‘we read to know we are not alone’

‘we read to know we are not alone’

As anyone knows who’s been to a workshop or event I’ve facilitated (or follows what the afternoon knows), this is something I bang on about a lot. I’m unapologetic about it, though, because it’s such an important dimension of reading (and indeed experiencing any kind of art). Surely anything that pierces our loneliness—whether from each other or from (parts of) ourselves—is worth celebrating? So today I want to think about how reading helps us know we are not alone, and do so in relation to the understated but marvellous poem ‘Things’ by Fleur Adcock.

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reading poems, reading us

Last week we were talking about how Gilbert’s ‘Failing and Flying’ makes visible all sorts of assumptions embedded in our (Western) culture. This week, I want to think about how reading makes visible things inside ourselves, which we may or may not have been aware of. And I want to start with what I think is a remarkable poem, written by my 13 year old goddaughter. It formed the front page of a card she sent me a few weeks ago. Here it is:

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‘poetry is what makes the invisible appear’

Well, yes. It does. That’s one of the things that’s brilliant about it.
Think, for instance, of Jack Gilbert’s ‘Failing and Flying’, with its casual, almost conversational, opening line: ‘Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew’. In just those six words an entire culture is conjured, one where only winners matter and product always trumps process.

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reading together…

I am excited about this column. It’s going to be a place for sharing and rejoicing in poetry—for celebrating the joy, power and wonder of words.

Every week there’ll be a new post about whatever poem, or idea about poetry, has currently got hold of my imagination. Get in touch: let me know what’s got hold of you—what you’re reading; what has delighted, engaged, enraged or puzzled you. Let me know, too, if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to read, or write about.

I’ll be starting our poetry conversation tomorrow, when I’ll be reflecting on how ‘poetry makes the invisible appear’. Until then…

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