Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Poetry Thursday (a bit early!)

"We don’t see things as they are, but rather as we are." - Anais Nin

When I was in university I did a joint honours undergrad degree in history and in English. By my fourth year I was down to a mere 10 hours of class in a week and up to a mighty reading list that meant I should have been doing nothing but read - except, of course when I was sitting in the tutorials talking about the reading or writing the 40 page essays that were also about the reading. When I finished university I ran away. I ran away from a very bad relationship, from a very bad friendship, and from the possibility of going back to school again right away. It was too much. I moved to the UK to be a waitress and I did not read properly again for a long, long time. Even then I refused to read anything but SARK and escapist fiction. When I started again it was like taking a deep breath of country air after a weekend in the city. I finally remembered what it was like reading for pleasure.

When I found this poem I immediately scribbled it down in one of my notebooks. I loved it. I loved the line in it about people swallowing poetry whole. That's how I want to read now. I enjoy talking about things I am reading; I enjoy the way that an author has written, but I am no longer reading in sections so that I can pull out all of the nuances of a chapter. Instead I am now enjoying books and poetry in great gasping gulps. I can't get enough. I have just finished Joanne Harris' new book in under two days of reading. I closed the book feeling spent and slightly wrung out, but filled up with my immersion in the story. I am thrilled once again to just be loving writing for what it is. I can feel it again. I am back to my old self.


This poem is dangerous: It should not be left
Within the reach of children, or even of adults
Who might swallow it whole, with possibly
Undesirable side effects. If you come across
An unattended, unidentified poem
In a public place, do not attempt to tackle it
Yourself. Send it (preferably in a sealed container)
To the nearest centre of learning, where it will be rendered
Harmless, by experts. Even the simplest poem
May destroy your immunity to human emotions.
All poems must carry a government warning. Words
Can seriously affect your heart.

-Elma Mitchell

21 comments:

andrea said...

I feel special because I'm first again. :) I totally relate to your end-of-university experience. I didn't even wait for graduation ceremonies, immediately stepping on a plane for London and a job as a photographic printer. When I returned to Canada to get my teaching qualifications I fully intended to return to England one day but, unlike you, I never did, except to visit. :( And I didn't pick up a paintbrush properly for a decade and a half, so you figured out what was important way faster than I ever did.

Very clever poem!

Caroline said...

I was lucky in a way, although I studied maths at university I lived with people doing literature degrees... so I got to read all their wonderful books if I wanted to without having to analyse them... I still recall I was the only person in the house who actually enjoyed Anna Karenina...

I'm glad you've rediscovered reading as a pleasure.

I love this poem - good choice!

melba said...

Words have impacted my life in so many ways. I have read things that have changed my life. Words. Simple words put together in a way and they make us laugh or cry oR CHANGE THE WORLD. tHE POWER OF WORDS. Thanks for the reminder. :)
-Melba

Anonymous said...

Meg - nice fabric!! Maybe I should send you a block made with the fabric? :)

Karen said...

Meg-what a beautiful poem. I want to send it to my writing friends. Thanks for sharing it. Words do have so much power.

Karen said...

Meg-
Here's a cool place that you could do lots of writing...

www.red-room.com/index.html

Jessie said...

I can relate all too well to this post. I don't even remember the last time I read a book for simple pleasure alone. Tonight, in a letter to a friend, I wrote about just that--my excitement to read books that aren't for school. Uh--I can't wait.

And the poem--it is perfect. That's how I've been feeling about music lately, too.

Bohemian Girl said...

i really dig this poem.

"swallow it whole" holds such vivid meaning, doesn't it?

glad you're feeling back to yourself.

hello self! you are lovely...

tess said...

I enjoyed this post very much, especially that incredible poem! I was once an English major and can relate to many things you said about reading. It's amazing to do it for love! I've stumbled upon you through Laini and others and look forward to reading more about you!

Dana said...

Nice poem. People are so afraid of the poetry, aren't they? And academic interpretations can suck the life out of them, can't they?

tara dawn said...

I'm so glad you are "gulping" in your readings now. How easy it is for us to get off the path of reading for enjoyment, the sheer pleasure and fulfillment of ingesting the words, the feelings, the entire experience.
What a great poem! Thanks for sharing it.
I hope you are well. Write to me when you can.
Love you,
Tara Dawn

Laini Taylor said...

Meg,
I went through the same thing with the reading in college -- wow. I remember being sick, bedridden, right before finals on semester, in a kind of fever fugue state, sleeping and waking and trying to read Don Quixote. Ugh! I love reading, but man, taking 4 literature classes at once is NOT recommended! I didn't run away as completely as you, though. In fact, I went straight from working in a bookstore to a publishing house, so I guess I've never strayed far from books! Love the poem, too.

la vie en rose said...

i love this! i love the idea she's trying to convey about the way words, poetry, can change us, ignite us, and how some people are afraid of that.

Earth Monkey said...

this is so great meg! i love it. i want to be engulfed by poetry, by writings, by all. I went to art school so my reading was never "heavy" but sometimes my analytical mind clogs my ability to absorb written artform. And I love Anais Nin too. I love the freedom and honesty in her writings. Thanks for sharing your experience and this poem.

Stuntmother said...

I had forgotten this much loved poem. Thank you for tossing it back into my head. Words.

Endment said...

I had never read this poem but I find it completely delightful
Thank you for sharing. I am writing it in my journal just to keep me reminded that Poetry can be enjoyed

Rampian said...

Megg, I know what you mean about analyzing literature to death. It's like doctors dissecting a body trying to find the soul. You can feel wonder at the mechanics of it, the beauty of the composition, but there's something you can't reach with the scalpel. I'm so glad you were able to rediscover your delight in reading.

Earth Monkey said...

hey megg ~ have a great weekend! from my continent to yours... Happy Friday! i look fwd to reading you sunday scribblings...

liz elayne said...

YES YES YES
Thank you for sharing this poem. This is exactly how I feel about poetry. And I cannot wait to read her new book. She has become one of my favorite authors.
(i love this image of the great gasping gulps)

JourneyThroughLIfe said...

Great post, Megg
I loved the Velveteen Rabbit passage. Very profound.
JTL
xxxnx

lizardek said...

That poem was GREAT! I'm so glad I came on over from sprigs place :)