Tag: fear

is April really the cruellest month?

Cos this month, though it’s short, does seem to go on rather. I do enjoy the early nightfalls of winter, and the pleasure of being cocooned in the heavier-weight duvet, rejoicing in warmth while all outside is cold. But there comes a point when I don’t want to get up in the dark; when I’m tired of wearing clothes that rustle and having my hood up, slithering in mud on my morning walk. So when I discovered this account of ‘February‘ by Bill Christopherson, it resonated. See what you think.

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apokalyptíria

There’s a lot of fear, frustration and anger flying about at the moment, and this last year we’ve read many headlines and seen photos and footage we never want to have seen. Since the beginning of this strange and disturbing month one of the poems echoing in my head has been Frost’s ‘Fire and Ice‘ (click the red arrow by the title if you’d like to be read to). Does it resonate with you?

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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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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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thank you

At the moment, the world is offering us lots of reminders that life is short and time’s winged chariot is always hurrying near. It’s easy to get sucked into fear, anger or sorrow about this. They’re all around us (as well as inside us). So I was particularly delighted to discover this poem which suggests a different and beautiful response to intimations of mortality. Here it is: ‘Thank you‘ by Ross Gay. Read it and be refreshed. (You can also hear him read a couple of bits from a recent book here.)

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tenderness

One of the many weird, sad things about living during this time of pandemic is what it does to how we look on other people: suddenly everyone is threat, or potential threat, and connection is something to be avoided, not sought. I’d like to offer a little antidote to this—a reminder of connection as protection—in the shape of ‘Shoulders‘ by the deeply gifted Naomi Shihab Nye.

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the nearest thing to life

In an essay written just before her first published venture into fiction, Eliot claimed that ‘The greatest benefit we owe the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies’. She continues: ‘art is the nearest thing to life, it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot’. It feels worth remembering this at the moment, when so many arts organisations and institutions seem to be staring down the twin barrels of Covid and being insufficiently valued/funded anyway (don’t get me started on what happened to the humanities when Literacy Hour and the National Curriculum came in…). And Eliot’s line rings round my head as I think about this week’s poem, ‘A Litany for Survival‘ by Audre Lorde. (You can find a tantalising trailer for a film about Lorde here.)

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just say it

I’m very partial to a sonnet and was delighted, when teaching a course on Renaissance literature some years ago, to have the chance to indulge in some of my favourites. Marking the end-of-course essays, though, I was more dismayed than I can tell you when confronted with the datum that “Orsino puts Olivia on a pedal stool”. In at the ears and out at the pen without having passed through the brain… Think about pedal stools, then, as you read today’s poem, Astrophil and Stella I or ‘Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show‘ by Philip Sidney.

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there’s this mood, too

That extra time we’re supposed to be having at the moment, during which we relax, read, knit ourselves cunning new kitchens, all that lot… It hasn’t been like that for me. I seem to have spent a startling amount of time doing I know not what. But one of the things I have managed to achieve, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, is get hold of some WS Merwin.

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