Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Afterwards by Thomas Hardy

When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
"He was a man who used to notice such things"? 
If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
"To him this must have been a familiar sight." 
If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone." 
If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"? 
And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things"?

How perfect this, from Thomas Hardy, gifted to me this week by Facebook friend Jeanne Walker after she read my poem The Landscape. The Landscape was chosen by Jen Compton for her Tuesday Poem blog last week, and here's what Jeanne said:
It is amazing how much detail we notice and savour when we realise how temporary everything is, when we see how the encoded shadows of ultrasounds, cat scans and x ray have real implications. You might enjoy Thomas Hardy's poem Afterwards - your leaves & observations reminded me of Hardy's May month leaves & observations.
So thanks Jeanne and Thomas! And here's Jeremy Irons reading the poem....  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday Poem: W B Yeats reading his poems and talking about them - a recording

Ever wondered why it is a 'purple glow'? Hear Yeats reading and talking about Lake Isle of Innisfree and other poems in this wonderful recording.

What amazes me is that he wrote Innisfree when he was 23 and living in London. He was walking along the Strand and was inspired by something to write about his home (listen to the recording to hear what the inspiration was....).

Well, I was living in London when I was 23, working on Shoe Lane off Fleet Street not too far from the Strand, and writing poems about New Zealand. I was a bit homesick, most especially for the sea. And I was reading Yeats - a favourite at university. I somehow thought he would have been older than me writing one of his great poems, though. I don't know why.

After you've had a listen, pop along to Tuesday Poem for Robert Creeley and poems he wrote about New Zealand.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Soaring like a great whale: the stuff of creativity

Some days I'm watching people and it's as if my skin is looser, the bones softer, my eyes more elastic. The man with the limp, the chubby girl with the pink stained t-shirt saying 'Pretty', the enormous pale woman with the enormous pale muffin, the girl with freckles and the staccato way of being helpful without being too helpful because she doesn't know where to stop -- I watch and in watching I lose the edges of me and start to absorb the edges of them. I feel a feeling close to love for them for all their differences and oddities, their disabilities and abilities, their joys and miseries. Like the girl with freckles, I get a sense that if I keep going I might not stop, I might start to absorb all the other people on the street, in the town, the city, the country. Love the world, the universe.

These sorts of moments I think of as deeply creative ones, because they are about empathy, climbing into other skin and eyes and brains and ways of being, and understanding what's there, writing it.

It reminds me of the way Jill Bolte Taylor described the stroke she had in the left side of her brain, and how, left with only the right ('creative') side of the brain functioning properly, she felt unmoored, without the usual sense of the limits of self. Her spirit soared like a great whale, she said, in a sea of euphoria.

So creativity -- the ordinary stuff without the left-brain stroke -- is, surely, a version of that cosmic thing Bolte Taylor experienced. The soaring, the openness to all, the euphoria. Groovy.