• Chalkboard

The Poetry Pages #1

We all have the ability to create stories, and we all possess the human need to express ourselves. For me the perfect partner for that process is poetry! So it's high time we stood up and gave this funny and multi-faceted form a little round of applause *Hip hip hooray!*

Poems come in all shapes and sizes, making them surprisingly accessible, especially if like me, you have the attention span of a flea (Mrs. Trigg, Year 6, et al.) However, until fairly recently, I found the imposing umbrella term of 'poetry' about as approachable and appealing as the Oxford dictionary. My capacity for inspiration was limited to the football field until secondary school, so poetry remained firmly in the out of bounds section, and definitely offside (sorry). For many of us, poetry probably owes much of it's crap street cred to the largely laborious and boring (laboringous, if you will) English Lit lessons we endured at school, because lugging around that AQA anthology and a muscly Arden copy of a Shakespeare comedy is enough to put anyone off (I for one am still not over the cold-blooded murder of Twelfth Night in year 12). But it took me until my early twenties to realise that poetry wasn't always stiff and ambiguous but could be fluid and contemporary. I really wish i'd known this sooner, I definitely wouldn't have written my maths teachers name surrounded by hearts all over my Ted Hughes...

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas said that "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing." which is a roundabout way of saying poetry is anything you want it to be! You don't have to be Homer (the ancient one, not the yellow one) to read, write or relate to some form of poetry.

Most of us have come across the tiny delights of Rupi Kaur and her collection of poetry and prose Milk and Honey. Rupi's debut is a powerful, bittersweet selection of insights into survival and pain and well worth a read if you haven't gobbled it up already and if you have, go back for seconds, it's worth it.

And probably even more of us have come across good old Bill Shakespeare and his sonnets, whether willingly or no (JK let's all forgive the poor sod and check out sonnets numbers 61 and 144, they are bangers)

Or if like me you are more of a floordrobe kinda thinker, perhaps your are totally drawn in by the unpredictable rhythm and word-sorcery of spoken word, legends of which includes Kate Tempest and George the Poet. Point being, whatever your linguistic tipple... they are all considered different sides of this valuable ancient shiny new coin called poetry!!

"WAIT, so dusty old Shakespeare from like, the dark ages and contemporary cool cats Kate Tempest can be found on the same shelf in Waterstones?" "Yep! Well, I'm not familiar with every branch, more of an Oxfam bookshop kinda gal but yeah basically, in principle.." "I never knew that!" "Nope, me neither!" Well every day's a school day eh?

So here on the Poetry Pages I'll be sharing some old favourites as well as celebrating new work and generally basking in childish wonder for poetry in all its glorious forms. So, erase the GCSE Jabberwocky from your memory (phew) and dog-ear the Poetry Pages!

My first tasty word treat for you is a poem very close to the Chalkboard heart, a poem that Olivia and I both have framed, yes framed, versions of in our homes (mine features illustrations by Olivia so it's basically priceless) and it is.... Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. This poem is not only a sobering antidote to our fast-paced lives, but a pep-talk we could all do with right now.

This poem feels more urgent than ever in its message of solidarity and self-soothing, advising us to be kind to ourselves and not succumb to the pressure to be productive. Mary reaches into our very souls and whispers "go with the flow" with such delicacy and compassion, it gives me shivers every time I read it! I always come back to this poem when things get too much, it provides me with a temporary shelter from the big bad wolf of whatever is bothering me, and I hope you find some solace in it too.

Since the lockdown regulations have been in place, I have found myself becoming fascinated with nature. I'll take watching a willow tree sway (when in Furlough eh?) or observing a domestic between swans any nondescript day of the week. Mary's powerful image of the wild geese flying free contrast to our current confinement but fill me with hope, as the 'clean blue air' becomes a bittersweet symbol of future joy.

The images that Mary conjures of the natural world feel solitary but beautiful in their unspoiled simplicity. They instantly make me think of the expansive but deserted green parks of London in light of lockdown, all patiently waiting and eager for our return. As Summer ebbs closer, we all long to explore our great outdoors but for now we can all take comfort in Mary's reminders of togetherness and nature's beauty.

You can find more of Mary Oliver's poetry here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/mary-oliver

We hope you have enjoyed this week's Poetry Pages! Each week we will also pick a peck of poetry pickled peppers to leave you with until next time.

We kick off with three Instagram accounts that are a must-see for poetry newbies and veterans alike...

This week's poetry picks:

National Poetry Library (@nationalpoetrylibrary) - A colourful, comprehensive resource and a great introduction to poetry for all.

Poetic Conscience (@poetic.conscience) – With social and creative engagement at it’s core, they post daily activities to get your creative juices flowing and inspire poets beginner and beyond.

Debris Stevenson (@debrisstevenson) – Fresh from her autobiographical grime tour ‘Poet in Da Corner’, Debris hosts daily writing workshop ‘Write Now’ on Instagram live at 12pm for anyone wanting a little nudge.

- Amy x