Today is World Poetry Day and I had the pleasure and privilege of accompanying a group of students to our local care home, where they performed poetry they had written for the residents. It was a wonderful and moving experience to see these young people engage with such care, kindness, and interest with the older generation in our community. It was also a true testament to the power of poetry to move and inspire.
The students involved revelled in the opportunity to create poetry, several of them never having attempted anything like it before. The whole experience reinforced my own love of the poetic word and prompted me to reflect on my own experience of writing poetry. Unlike with other forms of writing, I often find that poems materialise inside me in a very natural way. Writing stories, articles, and blog posts usually takes a conscious effort of considered construction, but poetry often seems gifted to me.
I heard a wonderful TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she shares Ruth Stone’s poetic process:
“…when she felt it coming – because it would, like, shake the earth under her feet – she knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to – in her words – run like hell. And she would, like, run like hell to the house. And she’d be getting chased by this poem. And the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times, she wouldn’t be fast enough. So she’d be, like, running and running and running and the – she wouldn’t get to the house, and the poem would, like, barrel through her. And she would miss it. And she said it would continue on across the landscape looking, as she put it, for another poet.”
My own experience of being discovered (or chased!) by an emerging poem is not quite so dramatic but I can completely relate to the idea of a poem coming to the poet! Don’t get me wrong, my poems don’t just blink into life fully formed before me. I usually find that they sneak up on me and then just part of it will just appear to my consciousness very suddenly. It is like seeing something glinting in the grass and when I pick it up it becomes a thread for me to follow. I follow the thread and hope I can figure out where it was supposed to lead. I weave it into something new and hopefully capture that moment in time.
Lat summer, I was lucky enough to stay at Gladstone’s Library – something which I HIGHLY recommend to any writer or bookworm – and my time there really rekindled my love of writing poetry. One poem found me whilst I was writing in the library late one night and I thought I would share it with you today:
Night birds sing their sunset tune,
As the eloquence of trees is cloaked in shadow.
The final note rings out the day
And silence envelopes the warm, red brick.
But lights still glow through the leased windows,
And gentle figures sit in quiet reverence,
Breathing deep the ink and parchment dust
Of ages past.
Walked in by layers of words and prayers and panelled oak,
Held close by the carved pillars and balustrades
That guard the ancient knowledge of the library;
A knowledge of their own.
Outside the darkness creeps
And chases off the warmth of day
But inside the write by their own cones of light,
Cocooned in the low steady burn of ideas.
And even as the lights dim and blink out,
And heavy heads hit feather pillows, to
The seemingly slow and silent life of the library,
Carries on it’s endless forays into
History and Destiny and Fantasy,
Because imagination never sleeps.