Sit out in the sun and listen


It’s some weeks since I blogged and ideas for posts are like planes circling over London, waiting to land.  The air space is becoming a bit busy now, so time to call some in to land.

Three weeks ago, I was teaching in Cornwall on the Introduction to Poetry Therapy and Therapeutic Writing course.  As I prepare such a course, I have a structure and content in mind but as the days unfold, the alchemy of a particular group of people, their interests and experiences, mean I change or omit some of the sessions.  Inevitably, at the end of the course, we are all aware of conversations just begun and so many more possible roads to travel.

As a parting gift, I gave everyone a copy of Tony Hoagland’s poem The Word.  It’s an immediately accessible poem and one that on re-reading and in discussion yields complexities and questions.  It seems to be describing a letter, and the implication is that that the letter-writer is the poet himself addressing someone he loves.

Often with this poem, the writing suggestion I make is to take a word or phrase that ‘speaks’ to the reader and write from that.  There’s a mixture of abstract, mysterious and concrete imagery in the poem, so it’s easy to locate oneself at a particular moment in its content.  Sometimes we want to write about love, another time, broccoli is as productive.  Another is to write specifically about pleasure. Or send oneself a telegram from the ‘heart in exile’ – what would it remind you?

My excuse for not blogging recently, is that over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy with work-related things, but also accomplishing pleasure in a variety of ways.  This glorious summer, during which I’ve twice visited Cornwall, continues in Kent, making every day pleasurable – sitting in the garden to drink morning tea, watching the juvenile birds at the bird feeder, butterflies all over the buddleia, swimming in the sea in the evenings.  Tony Hoagland says ‘time and light are // kinds of love’, a phrase that makes perfect sense at summer’s turning as the sunsets and light subtly change. The countryside around looks ravishing as the bright flowers and leaves of spring and early summer give way to denser and heavier hues.  The cornfields along the A2 have been bright red with poppies.  It’s almost harvest time and my own tomatoes are heavy and warm as I cup them.

I’ve been reading some of the literature on the benefits of expressing gratitude in writing – see for example, by Michael McCullough.  One theory is that by writing things down we get a repeat of the ‘hedonic experience’ of the first time round.  Although there’s also the idea that feeling grateful (‘glass half-full’) is perhaps a good psychic habit / personality trait. It’s certainly hedonic writing this blog and feeling gratitude for the above.

The poem infiltrated last night’s dream.  I woke reminded of dear friends, a couple, who live high on a remote hill in Cornwall, experiencing them in my dream as ‘the king and queen’.  I’ll call them today to see if they are around ‘speaking to their children’.

‘Love is practical’ and I’ve been a guest many times recently, on the receiving end of lovely hospitality –  and have guests arriving here today. Time to do some housework and cooking– another kind of love.