Rhymes for the times…..

by | Mar 26, 2020 | News and reports

Rhymes Recollected wasn’t able to meet this week. Here are some thoughts and poems, relevant to the current situation chosen by Audrey who wrote most of the accompanying text – John added a little.

Our theme this week was Home – what irony in our self -isolating -social -distancing situation this week ! Who could have foreseen the aptness of this choice when we planned our programme.

I had chosen  these two poems to share at our group :

 I Remember I Remember…   by Thomas Hood the description of the garden in verse two transports me to my Dad’s lovingly tended Rose garden which on a recent drive past has been modernised with high fencing and a hot tub!

 Song   by Henry  W Longfellow   Longfellow describes the safety of Home” a hawk is hovering in the sky , to stay at home is best ”  Coronavirus hovers unseen and the guidelines are for us stay at home.

 Home represents sanctuary, comfort, love for some, but for others challenges and danger.

“Language must be the bridge which connects us” Mary Jean Chan a contemporary poet wrote in an article for World Poetry Day 21 March 2020. She wonders if verse can offer some unique solace as we attempt to weather the storm together yet apart.

Her poem Safe Space II (2017) begins:

Wash your hands. Rub soap into foam into lost hands. Focus on the running tap, the way your hands momentarily disappear and you feel safe again….”

 Mary Jean Chan mentions realising very recently that the poem was actually subconsciously drawn from her experience as a 12-year-old during Sars epidemic in Honk Kong in 2003.

 There is something about the brevity and precision of a poem which can often express concisely a feeling or an experience . An awareness of shared experience , a new insight,  consolation, a chance to pause, to contemplate, to enjoy the images and rhythms.

I was sent this moving poem yesterday  And  the People Stayed Home by Kitty O’Meara which seems to offer a positive vision for the future. It was written within the last few days by a retired Wisconsin teacher with an Irish background to help her cope with her own anxiety in the face of Coronavirus.

 The poem, which you can hear read here, reads:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Simon Armitage the Poet Laureate offers Lockdown. The first half describes  the village of Eyam which closed itself off in the 17th century to stop the spread of plague “star-crossed lovers on either side of the quarantine line whose wordless courtship spanned the river till she came no longer.’ There is such poignant power in those last five sparse words.

 The second half references a  Sanskrit story of a distant husband “sending word to his lost wife on a passing cloud..” Images of “streams like necklaces, fan-tailed peacocks, painted elephants, embroidered bedspreads of meadows and hedges” evoke the beauty of our Earth and a challenge for us to  slow down, to review our frantic, hectic ways.

 Armitage suggests that Poetry asks us to be considerate of language and also of our world and of each other.  He says it is “by definition consoling” because “it often asks us just to focus and think and be contemplative.”

There’s a message to be to be learned, he adds “about taking things easy and being patient and trusting the Earth and maybe having to come through this slightly slower, and wiser, at the other end – given that one thing that’s accelerated the problem is our hectic lives and our proximities and the frantic ways we go about things.”

I think that’s a fitting way to end. 

PS our next theme is “My Favourites”. If you would like to share yours, do get in touch!