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‘In his recent book The Song of the Earth, the Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate made the extraordinary claim that poetry could save the world. I think Alastair McIntosh has just proved him right.’

 GEORGE MONBIOT (in a forward to Alastair’s book Soil and Soul)

I don’t know why poetry came to take up residence in my heart and soul in a way nothing and no one else has from the very moment words began to make any sense to my still forming mind. Maybe it’s because I’m the third child of four and had plenty of time to think and observe when I wasn’t the one getting the attention from being spoken to or heard. Maybe it’s because I grew up on the Island of Crete listening to the music and rhythm of goats’ bells and waves as well as the beauty of a language I didn’t speak and so could simply enjoy the tones and sounds. Maybe it’s because I spent most of my educational life in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare… and maybe none, and maybe all, and maybe some of these plus many more experiences and synchronicities have made me an absurdly passionate reader and writer of poems. Quite frankly a life without poetry really wouldn’t mean much to me…

I remember well my first poetry book, produced with the help of my Dad’s brand new photocopier and containing about 8 poems, with pictures drawn in lines and coloured in with blunt felt tips after being copied in black and white. I was 10 or 11 I think and I still remember odd lines from some of the poems…

It was a lovely day for strawberry picking

The day was warm and bright

We got in the car

And shouted hoorah

And promised to return that night

 

And then there’s a whole notebook full of my teen angst type stuff:

Kind sir

What is your name

I’d like to ask you

About life’s game

It isn’t easy or hard to play

And you learn things

all along the way…

 

Which grew into something more anti establishment…

Politics is boring

Politics is sad

I think politicians are all absolutely mad

They play a game with people’s lives

Spending all their money…

 

You’ll be glad to know I’m not yet 16 at this point:-) So then there was College, Uni, South Africa…and Rwanda, where poetry became a profoundly valuable tool to help my heart and mind come together in a marriage of understanding and acceptance when faced with the most extreme examples of human beings in both their magnificent beauty and terrifying darkness.

One chose to bring death or to die then,

there wasn’t a choice in between

though as always exceptional people still live

even though they have kept their hands clean.

 

And so it goes on. Some of you will have read more recent poems of mine on this blog, and there are also the poems that will never appear here or anywhere else for others to read because they are between me and…me. They were a means of finding a new perspective or simply a way of venting and are infinitely precious in that they have had their part in forming who I am, including those parts of me that are very private and make me strong.

And that’s just the poetry I’ve written, but then there’s the poetry of others who have blessed and blissed me out with their insight, beauty, humour, wisdom and artistry to the extent that no matter how many times I read the same poem it still causes every hair on my body to stand to attention as if guarding me from an unknown power, or perhaps they stand out of respect to acknowledge that someone or something very important has entered the room.

 

And still I rise

If you can keep your head

Do not go gentle

How do I love thee

Do whatever you like my child

She whipped a pistol from her knickers

The king asked the queen

Let the mourners come

Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds

Did he who made the lamb make thee

(if you google any of these lines I’m sure you’ll find the whole poem)

But you know what makes me a little sad?

I don’t think there’s a SINGLE complete poem I can recite from memory, not one, either of my own or written by the geniuses quoted or mentioned above. So that is my pledge for the year ahead, starting now this (almost, just a few hours to go) National Poetry Day. I will learn, by heart (what a great expression) two poems a week – one that I’ve written myself and one by someone else…starting this week. By next National Poetry Day I will be able to recite 104 poems! In case you’re interested my choices for this week are…

If by Rudyard Kipling

http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_if.htm

And the following poem by me…(see below)

What poems would you want to be able to recite by heart? Which do you know by heart already? I’d love to know…

Have a wonderful National Poetry Day (UK) everyone!!!

 

Heartbeat

Still

At the centre of the Earth mother

I feel her heartbeat

Deep and loud

And ancient

Its force shakes my whole being,

My human body,

Until I can withstand it no longer

And the I of this physical world

Is compacted and crushed

Out of existence

And the eternal I

The real me

Rises up from the core

Through the layers

Effortlessly

To blend into a tree

That breathes deeply

Stretching out to the heavens

Rooted in the earth mother

And doing its life preserving work

Until suddenly I am released

As a molecule of water

Riding in the breath’s vapor

Up into the clouds

To allow yet another return to the earth

Honouring the circle of life

And falling as rain

To be caught by the river

That takes me on my journey

Home to the ocean of oneness

And once again

I hear the heartbeat calling me

Smaller

Quieter

But the same

And it’s in me

The beat of life itself

Lives in me!

 

And then I hear it beyond

Knowing deeply that all there is

The seen and the unseen

Beats to the same ancient rhythm

 

Since life began this has been

The song of the universe

The sound that caresses

the all into being

And when I’m in rhythm

I am one

And the “I LOVE YOU”

Calling out from my own heart

Is for life itself

And I am at peace.

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