Simply, we meet to read poems. This is not a performance or an intellectual study. We focus on self-study and are looking at the three centres within ourselves - the mind, body and emotions - in our reading.
We are not experts. We struggle with this study. We try to connect with what the person who wrote the poem intended and to be with the poem.
Part of our work is to overcome the wanting to do it well or the fear of reading it badly. We try to be sensitive to the people listening and to convey what is essential in the words and rhythm.
Our poetry study usually has themes - for example; time, choices, opposites and the elements. We have discovered that poetry is a practical help. It wakes us up.
"I read a poem partly to try to find something inside myself. This ‘sensing something’ is difficult. I can say that I ‘think’ about a poem, that I understand the words. But what is it, this 'thinking'? The words of a poem touch me inside. I am moved and a ripple of emotion comes. Sometimes, if I am sensitive, attentive enough, I can feel my body. Then my reading of a poem can lift the seemingly ordinary words to a higher meaning."
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Extract from William Wordsworth’s Ode:
Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
"Sometimes a huge well of feeling flows and tears pour out – as when I first heard a certain stanza from Wordsworth’s “Ode – Intimations of Immortally” and Yeats’ “Lake Isle of Innisfree”. The surprise of this emotion – it simply arrives and something in me is alive, pulsing."
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
from The Lake Isle of Innisfree
W B Yeates
"Trying to speak the poem, or let it speak through me, not performing it.
Speaking a poem from memory, like Fern Hill, with it’s complicated near repetitions and beautiful, subtle structures: finding, one moment, the comforting flow of a familiar passage and then the shiver of awe, no matter how many times I’ve read or said it, at a line like ..."
....the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise."
Extract from Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas
"....a sense then of 'standing under' the poem: and also contacting something in myself, something I know and recognise and yet which isn’t there for me until words like this awaken it."
Study of Poetry - Themes
The themes we chose for our study of poetry reflected the deeper interests of a Gurdjieff Group: life and death, war and peace, time, the stars, the sun, the moon, youth and old age, choices, hope, faith and charity, regeneration and renewal, the seasons, as well as humorous poems, long narrative poems (i.e. “The Ancient Mariner”) and poems with strong rhythms.
Poems in dialect and those in languages other than English were read by those familiar with the language, and the latter were usually read later in translation.
Themes emerged from discussion, quite often arising naturally from the previous theme - as in the case of the seasons or the sun followed by the moon. The theme was chosen several weeks in advance of a meeting to allow time to search for poems that evoke the theme to the individual reader.
One such theme was: A Journey Shared
…Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.
A moose has come out
of the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus's hot hood.
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man's voice assures us
Extract from The Moose
by Elizabeth Bishop
"I find many favourite poems are revisited because they speak on more than one theme and resonate on several levels. The current theme of “a journey shared” immediately evokes for me the shared experience of the long distance bus passengers in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Moose”, in those few moments when they are each suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by the moose halting their journey."
Several of our members write poems. Here is a selection.
With melancholic urging the music calls
I invite, you wait, you come, we move
Backwards, sideways we cross and join
Forward, side and join again
I stop, you turn, and turn again
And we move on and the music calls
I wait, you give, we feel, we move
I turn, I invite, you wait, you come
We move again and the music calls
With melancholic urging the music calls.
My sister is coming to stay
And we’ve not met since ….
Thin children pushing a trolley,
Speed down the slope and crash in a gully.
Grandfather astride his stool
The cow leg tied to counter a kick
Tail swishing rebuttal for flies,
The cream and the milk come from separate spouts.
My sister is coming to stay,
We always felt nearer near even……
With many miles.
Sticks to pen writing in the wet sand,
Castles that triumph them all,
And fish in rock pools, that never returned.
There’s a closeness that belies the 5 years,
as youngest and eldest through the confusions of school,
And exams and homework; boy friends and girl
My sister has been to stay,
And we will meet again soon…..
Years melted as anecdote gaps bridged
These lives that are really quite similar now,
Children of 5 to 11, and just after 2.
She’s in rain forest islands of family now,
And like the nations we have embraced
The ancestors and history can only be shared.
I said what should I put if I write a poem about you
He said “Say you met a man in Rosies bar in Ballydehob,
Y’knaw in Ballydehob, Ballydehob y’knaw”
He was a-jigging, a-scuffin, feet a-sliding to the rhythm
His drunk blue eyes were dancing, swaying
He spoke with the music – full and bold
“I’m descent from an Injun laydee who ....
Tart me de wayz. Dee ways y’knaw
Tart me de ways. Y’knaw in Ballydehob,
“We O’Briens. We bonesetters y’knaw,
We bonesetters. My hands see, my hands
Here and far we be from Cork to Ballydehob,
Ballydehob y’knaw”. Ballydehob,
Do you believe in destiny
D’you believe in God
May be we’ll meet again
But not in Ballydehob, y’knaw
No not Ballydehob, y’knaw”
Still a Good Deal
“Gosh!” the boy widened his eyes
And fair enough his coming seemed miraculously timed.
The whole town within a whisker of completion:
snug houses already up and companionable
and only wanting a lick or two of Mander’s paint;
and tarmac roads to nowhere very urgent
Squeezed out just yesterday for father’s Austin 10.
What luck to turn up now:
the rolling globe all pink with Empire,
and Malcolm Campbell fast as Billy-Oh,
and Mr Baldwin, stolid as a prune,
the very man for No 10.
Gosh! Everything settled already:
De Vito’s Ice-cream Parlour
a world consummated in sunlight,
No hint of impending improvement
Bolshefying its strawberry specials.
The grown-ups too, the Men of Kent
- policemen, firemen, even mothers –
ooze holy reconciliation.
Square champion of now-and-evermore,
our Town Clerk, Mr Parfitt
(his briar fat with Gold Block,
his Precedent Book with answers)
daylong endures municipal nirvana,
while sweet St George’s bell
hangs in the air the indistinguishable hours.
Dense crops of non-events and deep “Amens”
Ripen to sunset’s harvest,
when problems niggling Einstein
turn soluble in Fremlins Special Brew;
and the big world’s reported frets
(famines in China and Herr Hitler’s curse)
prove good for wrapping cod and chips.
Breath follows breath
A ragged pensioner now,
I tread in my own footsteps
(Page and Monarch both)
stalking my leafy memories
along the paths of childhood.
My God what glee!
The little town prevails!
Force-fed on calendars,
it has withstood.
Those other chaps have gone:
Hitler and Parfitt; Baldwin, Einstein,
one with a million pebbles rolling on our shore,
smoothed sleek by history or oblivion.
What luck to turn up now!
The same dear world consummated in sunlight:
My funny life within a whisker of completion,
and only wanting a lick or two of gloss.