Poetry at the heart of it

My family is outspoken, passionate and hard working. Elegant one-liners, witty reposts, sharp put downs are the order du jour. Pens do have significant might over swords and emotions can be hurtled long distances with words! Some of our softer edges, are communicated through the medium of poetry. This is a form of communication I have enjoyed from an early age, and we have recently become reunited.

My grandfather used to quote Shakespeare, my mother Chaucer, Bryon, Rossetti, Blake. I didn’t see this as strange, the words would provide colour and seed for my imagination as I tried to make sense of my young life.

A very British Education

Education was a strong theme too: my mother and grandfather were educated in Jamaica, schooled in traditional classic texts using rote learning techniques. This did not seem to stifle their individual growth or imagination, quite the opposite: I witnessed a thirst for knowledge and adventure; one of my grandfather’s mantras was the importance of trying to learn a new word every day! He retained a sharp mentality right into his nineties as well as the ability to complete the cryptic crossword everyday.

School of Poets

Enjoying a coffee and reading the New Golden Treasury of English Verse recently,  I read a poem to my son.  He asked to find one that he could read to me. He chose Blake’s ‘Tiger Tiger’: “I know this one, we’re learning it at school!” he said excitedly.

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright

In the forests of the night

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake

Hearing him read this out loud, I felt the chains of history and the family love of poetry, clink securely into the future.

I recall learning poetry at school too, language archaic and modern transported us away from adolescent angst to worlds of mystery, darkness and wild emotions.  It was wonderfully enriching and one of my best memories of school.

© Suzy Rigg


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