographic Information

  • isbn 9781935656128
  • pages 152 pp.
  • format 7 x 9.8" Paperback
  • publication date October 2011
  • publisher Little Red Tree Publishing