Why poetry...introducing the daily poem
Hi. This is the awkward bit…for me at least…introducing myself and explaining why I’m writing this blog. The thing is, I didn’t intend to write one at all. But Rufus (my husband) suggested I use it to challenge myself to publish a daily poem. And so here I am and it is. For you to take or leave or read or ignore but if you’re still reading then the bit that follows is my explanation about what poetry means to me and my daily poem. And if you’re still reading after that I’d love you’re feedback. Oh and thank you for taking the time to at least read this far!
I love the way a poem can say so much in such a short space of words. How it concentrates a feeling, a story, a voice into rhythm and sounds turning words into music. More than that, a poem can make you feel less alone. Reading it, hearing it, allows you to acknowledge and accept how you feel by recognising that same feeling summed up by someone else. So often we are taught to keep our emotions in check. A poem is a reminder of the length and breadth of emotions elicited through just living.
And that’s another thing…empathy. A poem can awaken awareness about other people’s circumstances. A poem shared can connect hearts. There is camaraderie and comfort in the shared celebration of the collective human experience. Plus it has been medically proven that experiencing empathy has huge physical and mental health benefits…
Storytelling is an intrinsic human characteristic…we have a need to share our stories and how we feel. Our ancestors would gather in groups and exchange stories often in the form of epic poems or ballads. But so much of what we do now is automated - it's all too easy to keep in contact remotely and look things up online, often, both at the same time, often, not really paying enough regard to either. Because a poem sums up so much meaning so succinctly it demands that you listen or read it attentively.
And what about 'mindfulness'...We are constantly hearing, that we need to make time to tune out of the daily din and into a state of ‘mindfulness’. For me it's just a new name for practices we've been doing for centuries; prayer, painting, meditation, yoga and perhaps reading or writing poetry. There is something magical about the way words can be whisked up and out, woven together, their shapes and sounds bouncing off one another in a rush to be heard. Particles of conversation…idle sentences are released haphazardly and constantly; soaked up into the atmosphere but when you write a poem it has the possibility of living on beyond the person opposite you and meaning something else to someone else.
I've tinkered with poetry since primary school. It was a way for me to express what I was too shy to say out loud. I didn’t share them particularly; they felt too private and poetry wasn’t something that was particularly ‘cool’. After I left university I also left poetry for a while and channeled my creativity into setting up my design business. This certainly fulfilled my artistic ambitions and my designs were sold in major department stores internationally: Liberty, Harrods, Selfridges, Le Bon Marche, Galleries Lafayette, Bloomingdales, Barneys, Henri Bendel, Isetan and more; the thrill of seeing a product I had dreamt up on paper, now on the shelves of prestigious stores or in a magazine was dizzying.
And then I sold my business. I had all this desire to create and no company to create for. But life has a funny way of unraveling. It turned out, quite shortly afterward, that we would have to take our daughter, 14 at the time, out of her school and I would homeschool her for a term. It was an huge learning curve for both of us. With a lot of highs and some lows sprinkled in. And just as she was setting into a new school we discovered that our youngest son needed major surgery at Great Ormand Street Hospital. Immediately.
During one of the long, frightening, nights spent in upright vigil, huddled in a little, beige chair by his little, white hospital bed. Sleep deprived and filled to the brim with worry, I discovered ‘the peace of wild things’ by Wendell Berry. It was short enough that it fitted into the silent space between the buzz and the beep of the tangled maze of monitors attached to him. And that night it saved me. It said what I could not vocalise. That when your world comes crushing in around you and concentrates everything you think and feel into it’s essential essence; life simply comes down to ‘being’. All I wanted for me and my family was just to be. Simply. Happily. Be. Nowhere is this uncomplicated way of existing more obvious than in nature itself. The superficial angsts of deadlines, homework, who’s been invited where, that dress I wanted to buy but shouldn’t, all dissolved, drowned out by my wish for us to be.
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
And then I re-discovered how much I love poetry and piecing together a jigsaw of phrases to create what I couldn’t otherwise put into words.
ME AND YOU
The sun will still shine in the morning...
Or not, as the case may be.
The days will still carry on dawning.
Irrespective of you or me.
So lay your sweet head down this evening.
Summon your strength anew.
For as long as we are still breathing
We can take on the world; me and you.
Of course, as we all have a tendency to do, as soon as the major worries are resolved, now our son is well and everyone is vaguely settled at school, the little niggles rise to the surface again. But they are tempered with memory and tamed with empathy. Mind you. There is that dress I really want to buy…