Tag: grief

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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peine forte et dure

Apparently that’s the name for the torture whereby a board was placed on top of you and weights gradually added until the life was crushed out of you (or you made a plea in relation to the crime of which you were accused). “Pressing”, as it was also known, comes to my mind every now and then these days when I turn on the news or check out The Grauniad website and hear what the latest Thing is. I have a distinctly physical sense of another weight being added, another piece of bad news and difficulty on top of what already felt like a crushing load. Thus half an hour ago I was to be seen sitting with my forehead on the desk trying to summon the energy and will to sit upright. I’m sure this is a common experience. What works, apart from coffee, chocolate or a walk in the wood, is acknowledging to myself what I’m actually feeling; and so I give you ‘Talking to Grief‘ by Denise Levertov.

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I do not approve

Someone confided in me, earlier this week, their feelings in re: all the pain, confusion and madness in the world at the moment: “I don’t like it”. It was offered as if I was being let into an important secret, and there was something very disarming about it—so honest and un-clever and childlike. Not to mention unarguable. It put me in mind of the wonderful ‘Dirge Without Music‘ by Edna St Vincent Millay. There’s what I think is a very good reading of it there at the Poetry Website (click the red arrow by the title), and a different one here; or you could enjoy this fragment which, I think, catches the same mood as the PF reading. Have a listen. See what you think.

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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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something almost being said

A few weeks back I mentioned that we’d get to Larkin’s trees in May. Well, it’s May, and here are ‘The Trees‘. You can hear Larkin reading the poem, and watch an accompanying animation (commissioned by the BBC on the 30th anniversary of Larkin’s death), here.

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the school in which we learn

I’ve no idea how well known this poem is, but it’s relatively new to me, and its refrains have been pulsing their steady rhythm through me for the last week or so. So here it is: ‘Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day‘ by Delmore Schwartz.

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something to hold on to

Waking at 5.25 this morning I got straight out of bed and went to the wood behind my house where I walked slowly round, revelling in the full glory of the dawn chorus. I was still in my pyjamas so I’m glad I was there before the first dogwalkers and runners (in these days of lockdown they are infesting the times and places that—did they but know it—are actually MINE. I know; sorry.) But even though I didn’t get caught I was aware that this wasn’t exactly Normal Behaviour. I mean, sure, I walk pretty much every morning. But I usually get dressed first. It just didn’t seem worth it today.

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what a difference an ‘a’ makes

I apologise for that appalling pun. Had to be done. If you’re still speaking to me, have a look at this poem, ‘A Bitterness’ (here), then think about what it would feel like with even only a slight change in the title—’Your bitternesss’, or just ‘Bitterness’, or even ‘The Bitterness’? Wouldn’t that make it a really different poem?

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