Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fast-track to the emotions

I've recently enjoyed Deb Abdela's latest book, Grimsdon: a fantasy, set within a theme of climate control. Deb's work is rich in imagination and imagery as is the other book I constantly dip into - Lorraine Marwood's latest poetry anthology entitled A Ute Picnic. It is spare and powerful writing which has the ability to fast-track to the emotions.

A couple of weeks ago I spent time at a High School, speaking to Year 8 and 9 students. I read them one of my poems, called Flood and asked if any student could relate to the sense of powerlessness that a flood wreaked. One girl raised her hand and began to speak simply and clearly about how she felt when her parents said they were not only leaving their home, but their country, to migrate to Australia. Suddenly she began to cry. After a few moments, she regained control, told us she was happy here and didn't yearn to go back to her old home, but the memory of her as a young child and the sense of powerlessness had been triggered by the words in the poem.

The following day, I found myself in a similar situation - choking back a sob in front of a class of 40 Year 9's.
I was about to read a poem entitled Only Then, and was describing the background. It was at an Anzac dawn service many years ago. One man, bent with age and wearing medals which hung on clothes now seemingly too big for him, stood alone. He seemed almost too feeble to be there on that chill morning. But then came the first note of the bugle. The Last Post. From where I stood I saw the effort needed for his fingers to curl into fists, his arms to straighten and for him to stand as tall as possible - in the memory of those fallen.

It was at that point in the telling, that the memory of that man and his simple but respectful actions overwhelmed me and for a moment or two I struggled to go on. But the room was utterly silent. The atmosphere had changed too, as I read the poem, and after it. I felt I had truly shared something special.

Perhaps I had.