"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)