It feels like there is a lot of poetry in the air, what with commemorations: for World War One unearthing the verse of that time; for the 50th year since Edith Sitwell died; and for what would have been Dylan Thomas’s 100th birthday. Amongst it all there are plenty of reminders that poetry is not something academic and distant, but something which speaks from one heart to another and something which people turn to in troubled and troubling times.
There are many words and images which are being used to engage our 21st sensibilities with the reality of WW1. I’ve been very touched by some of the diary entries I’ve heard on TV and radio. However, there is nothing like a choice poem to prick at both heart and brain, not to mention raise the question, what would I have done?
I had always thought Edith Sitwell had only tackled WW2 in her poetry, until I was told about ‘The Dancers’ from her Clowns’ Houses collection. It starts:
The floors are slippery with blood:
The world gyrates too. God is good
That while His wind blows out the light
For those who hourly die for us –
We still can dance each night.
I am continually bemused that she is best known for ‘Façade’ when she wrote verse such as this.
I was also fascinated by the Radio 4 documentary about Dylan Thomas’s popularity in West and East Germany during the Cold War: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04mh75l Apparently, poetry was particularly popular as a means of protest in East Germany because it could hide much behind a metaphor (and the censors lacked imagination). Plus it was short, so did not arouse suspicions when the supply of paper and printing were state controlled. Made me wonder what I would put out there under such restricted conditions.
So what of poetry today? Well, certainly here in North Yorkshire, we are lucky to have a flourishing scene. At the end of November a new anthology will be published by http://www.valleypressuk.com/ called ‘A Pocketful of Windows – to Gaze, Reach or Crawl Through.’
It will be launched at two exciting events. At 7.30pm on the 27th of November 2014, at North Bridlington Library (YO16 6YD), readings from the anthology will be followed by a performance of the ‘The Remarkable Mr Rutherford’ (Brid’s own unofficial poet laureate) by the duo ‘The Hull to Scarborough Line’.
On Friday, the 5th of December 2014, at 7.30pm, the launch will be at http://www.woodendcreative.co.uk/ and will be accompanied by an Open Mic (entry to the event, £2). So if you’ve got the urge to perform a song, a short piece of prose or a poem, book your space and come along. Poets are far better off in a crowd!