Category: poetry appreciation

walking with bears (or, seeing while walking)

To be more precise: one bear. On Wednesday I was, briefly, part of a Climate Pilgrimage in which a polar bear and his companion are walking from Shropshire to the Cop 26 in Glasgow. Seeing all ten feet of Clarion the Bear being moved with great care and tenderness along Kendal’s busy main street was profoundly, unexpectedly moving: all that attention being lavished on one, vulnerable creature—he looked so ectopic in the blare and bustle of town—while the actual vulnerable creatures are unprotected. It was simultaneously beautiful and appalling.

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a touch of cold

You know that first smell of autumn? The first morning you leave the house and the air is different?—crisper, with that first whiff of deliciously decaying leaves? That’s one of my favourite moments in the year, and I’ve been looking for a poem which celebrates it. So far I haven’t found quite the thing—do let me know if you know one—but I did like the reference to ‘A touch of cold’ in this small but lovely poem, ‘Autumn‘, by TE Hulme. See what you think.

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message in a bottle

I was interested, the other week, to come across these words from Joyce Glassman: “Artists are nourished more by each other than by fame or by the public. To give one’s work to the world is an experience of peculiar emptiness. The work goes away from the artist into a void, like a message stuck into a bottle and flung into the sea.”

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an independent ambassador for conscience

Here’s Ellen Hinsey on poetry: ‘Poetry is the conscience of a society… No individual poem can stop a war—that’s what diplomacy is supposed to do. But poetry is an independent ambassador for conscience: it answers to no one, it crosses borders without a passport, and it speaks the truth. That’s why… it is one of the most powerful of the arts”. Given what’s been going on in the world these last couple of weeks it feels like one of those too-apt-to-be-a-coincidence coincidences that I should meet Hinsey’s words in the same week as someone should bring to the 42 group Larkin’s ‘Homage to a Government’.

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the gifts of loss

This week—today, in fact, if you read this on a Friday—I’m having to do a big bit of letting go. The house where my Mum and Dad lived is now sold, and I’m up in Scotland, emptying the last bits of furniture, locking the door and walking away for the last time. Like much that has happened in my life (let alone in the wider world) over the last couple of years, this feels too big and disturbing to understand at once. I feel as though I can’t think and feel all the “necessary” things, and get in a sort of panic. Just the right time, then, to read a poem about letting go and feel it find me in the way that poetry (like music) can. Here is ‘Moving Forward‘ by Rilke.

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where the enchanted live

Like many singers, I’m starting to look forward to stepping back into some version, at least, of the regular rhythm of rehearsing and performing which has been part of the structure of my life for—jings—4 decades now. At an informal sing in someone’s garden the other week (I can’t really dignify it by the title of rehearsal!) it was chastening to realise how much our voices have suffered from separation and silence. But it was still delicious to come together to make music, croaky and awkward as it was. I love the way Lisel Mueller honours and articulates the particular joy of live music (in the poem’s case, of listening to it). Read ‘Brendel Playing Schubert‘ or have it read to you (press the little arrow at the top. Poem starts c. 3.10.)

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the trees are down

For a few years now, my local council seems to have been on a mission gratuitously to cut down trees. I get that sometimes this is necessary; but the info-about-works relating to one copse up on the fell near my house gave, as the reason for felling, “felling”. Hmm. Another glorious maple on the green was cut down because it was a Canadian maple, and therefore non-native, and therefore… well, what?? So sad. I don’t know if it’s consoling (as in we read to know we are not alone) or even more depressing to find this poem, ‘The Trees are Down‘ by Charlotte Mew, in which the poet laments exactly the same thing. (There’s a rather good reading of it here.) It was written almost exactly a hundred years ago. Plus ca change.

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silent watches

The silent watches of the night haven’t been so silent of late. I live just round the corner from a popular pub, so some of the noise has had to do with En-ger-land (glad that’s over). But a lot has been generated by some extremely vocal owls who have, I swear, taken to sitting on a windowsill very near me in order to have protracted conversations in the small hours. It’s so loud! Fortunately, it’s lovely too.

Owls seem to be one of those things lots of poets bang on about. Edward Thomas’s ‘The Owl‘ is one of my favourites.

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