When did we start, Kate, Molly and me… was it in 2011?
We felt a deep desire to read good poetry in a group. But not just reciting a poem out loud and mumbling to each other, ‘Very interesting, next!’ No, to really focus on the poem. An analysis of what a poem says, what it means, and how it says it. The rhyme of the stanzas, repetition, form, alliteration, allusions, metaphor, point of view – in combination with a short life story of the poet, summary of the works, prizes won.
We started off with T.S. Eliot and ‘The Love song of Alfred J. Prufrock’. Molly took us by the hand. Through the years we have read many big names, like R.S. Thomas, Robert Lowell, John Donne, Philip Larkin, Robert Browning, W.H. Auden, Wallace Stevens, George Macbeth. We didn’t forget the women either: Stevie Smith, Pascale Petit, Carol Ann Duffy, Marianne Moore, and many more.
In each session, we look at up to half a dozen poems. No, we don’t love everything all the time. And yet there’s this excitement about coming to understand things that we perhaps hadn’t seen the first, or second time. And then, it kicks in, we feel stirred or moved or provoked by the beauty of the language.
This time we paid attention to Judith Wright. Who is she? Never heard of. Interesting because her name is in Australia outstandingly popular. After we read (we read each in turn) a very crystal clear and round poem, I sighed, ‘Typical a poem to learn by heart’… And they all started laughing. Why was that? Oh Cora, my comrades said, that’s for when you’re a youngster. Oh, well. But still. I think it’s good to learn a few lines by heart. Imagine you’re standing in a queue, and instead of being impatient, or bored, you recite this to yourself and the people around you:
“Silence is the rock where I shall stand.
The silence between this and the next breath,
That might be — is not yet — death;
the silence between lover and lover
that neither flesh nor mind bridge over;
the silence between word and word,
in which the truth waits to be heard;
the silence between world and world
in which the promise first was sealed;
the heart’s silence between beat and beat,
in which myself and silence meet.
Silence is the rock where I shall stand.
Oh, when I strike it with my hand
may the artesian waters spring
from that dark source I long to find.”
– ‘Silence’ by Judith Wright (1915-2000)
What more can I say…