15 February 2008

Belated HVD!

Just wanted to share a lovely poem forwarded to me by a good friend. Thanks, Kats ;)

Variations On The Word Love
(Margaret Atwood)

This is a word we use to plug holes with.

It's the right size for those warm blanks in speech,

for those red heart-shaped vacancies on the page

that look nothing like real hearts.

Add lace and you can sell it.

We insert it also in the one empty space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions.

There are whole magazines with not much in them
but the word love,

you can rub it all over your body

and you can cook with it too.

How do we know it isn't what goes on

at the cool debaucheries of slugs under damp pieces of cardboard?

As for the weed-seedlings

nosing their tough snouts up among the lettuces,

they shout it.


Sing the soldiers,

raising their glittering knives in salute.

Then there's the two of us.

This word is far too short for us,

it has only four letters,

too sparse to fill those deep bare vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish to fall into,

but that fear.
this word is not enough

but it will have to do.

It's a single vowel in this metallic silence,

a mouth that says O again and again in wonder
and pain,

a breath,

a finger grip on a cliff side.

You can hold on or let go.

06 February 2008

A journal entry of a Journal entry Part 1

From Jeanette Winterson (January 2008)

Honour the fate you are…

That’s from the Auden poem ATLANTIS. It seems like a good thing to remember, surfing into the New Year, with all its challenges and surprises, difficulties and dreams. I don’t want it to sound like I believe in pre-destination – fate is never that, but it is the web of possibilities from which we unthread our particular journey.

It may be that we don’t honour ourselves enough – in the sense of respecting our real nature – actual and developing. The business of trying to be ourselves is a full-time occupation – which is not to say give up your job and your family, but is to say don’t be troubled by the size of the task. Individuality is not a small thing.

I have said many times that I believe poetry can make a huge difference to how we feel about ourselves and about ourselves in the world. I have just been reading The Letters of Ted Hughes, really engaging stuff, and well worth getting hold of. He says somewhere what I have found for myself, that reading poetry out loud is revelatory. It is in part the incantation, which is ancient and mystical, something we used to do, and rarely do now. It is in part the sound and feel of breath, your breath mingling with the breath of the poet. It is in part recitation, the pleasure of pushing the thing out of your body at the same time as taking it into the body.

I find that if I recite something a few times, I can learn it without really trying – though I know this happens through habit, and won’t happen to someone straightaway. But it will fend off memory loss, and it will give you something to play with in your head the next time you are stuck on a tube-train, or in a queue, or any other situation that requires personal resources, great or small.

In any case, poetry is such an antidote to babble that a dose of it once a day reminds us what language is – and what it isn’t.

Try it for the New Year – a poem every day read outloud. It can be the same poem or different poems, or a sequence of poems, whatever you like. Think of it as a stretch exercise...