Thursday, October 30, 2014



by Hermann Hesse

Sometimes, when a bird calls,
Or a wind moves through the brush,
Or a dog barks in a distant farmyard,
I must listen a long time, and hush.

My soul flies back to where,
Before a thousand forgotten years begin,
The bird and the waving wind
Were like me, and were my kin.

My soul becomes a tree, an animal,
A cloud woven across the sky.
Changed and unfamiliar it turns back
And questions me. How shall I reply?


by Louis MacNiece

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue and the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

- an interesting commentary on the poem has been written by Olivia Cole

The wind was up when I was photographing these roses which line the front yard of a nearby house.

So the clarity isn't quite as I'd hoped.

The Hesse poems is one that's long spoken to me. And strangely, I don't think I've read the MacNiece poem before now. And it's a poem that will require many re-readings.

Going to sit with the line about feeling "The drunkenness of things being various." Because: yes.

Yesterday I had 'technical difficulties.' Woke up and the internet was down. Apparently there had been some upgrades which rendered our password ineffective. While I was at work, Rob figured it all out.

Meanwhile, the poet Galway Kinnell has died. From a piece on him in the New York Times:

Through it all, he held that it was the job of poets to bear witness. “To me,” he said, “poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.”

And one of his most loved poems:

Saint Francis and the Sow

by Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Interesting, I think, to read all these poems together. To think about the bird calling, the called soul, the hush, of Hesse's poem, alongside MacNiece's window pane, the flowers outside, and then the craziness of the world. And then to follow this up with Kinnell's insistence that everything flowers, everything is blessed from within, everyone and all is lovely.

"World is suddener than we fancy it," says MacNiece, and isn't this quite often the truth.

But reading the poems slows me down.

After reading the Kinnell poem, especially, imagining the hand of Saint Francis on the creased brow of the sow, bestowing blessings. Thinking about how each of us has this ability, to reteach others their loveliness. Which is really something to do with seeing people for who they are.

The last thing I'll share with you is the latest instalment in our Humans of EPL project, at the library where I work, and which will be posted on social media on Wednesdays. The latest photograph is of Brian.

The snow in the photos, btw, is no longer around....though I'm sure it won't be long until we see more.


  1. This is such a lovely post Shawna. The poems perfect, and more so, through your eye and reflections.

  2. the moment I read Kinnell's words, "... for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing ..." my mind went straight back to something my son phoned to tell me about yesterday. I posted on my blog the video he told me to look up after he heard a woman on CBC radio talking about a homeless man in Edmonton who she watched as he played one of those public pianos up in Churchill Square. When i watched the video, all I could think of was our perceptions and dismissals but how this man has within him a blessing, a flowering. The entire poem applies but that line is crucial. Thank you.

    1. I just saw the man on the video on The National last night. And thought of your comment here. Such a difficult story - as they said, no happy ending really. But maybe something happened there that will change things. I dearly hope so.

  3. A most beautiful post, I really like the idea, the insistence almost, that we can retell a thing in words and touch. To retell something by touch! That seems very exciting and miraculous to me. Thank you :)


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