Well, if Strictly can have a Hallowe’en special, why can’t this column? I do like Annie Finch’s take on the Celtic Feast of the Dead, ‘Samhain‘. I don’t know that I understand it all intellectually but, as ever with me, that matters less than the feeling with which it leaves me. There’s a shiver, not of fear but something more like awe, of apprehending the vastness of time and our place in a continuum. See how the poem leaves you.
I love the way ‘Samhain’ asks us to see autumn and winter as part of spring; decay as rest—the leaves at last being able to be free, and then to lie on ‘the ground/ they were watching while they hung’—and thus a part of growth and continuance. There is no endpoint, only continuation, ‘thousands long’. Though there is a ‘shudder’ there is also a ‘gift’, ‘answers…/ a waiting bounty’: the sense of being connected, supported, a part of something, at once an individual and part of a whole. There is a sense of honouring ancestors, of being them, of things being not lost but passed on. Thus while there’s definitely something which stills me about this poem, it doesn’t chill me: not scary but heartening. It’s very different from your average monster-y witch-y Franken-fright-fest.
Not quite sure what kind of routine the Strictly team could make of it though…