Garden view, early May
Some wandering thoughts today. Thinking is a luxury, I don't ever forget that.
So, a little while ago I followed a Facebook link and read a quote from former UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. It was in this article and it was: "It sounds a slightly self-aggrandising thing to say, but I've always thought that death was my subject. You don't find your subject, it finds you." I didn't put a comment on the fb post but I did think "what a daft thing to say... isn't almost every poet's subject death on some level or in some way? Life and death... they are in most things that people write, aren't they?" I know I'm not the first person to say or think this but, as I said, I didn't post it. It's quite an old article and I've read Motion's Larkin biography but I couldn't tell you one of his poems. And I didn't want to get involved in an argument on Facebook... certainly not one about poetry (they can be ferocious...).
But again this week death is around (in the UK) in a big, big way. It is always here of course... it is always everywhere in doses big and small... but sometimes it is more prominent in the public mind (for obvious reasons). There is shock in the air. There is a general sadness and disbelief and confusion. People are making pronouncements, there is 'heightened security'... there will be many more funerals and photos of lovely young people (so many girls) and, for those of us who didn't know any of them personally, it will be more distant heartache... the same that we feel for kidnapped girls in Nigeria, for bomb-victims in Syria, for people who drown in the Mediterranean as they seek safety and something resembling a 'normal life'.
Even before Manchester there was much talk of suffering online already. I couldn't face watching the drama 'Three Girls' that's been on TV here this week. Maybe I'll watch it another time. I read an article about it and watched something (a fictional drama) with a similar theme not long ago ('Ellen' on C4) and still have that strong in my mind's eye. It is unquestionably good that people fight for the safety of our young people and children – wherever the threats come from (individuals, gangs, institutions, governments). It is a hard, hard task and one probably without end.
I did, however, watch 'A Time to Live' (about people with terminal illnesses). Someone we know was one of the subjects (Fi Munro - she blogs here). It's certainly worth a watch - very emotional, quite thought-provoking. We will all face it somehow, in some way, if we haven't already. We will help others through it too, maybe many times.
We also watched 'Schindler's List' this weekend. Someone in the house is going to Poland soon (school trip, Auschwitz, Schindler factory...) so it was part of the preparation. Again a huge subject, too much to comment on here.
And then reading matters... I recently read 'The Outrun' by Amy Liptrot (2016) - a book about escaping death (or a lost life) in some ways. Liptrot and I have quite a bit in common (except she's younger, slightly different taste in previous self-harming behaviour, far more publishing success, better bird knowledge... OK, maybe not that much in common...). I found the London sections a bit too much like déjà vu but the Orkney sections are gorgeous and her honesty kind of beats you with its brilliance. It's a good book, Canongate know what they are doing. Faber and Faber used to be my dream publisher but I've chucked them now and instead send my imaginary love letters to Canongate every once in a while. I doubt this love will ever be returned. Never mind. I'll survive.
I've also been reading 'How to Be a Bad Birdwatcher' (2005) by Simon Barnes. I enjoy the bits about birds but overall I definitely prefer his later 'How to Be Wild' (2007). I might write more about that another time. Maybe.
And our garden is full of birds (another luxury... or two luxuries...). It is Mark who feeds them (I feed him... it's a circle of life...) but I think that soon we will be ready for wildlife reserve status (and broke from buying all the nuts...). All the above makes for the following poem, it would seem (and yes, I do keep tweaking it…). It's new today so not in my new book but that is most definitely still available. It's only been out a week but I feel about a decade older already. Or maybe that’s everything else…
It’s not easy.
Traps are set.
To the top
Of a tree.
Too high sometimes,