Monday, 10 October 2011

What poetry can do

The other week I heard Romola Garai talk about 'the music of poetry' as part of the Bristol Poetry Festival. Purists may argue that the author of a poem is the very best reader of it, but after an evening of hearing Romola read, I'm not so sure. She opened with  'How To Cut A Pomegranate' by Imtiaz Dharker, a poem I've always loved.  Or have I?  It made me think of that line in Crazy Heart when Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is talking about songs and says, that's the way it is with good ones, you're sure you've heard them before.  'How To Cut A Pomegranate' is a luminous piece of writing and the lines, 'Inside is a whole universe.  No common jewel can give you this,' seem to encapsulate the magic of poetry itself. From there the night unfolded with the likes of Seamus Heaney and Robert Frost, Derek Walcott and Fleur Adcock.  And, for me, some new treasures, in Julia Darling and Rosemary Tonks.  

That was a Monday night. I'd gone along on my own, and sat on a hard chair with a small glass of red wine for the best part of two hours. My wine ran out early on and I wished I'd chosen a larger glass, but I drank in the poetry instead. The simple act of being read to, as part of a crowd, was intoxicating. And as much as I was listening, I also found my mind pleasantly wandering.  Lost in the beauty of words - words crafted and shaped and caressed by people who really loved them and had made it their lives to do so - I thought about my own writing. Inspired, I made quiet but sturdy resolutions. Later that night I walked home, feeling the first dark shades of autumn. The streets of Clifton were wet and cold and quiet, but I was flushed with the heat of a new plan.  That was a Monday.  On the Friday I took a leap and resigned from my day job.  The writing life awaits me.  I will endeavour to fill it with poetry and perfectly cut pomegranates.