This morning I went to a poetry group in our village. It’s held in the library as you can see, and is faithfully attended by seven or eight of us. We meet for one hour on the last Saturday of the month and read poetry. We read allsorts. Lots of them like Kipling and Betjeman, but they’ll put up with me bringing Mary Oliver or Carole Ann Duffy. We’ve had The Highwayman which we read round the table, and not a month goes by without some Lear (Edward) or Lewis Carroll. This morning we heard Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle’ and Masefield’s ‘I must go down to the sea again.’ Lots of old favourites. Most of us did some poetry at school and often someone will nod in recognition as the reading progresses and you catch them mouthing the lines. Some people know more than others but none is an expert. There’s no showing off.
One man doesn’t always read a poem but chooses a section of biography to read. He is hesitant and softly spoken. He starts quietly and his voice gets lower and lower and we strain to hear him, but he’s started, so he’ll finish. I am not sure he quite understands what we’re here for. And does it matter? Not in the least.
This morning we came to the conclusion that while we all enjoy reading poems, we so enjoy listening to them. The poems have more life and power and we feel the rhythm and cadences which otherwise lie flat on the page. It’s an opportunity to listen and, for some, to be heard. Each one has a chance to have the group’s attention.There’s often a thought-filled pause after a reading. No one taught us that, it’s just happened. It’s respectful and precious and very democratic. I love it.