Absolutely Ordinary…Extraordinary 

Dawn in Highbury

Writing on my phone this morning so a very short post.

Twice in the last week I’ve read ‘An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow’,  the extraordinary poem by Les Murray I’ve been reading for twenty-odd years. If I made a list of my own lifetime top ten poems – and I think I will – this would certainly be on it. It’s too difficult for me to provide a link while writing on this phone – will add it in later. But google it, I am sure it will be easy to find.

First reading was in a large group in Southwark – thirty or so people, some of us from Shared Reading groups, group members and volunteer Reader Leaders, others from Ashoka, the Social Entrepreneur support organization, others possible friends or supporters of Ashoka…second reading, yesterday in a Reader staff Thinkday in Bristol ten of us, all women, sitting around a table in a community library. Two had flown in from Northern Ireland – budget constraints have meant we’ve had no face to face contact for nearly a year. It was a delight to see everyone.

Remarkable how the same poem span off in very different directions because of the people reading it. In the second group we talked a lot about men, men in the armed services, men who couldn’t cry. And in the  first group – half men – we hardly discussed masculinity at all. Two very different conversations connected through specific lines of poetry.

And yet at a certain point, in both groups, someone began to talk about the recent terror attacks. I was struck both times by the sense readers had that we were all crying and all held back from each other, too, somehow unable to approach one another in our grief. In the first group a woman who had been a nurse spoke of the necessity of touch, of connection, and remembered her training days – all hospital corners and no sitting on the bed. Someone described seeing a man at Borough Market, standing, weeping, ‘I wanted to go up to him…’

These parts of both conversations reminded me how what is uppermost in our minds comes with us when we read – especially when we read poetry, which gives us so much psychic/linguistic leeway. The poet writes and the reader reads, both live, creative acts: we read as ourselves, what is with us, whether said aloud or not, is present. 

Both sessions were far too short to really get to grips with the poem – made me think a study day with three or four poems would be a lovely, slow, cumulative thing. 

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