The Song Of Life
A melody of random notes forming a symphony,
playing out its own wonderful concerto.
A lullaby rocking you to sleep.
A gentle lilt; tamed slowly, flowing like a river.
Then a brass band; flung crudely and wildly on a tidal wave,
that crashes and burns on the shore.
Each movement is deliciously different.
Each dancing note has its own exhilarating shrill,
Or its own muted tone of calm and serenity.
The orchestra builds; all the instruments are at one,
as the conductor holds it in his power,
Enticing this cacophony to a crescendo of exaltation.
The notes are sustained,
the full sound and potential of every instrument is working as one.
For the last time, the conductor loses his place in the score.
Confusion. The falling apart. The notes make no sense.
Tired arms fail and cease to move.
The music; once staccato, in perfect time, becomes laboured and long.
The bow drags against the strings; out of tune, out of time.
The strings snap and break.
One by one, the players run out of breath.
All that is left is a sigh from a piccolo.
The soft beating of a drum.
This is a long post, but thought it worth sharing to encourage others to go to a poetry workshop, or similar, if you get the chance!
As luck would have it, I saw a poetry day advertised during the Easter weekend, in a local ‘what’s on’ magazine, called Broad Sheep.
The theme was, “Death In Poetry.” I had no pre-conceived ideas of what the day may have in store, but was eager to attend!
The venue, called The Pales, was a place I’d seen signs for, whilst driving, & been intrigued by, but knew nothing about.
I set off in the morning of April 24th for our 10.30am start.
After driving through some beautiful scenery, along a narrow, almost deserted, country lane, I arrived at The Pales car park. I was greeted by a stunning view, overlooking the surrounding countryside, which was veiled, but not obscured, by mist, in the morning sunshine.
Before joining the other folks attending, I was given a warm welcome & a cup of tea by Linda Murray-Hale, who was running the day, along with talented poet, Trish Munn.
There was quite an even mix of friendly ladies & men, which, I found, as the day wore on, had had very varied & interesting life experiences.
We were given a brief history of The Pales, which is a thatched, Quaker Meeting House, & the oldest in continuous use in Wales. The current building was built around 1717, but the site was used before then, the traditional, Quaker burial ground being used since 1673. In 1867 the building was also used as a school. We were all surprised to hear that up to 50 children attended the school, being taught in the room we were sat in..it must’ve been quite a squeeze!
Our day started with an overview, by Linda, of how the day would take shape, & the context in which death could be perceived in its broadest sense. It may mean death of a living thing, or as in a change of circumstances, the end of an era etc. We were asked to choose a random Affirmation card, to be kept with us during the day. Each card was printed with a different positive thinking/self empowerment statement. Mine was, “Ultimate Potential” which you can see amongst my photos.
After practicing some relaxation & breathing techniques, given by Trish, we did various writing & reading warm-up exercises, throughout the morning.
Our first task was to write, continuously, for ten minutes, the first things that entered our heads. It didn’t matter how nonsensical it was, it wasn’t going to be shared!
Next, we each read a poem of our choosing, on the subject of death. They were very varied in content & style, & included; traditional poets, some written by friends, one was written by Trish, & I chose to read my poem, “Stone Flowers.” We were also treated to three fascinating poems in the haiku style, which had been translated by, & were read in both Japanese & English by attendee, Geoffrey. They had originally been dictated by renowned Japanese men, probably on their death beds, one dating back as far as 800 years!
We had been asked to bring with us an object that meant something. Our next warm-up was to write about the object, its importance & why it had meaning. It could take any form, poetry, prose or neither, & after 20 minutes of writing, we would have the opportunity to share our writing with everyone else.
This was the most emotional part of the day, which took many of us by surprise, as we described our chosen object & listened to some heartbreaking stories.
Some of the items we saw & heard the significance of were; three different pebbles, a candle snuffer & finger cymbals, a map & a weight with wooden moulds. There were some extremely emotional & poignant words about some objects, including; spectacles, once worn by one man’s wife, some small paintings, being the only objects left by another man’s father, a ring, bought by a dear friend, who was very ill, & a leather purse, hand made by a daughter, who was taken far too young in extremely tragic circumstances. I chose a glass bead purse, that once belonged to my Granny. I imagined how young she must’ve been when she used it, & wondered about the possibilities of where she took it, & did she have it when she met my Grandad etc. She had been young once, & lived a life before I was born, yet I only remember her as being old. Several of us got unexpectedly choked up during the process of sharing, & some stories made for extremely emotional listening.
This took us to lunchtime, where we shared all the inviting food we’d each brought.
Time to relax & enjoy talking to other attendees, or have a wander in our pretty surroundings. I was delighted to be able to have a chat with Trish about poetry & purchase her inspiring poetry book, “I Was There” which she kindly signed and I am now reading & enjoying immensely!
By the time we were ready to resume, after lunch, the weather had worsened a little. It was cooler, mistier & overcast.
The afternoon session was to consist of writing our poems or prose about death, sharing them, & finishing off with cake & a hot drink.
We had one hour for our writing session & had free reign over the meeting house and gardens. I chose to wander into the garden. For a few minutes, I just soaked in the scene outside, which was ethereal and breathtaking, by now. The mist was hanging in the valley, the clouds were varying shades of grey, there was very fine rain in the air, and only the sounds of nature could be heard: birds singing, sheep & lambs bleating, and a Robin was flitting from one fence post to another, & twittering just in front of me, a few feet away from where I stood. I was tempted to take out my phone to capture the scene, but I wouldn’t, as I didn’t want to break the spell. The sounds I heard were the basis of my poem, like a song..of life.
The idea for my poem, was to go through various stages of life through to death, using aspects of music; a lullaby, a brass band, an orchestra, the conductor losing his place in the score as the orchestra fell apart, until eventually, there was silence.
The strange thing was, I only ever write in rhyme, yet there was nothing coming to me that rhymed..it was all in free verse. This was the first time I’d ever managed to write in that way, which was surprising & satisfying.
Once our hour was up, we shared our poems, hearing some excellent writing & performances from many different viewpoints of the subject..fascinating!
Thankfully, all the final poems will be collated by Trish & sent to each person attending, for us to enjoy again. Three poems were to be chosen to appear in The Pales newsletter, along with a write up of the day.
It was an extremely rewarding, immersive & inspiring experience, that I’ll be grateful for, & remember for a long time to come.
By the time we were ready to leave, the mist had cleared to reveal a clear view of the beautiful landscape, & the spell was broken.
My poem, The Song Of Life, is above & my photos relate to aspects of the day. They include: views from & by The Pales; during the mist & after it had cleared, looking out & along the road each way, the garden, burial ground & building, my Granny’s purse, Affirmations card & Trish Mann’s lovely poetry book.