Where I begin
Where does the journey of a family history begin? Is it with a casual comment of ‘do you remember a particular person’. Is it in response to a television programme like ‘Who do you think you are’? Is it curiosity about a memory or a photograph? If it is your own family history like this is it was more about the physical places and the events of the times. Of course like many I shall begin the recording in a more conventional place. One black and white photograph and only my Mother’s word that the blur is my face. This is 1960.
This week’s theme
I or me.
As a poet you might refer to yourself directly as John Clare does here.
I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.
And here is a contemporary poem about a life event. The poet Srikanth Reddy is both reflecting and deflecting from the implications of a medical procedure. Here is the poet reading his work.
Winter Term XV
Admittedly I may be blowing my <6 mm mole somewhat
out of proportion in the general scheme of things. At my
last follow-up, Dr. Song gently reminded me that we
entered the “catabasis” phase of my journey through
dermatological oncology some time ago.
Cata-, from the ancient Greek κατά, or downward, prefixed
to the intransitive form of the verbal stem baínō, to go. It
means a trip to the coast, a military retreat, an endless
windstorm over the Antarctic plateau, or the sadness
experienced by some men at a certain point in their lives.
In a clinical context, the term may also refer to the decline
or remission of a disease. So why do I still feel a ghostly
pinprick along the crease of my arm where the needle went
in before I went under? I suspect that I am not quite out of
the woods yet. Then again, maybe the woods have yet to
Here I am in my garden. I am now sixty. How do you describe yourself? Maybe you have an ideal? Maybe like me in these times of social distancing and only the hour for walking (when you usually walk or roam a lot) have taken a fancy to elasticated waistbands and are wearing joggers.
And here is a poem by Jenny Joseph. But maybe you can span an actual period of time or recount a childhood memory. You might also want to listen to Pam Ayes making up a regret.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
You could write a poem in praise of yourself. Tell us how wonderful you are at driving, brushing your teeth or perhaps eating an apple quietly in a cinema.