Friday, August 19, 2011

Poetry and passion

"Memorizing lines engages a person with the rhythms of another mind and allows the thought of another, perfectly preserved, to act as a comfort to be turned to in emergencies, like a house that remains standing."  ~ Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden, Bloomsbury, London 2011, p. 52

"One woman told me that she uses the complete works of Emily Dickinson as a form of I Ching: 'Wherever it falls open, I know I will find something there.' "  ~ Daisy Goodwin in The Sunday Times, 14/08/2011

Poetry and felt mouse

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties I consumed poetry daily. I'd spend a lot of time in the poetry sections of bookshops, and when I bought the Bloodaxe anthology Staying Alive, it was one of those defining book moments: it seemed to contain everything I could hope for; the poems expressed things I had thought inexpressible.

Recently I found out that a third anthology has been published (Being Human - the second was Being Alive). I still haven't bought it. When I saw the book I realised I haven't bought a poetry book in quite a long time. I have some favourite poems up on my walls and mirrors, I read reviews of poetry every week (and have been putting titles on a reading list), but I haven't actively sought out poetry in a while.

These days I feel I am returning to it. I have been thinking about my younger self, who was so passionate about discovering a new book/CD/artist. I still am, but it hasn't been happening as often (this may be due in part to the easy availability of everything in the internet age - in the past I never really ordered anything, but instead found things, which is more gratifying, and if I got a recommendation, I searched for the item for ages, and finding it at last would come with a sense of achievement). This visceral joy and excitement when I stumble upon a great book or hear a beautiful piece of music makes me feel engaged and connected with something bigger. It happened recently with The Paper Garden, which coincidentally is written by a poet and which I found in a museum bookshop. 

I got a glimpse of it again when I was in West Cork (see last post) and then again yesterday when I watched American Beauty for the second time after twelve years and it got me thinking and I ended up reading up on it. 

I'm not sure why I am linking it to poetry (it could be anything), but somehow I see the passionate, enthusiastic me as a poetry-reading person. A poem can instantly catapult you into this state of wonder. I will get that new anthology.


This is a poem I discovered through Natalie Merchant's interpretation of it; it continues to haunt me:


See, they are clearing the sawdust course
For the girl in pink on the milk-white horse.
Her spangles twinkle; his pale flanks shine,
Every hair of his tail is fine
And bright as a comet's; his mane blows free,
And she points a toe and bends a knee,
And while his hoofbeats fall like rain
Over and over and over again.
And nothing that moves on land or sea 
Will seem so beautiful to me
As the girl in pink on the milk-white horse
Cantering over the sawdust course.

~Rachel Field (1894-1942)


  1. It really is beautiful. (Even though I must admit I am more of a quantity than a quality reader and thus too impatient for poetry, most of the time.) Being no native speaker I was, however, really surprised to see that 'again' and 'rain' supposedly rhymes... Thus I spent some time reading aloud to myself and trying to pronounce it in severeal ways (The rain in Spain, and the like...)
    A nice blog you have, by the way.

  2. I also used to consume poetry on a daily basis, as well as novels, music, and pages of my own notebooks. I'm so aware that I'm losing that passionate and imaginative streak of myself that lived so strongly within me not too long ago.

    I have a sudden urge to head to my local bookshop. Watch this space!

  3. Hej, thanks for joining :)
    Concerning the piano: go go go for it! (No, I'm not working on commission).
    I spent three years telling myself that I didn't need one since I have "the real thing" at my parents' place, and only after my e-piano moved into my flat I realized how much I missed having one. And thanks so much for the positive feedback, having all those songs on my blog for ages with no-one ever commenting, I was convinced that my hearing was too subjective and they were actually unbearable for everyone else with no-one daring to tell me so :)