Poetry Bites #5: Collaborative Poem (part 2)

white blossom by Jane Poulton

Photo by Jane Poulton

One Day in a Life
April 2020

Morning
Walk to the breakwater on wind scribed sand.
A sassy breeze comes in with the waves.
The sun breaks a yolk across the sea.

Afternoon
Tree by tree
the chaffinch marks his domain with song.
Rowan.
Silver birch.
Horse chestnut.
Beech, its branches bending to embrace the other.
The cherry blossom, heady harbinger of Spring.

4pm
Newly learned language clogs our throats.
Daily death rate. Self-isolating. Pandemic.
PPE. Lockdown. Contact tracing.

Grant us the grace to keep tally of our blessings
on letterbox-red tulip petals and a forget-me-not sky.

Evening
Fingers of shadow slant across the grass,
our day’s jagged fold lines smoothed away.

Curated by Kate Evans.
Words/lines generously donated by Kate Boddy, Lesley Glover & Jane Poulton

 

 

The Process
A few weeks ago, in a blog post, I invited people to get involved with writing a collaborative poem. I am so grateful that several have generously donated their words and sentences. I have enjoyed the process and those who took part have also said they found pleasure in it. Whether the poem will pass the test of time, I do not know, but I feel it captures a moment, which is valuable in itself.

When I have done this type of thing in a group, usually at the end of a workshop where people have been working together for a day or more, I am always surprised at how easily the lines slip together. This did not happen this time. A writing friend suggested this is because we were not together enough to be ‘on the same wavelength’. Plus I was more anxious about what the contributors would think about the completed poem.

Consequently, at first I was, to be truthful, a bit flummoxed. Then I saw the two lines ‘fingers of shadow slant’ and ‘fold lines smoothed away’ seemed to have a fit and felt like an ending. Putting them together also gave me the idea of structuring the poem around a day. This helped enormously.

I had meant the poem to be about the Spring and to turn its back on the situation we all find ourselves in. However, the poem had other ideas. Covid-19 would not be ignored. Quite rightly, I guess. On the other hand, I was determined not to let it dominate, especially not in the way it overshadows the news and our daily intake on the radio/TV. So I pushed it to the right. The poem can be read without it. In addition I very much wanted to put nature’s counterbalance.

I struggled to know how much of the ‘newly learned language’ to put in. In doing this, I took inspiration from Julia Darling’s poem ‘Too Heavy’ from her collection Sudden Collapses in Public Places. It explores her feeling of being silenced as a patient by medical language. Darling uses words associated with her cancer treatment and juxtapositions them with ‘sweet tasting words’. The terms she uses, despite being ‘too heavy’, are also rhythmic and strangely poetic.

Inevitably, though I am greedily using the inspiration of others, this poem reflects my own preoccupations. In particular, there is the contrasting of the vivacity of Spring and nature against the overall grimness of human folly. Plus there is the new language we are being forced to swallow. Finally, there is the sense many have expressed, that we are living a kind of dystopian ‘Groundhog Day’, each day pretty similar to the last. The Bill Murray character in the film Groundhog Day, learns with each replay of the day until he becomes ‘good enough’ for his love interest. I do hope we can all (including thems-in-charge) make discoveries during this time which will assist in building a more caring, a more equitable, a more resilient world.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.