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The Poetry Pages #2

I was planning on cowering from all the coronavirus coverage this week (probably with a Corona or 5ish) and sharing some poetic classics, but something on my meme-cluttered newsfeed made me confront it with a renewed confidence instead. No, it wasn’t your 'Slutty Sourdough' or that video of a dog in a suit (@dogsworkingfromhome on insta, you won't regret it), it was a poem from a university friend that I haven’t seen in far too long. Harry Petty's poem ‘Another Hour’ was featured on BBC News, so I made a cup of tea (splash of oat milk and 1 *generous* tsp of honey for me plz), sunk into the sofa a little deeper and before I knew it a smile was spreading across my face.

Harry is an English teacher and poet and his poem is a refreshing and fast-paced account of a population's mindset during these unprecedented (soz) times. It is beautifully crafted, heart-warming and encouraging, and the perfect pep-up amidst all the sombre news. So sit back, take a breath and enjoy this gorgeous fairy cake of a poem.

This is 'Another hour' by Harry Petty...

Harry says ... "In this poem, I have tried to capture some of the ups and downs of isolation. Yes, it is difficult at times. We are prone to feel bored or agitated and often take that out on the people we love, but I think positive things can come out of this. I am so proud to be part of a nation of people who have come together so valiantly in this time of crisis, and I wanted to pay tribute to them in this poem. We are all sacrificing so much, but none more so than the people who are working round the clock to keep us safe. I am immensely lucky to be isolating with a loving family and to have some free time to explore my creativity."

I can't help but smile as Harry begins by verbalising the paranoid and proactive thoughts we've all had during this pandemic. He illustrates the terror at a stranger’s cough which contrasts with the heavenly coffee that is now more than ever a highlight of the day for many of us. Despite the pause in most of our working lives, Harry celebrates the still motivated rhythm of life, reminding us that we are all united in spirit in this temporarily debilitating situation. Remarkably, I found myself actually missing the buzz of rush hour, the grubby tube and its familiar scent of musty sweat! (oh c’mon admit it, beats wet dog and yer dad's slippers)

My favourite thing about this poem is that it speaks for so many, no one is left out. Some of us are desperate to see mates, go to the gym, or visit a grandparent (I'm missing my grandmother like mad, the culinary and baking master I can only dream of emulating) whilst others just want to venture further than the end of the road. With Harry, we hurtle through the pandemic tunnel with optimism peppered with natural anxieties, but we come out the other side toasting, congratulating and thanking one another (pots and pans together for the key workers!) this poem helps bind us all together and see that an end *is* in sight.

For more from Harry...

Twitter: @HarryPFPetty Instagram: @hpetty.writer

The second poem I want to share with you this week is one that I was sent by a friend in response to the first Poetry Pages post, which is *literally* what this blog is all about- sharing, celebrating and connecting so THANK YOU Dylan for the hot tip and to Erin for allowing me to share her poem here.

Erin Niven is an actor training at the Guildford School of Acting and has started working as a carer at a local care home, helping residents and staff during the Covid-19 crisis. This poem is a moving and compassionately composed personal account, and is as delicate as it is confronting.

This is 'I Watched' by Erin Niven...

Erin says... "I witnessed first hand how care homes are being neglected by the government during this time. Dementia patients are really struggling with not being able to see the families and staff are trying their hardest to keep morale up. I wrote this poem after a really difficult shift where I spent the majority of the day sitting and talking to an unresponsive resident who unfortunately died later that evening."

Erin brutally unmasks the harsh reality of the last few months by sensitively illustrating the last few moments of a life. We are reminded that no one is just a 'statistic'. Everyone is a son, daughter, friend, or neighbour to someone, and no life is more valuable than another.

This poem particularly resonated with me this week as my grandmother gave me the sad news of an elderly neighbour's death during lockdown. This devastating news really hit home the importance of empathy and community in this climate, and how a 'shoulder to cry on or a smile in the street' could make all the difference to someone more vulnerable. Despite the fear that we all feel, we can still connect with each other, love is contagious in the very best way!

This poem also got me thinking about the hundreds of students who won’t be doing their GCSE’s, their A-Levels, or their finals. Those with winged projects are now grounded for the present. Our futures hang in the balance, and this powerlessness can be overwhelming, but perhaps we can take comfort in the life-affirming little things. Erin highlights the hope in watching people 'live, laugh and cry and talk and give', and if like me you well up at the mere sight of a couple over 60 holding hands (but grumble at the PDA of a young couple...no YOU'RE bitter), indulge in those tiny moments of observation, look forward to them yourself!

Embrace the little victories, it might be your dog (fresh from the ponds, algae n all), it might be giving your little brother a nuggie, swapping recipes on the phone with your Nana, or just giving yourself a big squeeze.

For more from Erin...

Twitter: @erinnivenx Instagram: @erin_niv

*Help lines and Volunteering*

- The Samaritans' 24-hour helpline:116 123 or to help out https://www.samaritans.org/

- Refuge 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

- North London Cares and South London Cares on Facebook to get involved in volunteering and virtual fundraising events

- Age UK has a number of ways you can help locally: ttps://www.ageuk.org.uk/

The poetic dessert I'd like to leave you with this week is word play of a different kind. It's an animated short film by a poet and writer that I hugely admire. Sarah Grant is a Glasgow born and bred writer, poet and filmmaker and a regular contributor to BBC The Social. I met Sarah at a Female Film Force screening at the BFI last year, an event championing female film makers. Sarah's award winning short ‘Scare’ was shown and I was instantly hooked by the wit, honesty and detail of her work. This short is hot off the press, and is a linguistic love letter that speaks for itself.

This is 'The Magic Word' by Sarah Grant...

Sarah says..."In 2016 I was awarded the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship. I was making short films but wanted to do an animation, which you need time and money for. I devoured books when I was little, I always wanted to be an author but I am dyslexic so really struggle with prose, so I turned to film instead. This is a thank you to all the authors who made me the storyteller I am today :)"

Sarah takes us on an enchanting journey in sepia, as we follow a little girl growing up and wrapping herself in the world of words. The intricacy of the animation that surrounds her is enhanced by the beautiful classical underscore, and I just I love the papery palm trees and papier mache soft toys! The little girl's attempt to share her beloved book with her sillhouetted school friends is heart-warming and close to home for many of us, as she finds escapism in her imagination- a mechanism we might all benefit from right now!

Sarah illustrates life milestones with floating staircases, literary rabbit holes and an eventual companion as the little girl turns into a young woman. This short softly stirs together all the ingredients of a rarely well-written RomCom, as I find myself longing for musty vintage covers and chance encounters with the young Hugh Grants of London's independent bookshops.

Apart from the residual love-sickness and heart-ache for our favourite childhood book, this short reminds us to view the world with childish wonder, whatever artistic lens you choose to look through.

For more from Sarah, including her incredible short 'Scare'...

Twitter: @SGrantCreative Youtube: Sarah Grant Creative

A huge thank you to the poets who let me celebrate their work this week! I think the only thing better than poetry is sharing poetry.

Your scrumptious poetry extras this week include Helena Bonham Carter's reading of Mary Oliver's poem'Wild Geese' that featured in the first Poetry Pages and yes, it's as brilliant as HBC is wacky...

Until next time, I shall leave you with this:

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

-Mary Oliver

Emilia Clarke

(@emilia_clarke) - Check out actress Emilia Clarke's instagram to see Idris Elba reading a Kate Tempest poem, as well as HBC's rendition of 'Wild Geese'


(@mcdizraeli) - A rapper and spoken word artist (my all time fave) and generally an inspirational human, he hosts writing workshops and live gigs. Tune in via Facebook Live this Thursday 14th May to witness poetic genius

The On Being Project

(@onbeing) - Championing deep thinking, moral imagination, social courage and joy', they have archives of recorded poems and interviews with poets, perfect for dipping your toe in. Check out Mary Oliver's rare interview 'Listening to the World' https://onbeing.org/programs/mary-oliver-listening-to-the-world-jan2019/

- Amy x