sharon olds

#PoetryDayIRL

 

magic book

Today is Poetry Day in Ireland! What a great day to lose yourself in the rhythmic alchemy of language.  Even if you’re not into poetry, just take the time, think of a topic that interests you and search for a poem on it: Love, Twilight, Death, Happiness, Thought, Paris, History – everything can be distilled into poetry and I guarantee you’ll find a poem on every imaginable theme.  If you enjoy a sunset, the sound of the sea or the smell of rain – that makes you a poet.  Listen to your heartbeat – poetry, as I’m writing I’m watching my Willow tree bend in the April breeze – more poetry, it’s everywhere!

I started reading and writing poetry in my final year in Secondary school.  I studied all the usual suspects (mostly old angry men) but I persevered because something about the medium grabbed my attention more than anything else I was studying in those days.  I remember reading Siegfried Sassoon Base Details a sarcastic poem about the indifference to front-line soldiers displayed by their officers, and tried to recreate my own version about life in the classroom! It probably sucked, but I enjoyed the word-play and the difficult search for descriptions.  In college, I discovered Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Dorothy Parker and I was off.  Writing about myself, my feelings and desires, my heartbreak’s and fixes, everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. In later years Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Michael Hartnett, James Tate, Sharon Olds, Jane Hirshfield, Naomi Shihab Nye and many  many more, became my companions.  Poetry was a constant in my life, a second shadow, and it still is, almost 30yrs later!

I knocked at her doors for so long before realising she’d left a key under the pot!  That’s the thing about poetry, if you want her she’s yours, you don’t even have to ask.  If you’re lost, she’ll find you.  So don’t be put off by academics who make out that poetry is only for the lofty, the high-brow or uber intelligent.  Wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead listen to what Pablo Neruda, one of the great Latin American poets, had to say about poetry (and he knew a thing or two):

 “On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished.  That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity”.

So, drop your guard, open a book of poetry and walk into your heart 🙂  This is one of my favourites, it’s Neruda, it’s his honest-to-goodness, wonderfully descriptive, personal poetic discovery, the moment poetry held him in her embrace. Translated by Alastair Reid from Mark Eisner’s Essential Neruda. it’s:

POETRY

And it was at that age … poetry arrived
In search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
It came from, from winter or a river
I don’t know how of when,
No, they weren’t voices, they were not
Words, nor silence,
But from a street it called me,
From the branches of the night,
Abruptly from the others,
Among raging fires
Or returning alone,
There it was, without a face,
And it touched me.

I didn’t know what to say, my mouth
Had no way
With names,
My eyes were blind,
Something kicked in my soul,
Fever or forgotten wings,
And I made my own way,
Deciphering that fire,
And I wrote the first, faint line,
Faint, without substance, pure
Nonsense,
Pure wisdom
Of one who knows nothing,
And suddenly I saw the heavens
Unfastened
And open,
Planets,
Palpitating plantations,
The darkness perforated,
Riddled
With arrows, fire and flowers,
The overpowering night, the universe.

And I, tiny being,
Drunk with the great starry
Void,
Likeness, image of
Mystery,
Felt myself a pure part
Of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind.

 

 

Photo Credit: http://science-all.com/image.php?pic=/images/magic/magic-03.jpg

 

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Honouring Women

24974393973_00efb80acd_m A grand old time!

There has been a lot of emphasis on women since the beginning of the year and more often than not, thankfully in a positive light. In Ireland anyway we’ve learned so much about the important roles played by women in the rising of 1916 and beyond, as the country struggled for independence. Studying history in school in the 1980’s however, we were led to believe it was a male only revolution but thankfully women are now getting the recognition they deserve. Women of all generations are flourishing in the arts, in politics and business and although it’s difficult to believe in 2016, we still have a long way to go to achieve the gender equality to which we are so rightly entitled.
Gender discrimination in terms of education, employment, pay, human rights etc., is ubiquitous, battles are hard-won in the West but women living in developing or dictatorial countries haven’t even been invited to the war.
In honour of International Women’s Day and in this Women In History Month, today’s show is all about the ladies. We’ll have poetry from Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton and Radmila Lazic and music from Kate Bush, India Arie and Natasha Khan. We think of our Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Neice’s all over the world fighting battles from the personal to the political; we think of women who broke the barriers, cleared the path and led the way from Sappho to Simone de Beauvoir, Harriet Beecher-Stowe to Benazir Bhutto, Mirabai to Malala Yousafzai. Warriors, nurturers, lovers and friends – we are every woman!

 

 

WestWords Perfect Pair

I’m a huge fan of American poet Sharon Olds.  It’s her honesty, humour and humility I find so appealing.  I sometimes can’t get through one of her poems without surrendering to sadness or joy.  Her poetry is known for its free verse style, characteristic of Walt Whitman, and she is the author of one of contemporary poetry‘s best-selling volumes The Dead And The Living, at more than 50,000 copies. Childhood, family life, femininity, eroticism and politics are just some of the topics vividly described in her collections which include Satan Says, The Gold Cell, One Secret Thing and Stag’s Leap, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. An unforgiving self examination here in:Campagnola---backs-in-art-009

© Giulio Campagnola

SELF PORTRAIT, REAR VIEW
By Sharon Olds

At first I almost do not believe it, in the hotel
triple mirror, that that is my body, in
back, below the waist, and above
the legs – the thing that doesn’t stop moving
when I stop moving.
And it doesn’t even look like just one thing
Or even one big, double thing
– even the word saddlebags has a
Smooth, calfskin feel to it,
Compared to this compendium
of net string bags shaking their booty of
cellulite fruits and nuts. Some lumps
look like bon bons translated intact
from chocolate box to buttocks, the curl on top
Showing, slightly, through my skin. Once I see what I can
do with this, I do it, high-stepping
to make the rapids of my bottom rush
in ripples like a world wonder. Slowly,
I believe what I am seeing, a 54-year-old
rear end, once a tight end,
High and mighty, almost a chicken butt, now
Exhausted, as if tragic. But this is not
an invasion, my cul-de-sac is not being
used to hatch alien cells, ball peens,
gyroscopes, sacks of marbles. It’s my hoard
of treasure, my good luck, not to be
dead, yet, though when I toss the
main of my ass again and see,
in a clutch of eggs, each egg,
on its own as if shell-less, shudder, I wonder
if anyone has ever died
looking in a mirror, of horror. I think I will
not even catch a cold from it,
I will go to school to it, to Butt
Boot Camp, to the video store, where I saw
in the window, my hero, my workout jelly
role model, my apotheosis: Killer Buns.


Music from spoof English heavy metal band Spinal Tap there, Big Bottom is from the soundtrack to the 1984 film satire This Is Spinal Tap, documenting the exploits of heavy metal rock bands of the time.