blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


We ordered a poetry anthology in Large Print for my mother (nearly 97) this week, because she needs something to read and, indeed, something to read aloud, if possible, at her poetry mornings in the nursing home where she now lives. Some of the other residents have quite an impressive repertoire of poems to share, it seems. Mum herself can recognise a vast amount of British poetry, but claims she never learned any by heart, which may not be correct because her generation was taught in school to learn many things by heart; so was my generation, and I think it is a shame that this is rarely the case nowadays. In any case, poetry is one of the things that keeps her going, and I know it will be the same for me when I reach her stage of life.

Mira (a member of my German conversation group) told me that she also has an elderly mother suffering from a certain degree of memory loss, and that whenever she calls her, i.e. every day, she reads something out to her in Polish, because that was their first language. What a good idea, I thought. This week, therefore, I have started doing the same for my mum. Today I read her Milton's At A Solemn Musick (which I pretty well know by heart because I sang the Parry setting of it once or twice, and because it was a favourite of mine when I was growing up: I recited this poem during a school assembly once, on St. Cecilia's Day, but that's another story). I also gave her a verse or two from Milton's long Ode On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity which runs along similar lines:

... Ring out, ye crystal spheres!
Once bless our human ears,
If ye have power to touch our senses so;
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
And let the bass of heaven's deep organ blow;
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to the angelic symphony...

Mum mentioned that my sister has been reading to her as well, extracts from Dr. Zhivago, a much loved novel on her bookshelf. So that led me to look up some Pasternak poems, such as the one about the burning candle (Зимняя Ночь). Compulsive reading, compulsively written.

Recently I have been doing some "work" for a friend of ours, reading through a fairly large collection of unpublished poems on a theme that has inspired him, which he wrote himself, along with his introduction to them. He has asked me and others to "pull out the weeds", but he is such a first rate writer that I don't have the audacity to criticise much of it at all. I can point out a few lines that puzzle me, but that may be due to my own shortcomings rather than his. I cannot talk about these poems here, other to say they're nearly all devastatingly good ones, because that might embarrass him or compromise what he is trying to do. The other day I told him that weeds are a matter of opinion. In Australia, for instance, garden plants that have spread into the wilds are referred to as weeds, rather than vice versa; everything is upside down over there. So who am I to judge what's a weed, and what is not?

1 comment:

CWC said...

Don't hold back on editorial criticism. Make your own judgments and let your writer make up his mind on what to incorporate and what not to.

One of my Carleton math profs, Walter Schneider, gave out miniatures to any student who caught a mistake in his self written course notes/textbook. I got TWO!! For typos only but what the hell. No way I could catch him on fact. Sitting there in the final exam with two airline size bottles of whisky on the desk made my day.

I had fun pointing out Chris' many failings in his most recent book, sometimes as many two in a single chapter.

Take the job on and enjoy yourself.