‘… and then you’d think aha! something interesting is going to happen and then someone would mention Derrida and it would all be over…’
Thus my friend Simon, speaking about his time reading English at Oxford and the death-by-theory thing which can so often happen during formal study. I know what he means. In my very first group supervision at Cambridge we were issued copies of a poem—I have repressed the knowledge of what it was, if I ever knew—and the Director of Studies’ opening gambit (more…)
What Are Words Worth? is a monthly group I facilitate on behalf of the Wordsworth Trust. We’ve been meeting for over three years now and though we know each other well by now, we’re also delighted that new people are still coming along. It’s a big table: there’s plenty of room!
It’s a shared reading group, which takes place on the first Wednesday or first Thursday of the month, alternately. We meet in a cafe and enjoy poetry together. Each month we have a topic, and we bring whatever comes to mind in relation to that topic. We’re a various, warm and friendly bunch who enjoy sharing our love of poetry, our memories, feelings, musings and life-experiences. There’s no pressure to read, to talk, or do anything but be there. But you’ll probably find yourself drawn in…
Among other things so far we’ve looked at colours, weather, beginnings, creatures, mountains, nature, conflict, pictures and images, death, the elements, local poetry, water… We choose the topics together, and there’s never quite enough time to share all the treasures we find.
We meet upstairs at Finkle’s Cafe on Finkle Street in Kendal, from 11-12.30. The dates in our diary for the rest of this year are: Wednesday 5th June; Thursday 4th July; Thursday 1st August; Wednesday 11th September; Thursday 3rd October; Wednesday 6th November; and Thursday 5th December. If you’d like to ask about it, feel free to email me. Or just turn up. You’ll be very welcome.
Stripping off with a bunch of other people, variously familiar to me, in the chilly, cramped vestry of some hitherto-unknown church. Dressing for Saturday Night in modest, full-length black, then perching on a chair in an unheated church hall, eating squashed sandwiches. All the ingredients of a perfectly normal weekend for me.
I’ve been singing in choirs since I was about 7 (not continuously, obviously), and this has frequently involved doing gigs in (more…)
You can read this poem here.
Last year, while doing the prep. for a session I was running, I had most of the books off the poetry shelves, looking for texts about friendship that weren’t of the saccharine, emetic, vacuous or Inspirational Verse breeds. I wanted a poem that said something about what friendship is about, how it “works”, rather than merely saying what a Good Thing it is. The celebration of friendship in verse seems to be far rarer, though, than the celebration of romantic love. But I did eventually find a few poems I really liked, which I added to this quiet treasure by Jennings. It was a thought-provoking exercise to go through.
Friendship is, most of the time, both undramatic and glorious. It’s essential without (very often!) causing the pulse to race. I think this poem has the same quality of quiet wondrousness which it celebrates in its subject. It’s written in simple rhyming couplets which are neat without being clangingly predictable. Its rhythm is measured and regular without being stodgy, and is lifted by its judicious use of enjambement. Its vocabulary is unfussy but careful, naming clearly the simple but precious qualities it celebrates—’gentleness… understanding… trust… respect… awe’.
I find the use of the word ‘awe’ really interesting. It makes me think of how friendship—like any of the loves—can remind us, every so often, of the utter other-ness of the other party. This is a real person, distinct from us and with their own set of likes and dislikes, habits and experiences and quirks… and yet they choose to share time with us, to give us the precious gift of themselves. That is indeed awesome—in the Bill-and-Ted sense of great, but also in the proper sense of amazing, wonderful, breathtaking.
I can still see it now: the hand-made razor-cleaning-brush holder, approx. three inches by half an inch, knitted in uptightly-tense garter stitch in DK wool in variegated tones of blue by my 7-year-old self.
The HMRCBH lived in Dad’s razor box for a long time and I remember my delight in how delighted he was to receive it (or at least, how delighted I felt he was, which was what mattered). But though the giving and receiving of hand-made items remains a very special thing—which I still enjoy, and which Kirstie et al increasingly encourage us to do these days—that’s not actually (more…)