Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Beauty of the Mind

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2)

How beautiful these words are. How resonant. How timely. Invoking the spirit of Plato (“Philosophy is the highest music”)  Hamlet reminds us that the mind is a powerful weapon, the most powerful we can possess, particularly in a world which sometimes feels riddled with divisions – whether geographic, cultural, social, sexual, racial. Surely the greatest virtue we can possess, as human beings, is the ability to recognise that beneath the dress we display to the world is the knowledge that we are not so very different.

William Shakespeare, the great humanist who ever lived interrogated this question that simply refuses to die: what it is to be human? Like Hamlet, we grapple with our conscience, striving to make sense of our mortality, “what a piece of work is a man” or, like Lear in Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy King Lear, when racked upon Fortune’s capricious wheel, we cry “I am a man more sinned against than sinning”. Or perhaps, in the spirit of Malvolio, delusions of grandeur inflate man’s astonishing for pomposity: “Some are born great. Some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” But Shakespeare’s genius precludes us from seeing things as simply black and white. For while Malvolio is easy to laugh at, there is an element in his character that we can all relate to: the desire to overcome fear, “Be not afraid of greatness.” There are no easy solutions, particularly when the dominant strain in life is one of flux. Would we wish it any different? Surely the greatest challenge is to embrace Polonius’ advice in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.”

Shakespeare contained multitudes. This is the greatest accolade that can be paid to him. In a world plague with war, discord, disaster and hate, it is only through opening our eyes and enlarging ourselves that we can take an axe to the “wall of prejudice” that clams up our souls. From darkness emerges light; from despair emerges joy; from doubt emerges faith. As the “Sweet Swan of Avon” writes in his beautiful love poem, Venus and Adonis, “love comforteth like sunshine after the rain”.

May the New Year be filled with love, goodness and happiness. Here are a couple of haiku for your delectation.

 

The mind’s eye spins and

Turns on the moving spindle

Unfurling fresh dreams

 

New Year new dawn strikes

Melting the past into light

Kindling bright visions

 

 

 

 

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Name

I say your name

Again and again

In the great outdoors

Lilting letters echoing

Off the trees and the moors

 

Stilled into silence

I note a salient truth

That rearranged

Your name proclaims

A charm that sings faith

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In The Realm of Love: A Poet Enchanted by Love’s Language

In an epigraph to this astonishing collection of poems, Carol Ann Duffy quotes from Shakespeare’s play, Two Gentleman of Verona: “Now no discourse, except it be of love;/ Now I can break my fast, dine, sup and sleep/ Upon the very naked name of love.” This is an apposite quotation for the book feasts upon the idea of love with a searching intensity, hitting the reader in the solar plexus by dint of that supreme poetical mix of thought, feeling and language – that makes poetry the most personal and emotive of art-forms.

Duffy’s skill as poet is on full display in Rapture. Not only is she a master of the poet’s craft in her command of assonance, alliteration, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, metaphor etc. but she is in full control of form, ensuring that the poems are accessible, without losing their heft, and that content and meaning are never lost. Perhaps this explains why Duffy’s poetry has always been popular. She is able to explore complex subjects (and is there anything more complex than love?) without being overwrought. The music is in the words and like a painter who selects the right hue for their composition, Duffy uses the mot juste for the emotion or aspect of love she analyses. Whether concentrating on love’s ecstasy or love’s despair, the poet’s gaze is never less than unwavering.

Kahlil Gibran once wrote that “poetry is a sigh that dries the tears”. This collection will do that, especially those poems that deal with the grief, the rancour and heartache when love falls. Yet this is poetry that enchants, making the heart soar; poems that the ardent lover and/or any keen student of love will want to absorb, words radiating a depth of feeling and a poet’s delight in language, on full display, shining like sparkling jewels. As the poet writes in “Finding the Words”, on the magic of the three most beautiful words in the lover’s armoury, “I rubbed at them until they gleamed in my palm.”

Rapture is a book that will certainly gleam in the consciousness of every reader who appreciates poetry that is written from the heart, is crafted with surgical precision, truthful yet tender, powerful yet beautiful. Whilst unflinching in examining the many facets of love – desire, faith, betrayal, separation, redemption – Duffy reminds us that love will live on, as sure as day follows night, “the blush of memory”, even when the heart is torn. Sometimes we just have to look elsewhere, including the natural world, before the light comes streaming in once more. Ultimately, even when mind and body have been stripped to the core, love is all, is all there is. Perhaps the greatest accolade that I can give to this book is that it is one that you will treasure, you will read over and over, possibly even give to a loved one. Words are timeless and in Rapture – that springs equally from the mind, heart and soul – Duffy has created a timeless classic, “upon the very naked name of love.”

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Always

Listening to music

Is beautiful, birthed in sound

I swim towards you

Cresting the waves,

Unburdened by worry

Come baby, swim with me.

 

There’s no need to hurry,

This love is vast

Unbroken and untapped,

Pooling adamantine desire

In a cavernous deep.

 

And on the shore

We will make our love,

Fired by sacredness

The flame will not tire.

 

With words and the

Ecstasy of touch

we can keep the fleet

beat burning, always.

 

 

 

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December Walk

Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal in Winter

 

Stepping soft on the snow-strewn path,

Earth’s song stunned, by the wintry drum

Save for branches that heave and hum.

Awed I stand, whittled by the blast

 

That shivers and shrieks to the core.

Frosted grace slides into place,

Until sun’s bounty shows her face

Nursing the world, weathered and raw.

 

How kind the elements couple,

Meeting of minds singing in sync;

Frost and heat, siblings on a link

Melting tune that is so supple.

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Sometimes

Sometimes it’s nice

Just to sit down

With a good book

And a cup of tea

But how much nicer

It would be

To sit down with

You and a cup of tea

Or maybe not even

With a cup of tea

Just you, the moon

And the daffodils.

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