Tag: poetry

thing 29: ‘one person, and they’re talking to you’: a radio interview

A few years ago I was interviewed in a sort of rent-a-therapist slot on Radio Cumbria; they wanted someone in the biz to say something vaguely intelligent for a “dealing with difficult events” programme. Getting the phone call from some BBC gofer I’d thought it was a wind-up, but there I was, about an hour later, sitting in my study being invited to pronounce on a variety of things down the telephone—and live on air. Surreal. ‘Ah yes, (more…)

do not adjust your sets…

Your thing 26 parcel is currently in preparation and will be dispatched from the what the afternoon knows warehouse very soon. In the meantime, some news of an upcoming thing.

When I was on the course at Charney (see thing 17) a conversation with Paul, one of the facilitators, led to an invitation to come on the radio show he hosts, Calon on Books, on community radio in Wrexham. This definitely sounded like a thing! Not as terrifying as an abseil, or not in the same way, though I will have to watch my language as the show is live. It’ll be on at 6 on Wednesday 24th October, and you are warmly invited to listen in on the interweb, if you’d like to. Just go to calonfm.com at the appointed hour, and click the magic livestream link. Afterwards the show will appear on the site’s listen again menu, and Paul tells me there’ll be a soundfile I’ll be able to put up here in due course.

So, get the bourbons in; or possibly, given the hour of the broadcast, a sherry. I’d better save mine till after the show.

‘loveliest of trees, the cherry now’, AE Housman

You can read this poem here.

This is one of those poems I read and simply think, ‘Yes’. The simplicity of the rhyme-scheme and the regularity of the metre feel part of the irrefutability of what the poem has to say. It seems very Housman that he’s feeling such a drive to make the most of his time at the not-very-old-really age of twenty! I started mentally re-writing stanza two to say ‘Now of my threescore years and ten/Fifty will not come again’ and then realised it was all going to go wrong at the end of life three, so abandoned that… But however premature his worry may seem, about running out of time, his point stands: that spring is a time when we may connect with the joy of renewal, the beauty of the world, and the anguish of our own fleetingness. I think Housman has it right, though. The only thing to do, in the end, is make the most of what you get. About the woodlands let us go…

thing 17: a long weekend, part (ii): ‘out over our own fathoms’: Charney Manor

‘Think it possible that you may be mistaken’. This is the final sentence of number 17 of the Quaker Advices and queries (a key text in Quakerism). Is there anyone, anywhere, any time (pass the Martini!) who couldn’t benefit from sitting with that idea for a while?

Here I was, arriving from Oxford at Didcot Parkway on the way to a Quaker Enquirers’ course at the splendidly-named Charney Manor. I was emotionally exhausted after the morning’s encounter with lost youth, and physically exhausted after having a run (flatter than Kendal, but muddier also), wandering round town for miles, and lugging a large backpack whose hipbelt, I discovered too late, was no longer operational. And friends, there’s a lot of train stuff at Didcot Parkway. I mean, a LOT. What with that, and (more…)

‘vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam’, Ernest Dowson

‘The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long’ or ‘the shortness of life forbids us long hopes’ —Horace

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

Although this poem is about a great deal more than lost youth, still, the opening of stanza two is what was running round and round in my head while I was in Oxford, and when I contemplated my time there afterwards. For me, the lines chimed with a melancholy note; but I can equally see that there can be some comfort—if perhaps a coolish comfort!—in its reminder that everything passes. I love how that “everything” is so economically and powerfully evoked in the poem’s images: ‘the weeping and the laughter/ Love and desire and hate’, ‘the days of wine and roses’. However this poem hits you—and I think that can vary from moment to moment as well as from person to person—there is a plangent beauty in this brief, apparently-simple poem which makes it one to return to, whatever your current mood.