Author: Lucy Crispin

responsibility

This poem, ‘Passive Voice‘ by Laura Da’, jumped out at me the other morning when I soothed myself with poetry after the morning engagement with the news. The poem attached itself to thoughts about the acceptance and refusal of responsibility; thoughts of “transparency” and accountability, and obfuscation. I wonder if it will strike a chord with you too?

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starting over

I’m half Scottish but I’m also half Sassenach, and I’ve never really “got” the whole Hogmanay frenzy. New Year’s Eve has often felt tainted with melancholy for me, in a sub-Larkin ‘Death [is] a whole year nearer now‘ sort of a way. This year, though, when surely most of us are hoping for better things to come, I feel really drawn to this poem, the beautiful ‘New Year’s‘ by Dana Gioia. See what you make of it.

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darkling

Joy and pain, hope and despair, don’t always seem evenly balanced in Hardy, that’s for sure. Just ask Tess. Or Jude. But for the turn of such a year as this I want to remind myself of the beauty-in-the-midst-of-desolation that we find in Hardy’s ‘The Darkling Thrush’. I’m sure it’s familiar to you, but you can re-read (or read) it here.

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the unbroken

A couple of years ago the 42 group began a December tradition of making a poetry advent calendar. We choose a topic and each contribute a few of our favourite poems which, with a great deal of sherry and swearing, I grapple into a vaguely consistent format, allotting a poem to each day of advent and emailing out the resulting document. This year our topic has been healing/reassurance/comfort, that sort of thing. The Christmas Eve poem a group member contributed was new to me—so beautiful and so apt for these strange times that, with apologies to group members who are seeing the same poem twice in one day, I share it here too. Delight in ‘The Unbroken‘ by Rashani.

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the whole business, lovers to monks

Ad execs must have had a tough time working out how to sell Christmas in this year of virtual life. (At least, I hope they have.) The Christmas fantasies of merrily-laughing families or snugly-jumpered framilies aren’t going to cut it for 2020. I’d like to offer you this poem as a sort of reality check, or an advert for the only thing which really serves us in times as trying as these. Here’s Hayden Carruth’s ‘An Apology for Using the Word ‘Heart’ in Too Many Poems‘. (If you click the arrow above the poem’s title, Garrison Keillor will read it to you. The poem starts at 1:52 but the rest of Keillor’s gentle ramble around matters cultural is interesting, too.)

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the condition of music

Walter Pater says somewhere or other, I forget where, that “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music”. He continues, “For while in all other kinds of art it is possible to distinguish the matter from the form, and the understanding can always make this distinction, yet it is the constant effort of art to obliterate it.” What I take from this is something about the relationship between form and content: how in the best poems the equation is not form plus content = meaning, but form times content = impact/connection/experience. And this week’s poem seems to me to be one which ‘aspires’ successfully. Have a read of ‘As I Walked Out One Evening‘ by Auden, and see what you think.

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splendidly silly

It’s always good to have something to raise a smile. On a day like today—it’s dreich and the light has never been off, even at noon—this poem has been doing that for me, its repetitions and rhythms forming the soundtrack for my drippy, muddy morning walk. Join me in delighting in Pound’s delicious parody of ‘Sumer is Icumen in’, simply titled ‘Ancient Music‘.

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difficult thoughts

When times are hard, is it helpful or appalling to read something and realise that times have been hard in the same way before (and therefore probably will be again)? Mostly, as you’ll know by now, I tend to think it’s helpful to read and know you are not alone; but when today’s poem presented itself for duty in my head, seeming apt for the times, resonant and gloomy, I did initially feel a bit droopier than I already had been. So, see what you think: do you feel droopier when you read ‘The Leaden Eyed‘ by Vachel Lindsay? (Note: in versions I’ve seen in print there is a stanza break between lines 4 and 5, which doesn’t appear in this online version.)

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