And now for something completely different. Please excuse the rough-and-ready nature of this post: I wanted to try and get it out quickly to preserve it, raw.
How funny. I’ve today discovered and spent some time browsing www.poetryarchive.org. It’s fantastic: not only do they have collections of poetry from more poets than you can shake a stick at, they have audio recordings of the poets, and links to Amazon so you can buy their collections and they SELL audio CDs of particular poets!
So the funny thing is that I’ve been browsing and listening to poems – Margaret Atwood here, Roald Dahl there – and I’m taking a guided tour courtesy of Monica Ali; all of a sudden I’m on Sigfried Sassoon, reading and listening at the same time because it’s best to me to read along whilst I’m listening, and there it is – an expression I’d thought all my own (even though the words aren’t special in themselves): “It hurts my heart to watch you/ Deep-shadow’d from the candle’s guttering gold…”.
IT HURTS MY HEART! My very own turn of phrase, there, in print; words thought up and written down by a famous poet, years ago; though our life experiences are completely different, a certain something inside us – a way of feeling or a way of thinking – happens upon these particular words in this particular way and it expresses perfectly this shared experience of the hurt heart.
It brought to mind my favourite quote of all, from The History Boys: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now you have it, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, maybe even someone who’s long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
It’s “well meta”, as me and Rube would say – it evokes the same sensations it describes. And for me the History Boys quote is now inseparable from the image in my head, and my emotional memory of the experience, of that time in Edinburgh’s ‘Camera Obscura’, of the World of Illusions, of putting my hand inside a set of concave mirrors which seemed to project the reflection of my hand into mid-air… I was standing there trying to grasp the reflection of my hand with my actual hand, felt almost as if I could take hold of the reflection of my hand if I tried, but when I got too close the illusion failed and the image disappeared leaving my actual hand alone, grasping at nothing. The more I tried, the more absurdly poignant it became: I wanted to reach out and take my own hand, wanted to comfort myself, touch my own skin, feel my own skin; in some strange way I wanted to be able to step out of myself and turn around and take my hand as if to say, “I’m here. You are not alone”. It hurt my heart knowing that however hard I tried, I would always be out of reach.
It’s funny. Seeing that expression set off such an overwhelming rapid-fire set of images. The starburst. The firework. The spider with a thousand legs. A central thought shooting out into all connecting thoughts, feelings, experiences: present and past; real and imagined. Suddenly everything is connected.
The poem was “The Dug-Out”. Here’s the link. Spend some time on the site; enjoy it. Someone’s put a lot of thought and a lot of effort into making it what it is.