Tuesday 19 April 2016

Opening the heart

When the heart 
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind 
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
a simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

Michael Leunig

I have let the 'good old sea blow in' to my heart over the past few days.  It's been extraordinarily cathartic and creative.  But it's true.  It does sting.  

Thank you Michael Leunig for your beautiful writing and thank you all the people who shared the poem along the social media path to find me.  It arrived on the third anniversary of my sister's death.   
I am a passionate believer in the power that is unleashed by opening your heart, - wounded or not - and letting it be true and vulnerable.  That is when I am at my honest and creative best.  That is when magic happens in my life because I stop getting in the way of myself.  It's when I'm happiest and most alive.  And if there isn't a sea wind available, then a brisk one will at least blow out the cobwebs.  Oddly, it's one of the hardest things to do, especially perhaps if you've been brought up with a stiff upper lip!  My yoga practice is powerful therapy against this apparently British trait.  It encourages me to open heart and spirit to life in an extraordinary way.     

How does opening your heart inspire creativity?  I don't have a scientific, foolproof answer for that question.  I believe simply that if I am in touch with myself, I am also much more intuitively in touch with the world 'out there', with other people, and with characters in books and stories, those created by others and those I am creating in my own writing.  We spend a lot of life thinking rather than feeling and creativity is sparked from feeling; that requires some letting go and, sometimes, a willingness to let in the salty wind.

Anniversaries gnaw at wounds, there is no denying it.  My desire was to embrace the emotions and channel them into an affirmation of life.  This is the path I feel is right for me.  It may not be for everyone.  Yet I so nearly kept my upper lip stiff and ignored the unique quality of the day.  Michael Leunig's poem was an inspiration to throw open how I was feeling, not to wallow but to embrace.  It is, after all, a privilege to be who you are each and every day and to create as much beauty and happiness as you can with what you've got.

By connecting with how I truly felt, a lot of things shifted for me creatively and personally, and in a rather effortless way.  A story for children came to me in its entirety and I sketched out the bones feverishly from start to finish so that it wouldn't fade like a rainbow.  I finally saw a way through the stalemate on another piece of work which I know has legs but which has been sitting waiting to run for a while.  I saw exactly the kind of poet I am aspiring to be although I declared a week or so ago that I wasn't looking for a role model!  I began to see how two of my big dreams might be possible if I simply open to their possibility ...

I let the bird lean in the hole and sing.

After reading Michael Leunig's poem, I shared my thoughts about the anniversary of losing my sister on social media.  I'd had no intention of doing so .  The loving kindness I received back was humbling and overwhelming.     

Tuesday 12 April 2016

A Shakespearean Spring

When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim
Has put a spirit of youth in every thing.
Shakespeare, Sonnet 98 2-3

From my desk I have a view of the garden and when I look up I can see the toings and froings of birds to two different nests.  If I crane my neck, I can see the steady construction and furnishing with feathers and moss of two more.  The 'spirit of youth' - energy, hope and forward-looking - is in every thing.  It's infectious.  

As well as writing and sowing vegetable seeds, one of my April projects is to learn more about Shakespeare and his world.  I'll be beginning a ten week online course offered completely free of charge through FutureLearn.  The lead educator on the course is Professor Jonathan Bate, a Shakespearean expert.  The course coincides with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death on 23rd April which seems a fitting time for the first full dipping of my toe into the Shakespearean pond since A levels.  It's an exciting prospect!  The course starts on 18th April and is open to all, no previous experience or qualifications required.  Simply sign up here.    

April is the month of sunshine and showers: this April is a golden example.  I love the way Shakespeare captures the wonderful duality of the month and the uniqueness with which it seems to stand between seasons 'proud pied April'.  When you're a 'pro', a few words suffice!  It also reminded me of another poem I found recently which revels in the 'pied' nature of things, Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Glory be to God for dappled things - 

it begins.  I'm not sure whether it's exactly what he had in mind but it conjured for me the French expression, 'Vive la Différence' , an invitation, an exhortation even, to celebrate what makes each of us, and everything, different, special, dare I say 'eccentric' if we chose to embrace it.  Perhaps he was thinking along these lines. Later in the poem he writes:

'All things counter, original, spare, strange; ...' 

but for me both of them remind me of the yin and yang of nature; the notion that all things contain something of their opposite within them.  You cannot have one without the other.  

I'm going to be writing my own April poem this week, featuring the first swallow of the year.  First though, and rather against my will, I am writing a dementia related poem.  It will be about losing the line of communication and it seems to be forcing my hand to be written.  Dementia is something I don't write about usually because reflecting on it brings pain into the creative mix. Yet here is where I do have an authentic voice.  So this will be the pied nature of my work this week.  I am also taking my first baby steps towards thinking about a longer piece of work.  April is certainly a brisk, no-nonsense kind of month!

Next week I hope to share some thoughts on how yoga is helping me write.  It may seem a bit of a stretch (pun intended) but I do feel the patient, regular and structured practice is opening creative doors.  

Whatever your creative projects are this week, I wish you well.

Kelly x            

All of the wonderful photos on this blog are by Andrew Holman

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Ladybirds, Mother Goose and the wisdom of children.

Can we learn wisdom watching insects now,
or just the art of quiet observation?
Creatures from the world of leaf and flower
marking weather's variation.

From Summer of the Ladybirds by Vivian Smith

Inspired by the fascination of three year old twins, I am writing a poem about ladybirds ... and life.

Poetry is a genre re-discovered for me and I am diving into it with the bliss of the uninitiated. I have no concern for rules or meter, for rhymes or a formal dance of A,B and C.  I am simply riding a wave of naivety, writing about the things I observe and think in what seems like a poem kind of way.  It's glorious and rather childlike and, based on the very intense interaction the twins had with the ladybirds we found on a patch of stinging nettles, probably the perfect springboard into poetry.

There are excellent books about writing poetry, top of my list is Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled.  I know I will enjoy it because I listened, riveted, to a long discussion about poetic form he had with Professor Jonathan Bate.  Who knew a subject apparently as dry as a stick could be, frankly, so juicy!  In time his book will, I know, open a door for me into a magic land of metre, rhyme and verse.  And I am looking forward to that day immensely.  But for me this year of writing, (which I started on my birthday) is about finding confidence in my own voice as a writer, coming back to how it sounds, its nuances, its own rhythm, the things that make it laugh and the circumstances when it adopts a minor key.  This sounds so obvious - to have one's own voice as a writer, or indeed in life - and yet how easy it is to be tossed and turned by the influence of others and to lose what it is you have to say. My plan is to collect together the year's poems and put them 'out there' in some form.

Although I am very deliberately not reading about writing poetry, I am reading poetry.  It's an eclectic, or perhaps more accurately, a random selection!  I'm dipping into things and not sticking with one writer for more than a poem or two.  I'm reading poetry for the pleasure of it and not looking for rules or influence.  The Poetry Foundation website is a great online resource for this kind of poetry pond dipping.  Today, searching on 'ladybird', I was offered two poems.  The first, Vivian Smith's poem, quoted above, draws reflectively on the intimate relationship we have with this tiny, magical insect.  And then who could forget;

Ladybird, Ladybird,
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire,
and your children all gone:
All except one
And that's little Ann,
And she has crept
Under the warming pan.

attributed to Mother Goose and perhaps one of the most beloved poems ever.   

All of the wonderful photos on this blog are by Andrew Holman