Poem of July: getting re-connected

It’s been far too long since I’ve updated this blog, and I only have a few (poor) excuses. After being in between homes for the last few months, I’ve finally moved into a new flat, and until this week I haven’t had the Internet. It’s actually been wonderful. I was offline for a month earlier this year, and I got so much reading done! This time around has been exactly the same – I don’t have a T.V. either, so I’ve been spending evenings reading in the quiet, writing letters, or else listening to the radio or my music collection (if you haven’t already heard of him, I recommend Gregory Porter – I’ve spent hours semi-hypnotized by his beautiful voice). I know many people do this anyway, but I find it hard to switch off and stop procrastinating online when it’s available. Now that I’m re-connected, I’m going to have to work extra hard to resist going back to my old ways.

Writing poetry has definitely taken a back seat to reading poetry in the last few months. I had been hoping that I might end up spending my evenings drafting, but apart from a few odd poems, inspiration hasn’t really come. I know that rather than waiting for something to appear I should just sit down, stop thinking, and start writing, but the prospect of the blank page has just been too daunting. I’ve been working on my next thesis chapter for a while now, and I usually find that my brain only likes to do one type of writing at once. Whilst I’m writing a chapter I can’t write anything else, and then the moment I finish it my poetry brain reappears. Even though I spend my days writing about poetry, there is something profoundly un-poetic about trying to complete a PhD!

In between moving and chapter writing, I’ve also been trying to become a bit more practical around the house, having realised that I might need to know a few more skills beyond changing a light bulb. This brings me to my poem of the month. Probably in an attempt to avoid chapter writing, for a couple of days I became a bit obsessed with hammering in picture hooks and hanging pictures to make the new place feel like home. I was determined to have some poetry on the walls, but hadn’t yet found anything that felt right (I have a great poster from The Literary Gift Company, but I haven’t got around to getting that properly framed yet). I happened to be rooting around my box of letters one evening when I came across a little handwritten note from the co-editor of Poetry & Audience, Emma Trott. Attached to it was a small poem, copied out in Emma’s neat hand, called ‘Ring of Bone’, written by the American poet Lew Welch. This poem, so small and simple yet so big in subject matter, passed on from one friend to another, felt like the perfect addition to my new flat, so it now has pride of place in my living room.

Don't mind my reflection in the background!

Don’t mind my reflection in the background!

photo 2

Welch is in many ways a tragic figure, yet the poem itself almost crackles with possibility. Short as it is, it also possesses an openness and space to it – a quality found in so much of the American writing that I love and return to. The relationship between the self and the natural world is as fluid as the stream that flows though the stanzas, and by the end of the piece you are left not with a sense of resolution or closure, but rather with the far more exciting possibility that resolution lies just beyond the edge of the page.

 

Short, powerful, and loved by a friend – the perfect poem for this particular, rather busy July.