Featured Poem: Song of a Man Who has Come Through by D.H. Lawrence

This week’s Featured Poem is a selection from D.H. Lawrence, a poem that appears to denote a journey of a mystical nature. Considered to be about transcedence, art and creativity – the present moment like ‘a fine wind’ that passes through, leading to the next line in the creative process – Lawrence takes us throughout the poem from uncertainty and grasping exploration onto at least something a little more concrete, in its references to ‘an exquisite chisel’ and ‘a wedge-blade inserted’, some of the artistic tools which can translate ‘the wonder that bubbles into my soul’ to a tangibility.

With the passing of David Bowie – undoubtedly one of the most creative artists of our time – the poem seems to take on another kind of wonder, too.

Song of a Man Who has Come Through

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course though the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,

The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.

Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.

What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.

No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.

D.H. Lawrence

Featured Poem: Storm in the Black Forest by D.H. Lawrence

We obviously love to talk about literature here at The Reader Organisation, so we were rather pleased and intrigued in equal measure to find this post on The Guardian Books Blog on books that make great conversation starters. An eclectic list, but definitely ones that get us talking, in one way or another.

This week’s atmospheric Featured Poem comes from D.H. Lawrence, and continues the weather theme from last week – after all, isn’t that the most typically British of conversation starters? It certainly stimulated some insightful thoughts amongst one of our community shared reading groups recently, and showed how literature can run deep beneath the surface, bringing out topics that may not be expected from the original starting point… The Project Worker facilitating the group tells us in more detail:

“The group shared their feelings about how they felt about thunder and lightning. Some were scared by it, some excited. One man, who often struggles with concentration and anxiety, picked out a fine detail that I had not noticed myself in the poem but was really struck by. ‘Why does it just say ‘down the sky’ – shouldn’t there be something else there – like ‘down from the sky so we know where it is coming from and which direction it’s going?’ His observation led to a great discussion about how unpredictable nature and life can be. Again some members felt scared by that thought, some excited.

The following week, one of the members who had spoken about being frightened by thunder and lightning and its unpredictability, brought in a padded envelope. ‘I’ve got something in there for you all to look at – now tell me what they are?’ Inside were what looked to me like two crystal type sand coloured rocks – fossils – call them what you will – and they were faceted with fine layers of stone. ‘Roses’, one member said, ‘They look like roses.’ ‘You’ve got it!’ the lady who had brought these marvellous objects in for us to look at exclaimed. She went on to tell the group about how the poem had reminded her of them. She had got them on a holiday years ago and spoke about how they are formed when the lightning comes down in the desert and hits the sand. ‘These are what are formed underneath and then people dig them up to sell to tourists. And do you know what they’re called? Desert Roses. Aren’t they beautiful?’ I loved the fact that the poem had brought back such experiences to the group member, and that she had carried on thinking about the poem after the group and brought things from her own life to think a bit more about it. I also loved the fact that she had moved from talking about being frightened about lightening and the unexpected to seeing what beauty might come out of it. And I also loved the fact that she wanted to share this with the group.”

Take a read, and see what gets you talking.

Storm in the Black Forest

Now it is almost night, from the bronzy soft sky
jugfull after jugfull of pure white liquid fire, bright white
tipples over and spills down,
and is gone
and gold-bronze flutters beat through the thick upper air.

And as electric liquid pours out, sometimes
a still brighter white snake wriggles among it, spilled
and tumbling wriggling down the sky:
and then the heavens cackle with uncouth sounds.

And the rain won’t come, the rain refuses to come!

This is the electricity that man is supposed to have mastered
chained, subjugated to his own use!
supposed to!

D.H. Lawrence

Featured Poem: Humming-Bird by D.H. Lawrence

This week’s Featured Poem has recently been read in one of our shared reading groups in drug and alcohol rehabilitation settings, alongside the story The Sound Machine by Roald Dahl. Our project worker in the group explains how both texts have opened up ideas about perspective and how well we can really know a thing from an outside glance:

“The group really enjoyed the poem – indeed one man started to laugh in excitement of having his eyes opened a little into the possibility of other worlds and the possibility of there being other ways of looking at things. I think the poem has both degrees of humour and terror in it, but I have now gone on to use it a few more times and have found that whether group members like it or not, they do talk a lot about the value of thinking about how something else might look to others.”

Why not take some time out of your Monday morning to look at things from a different angle?

Humming-Bird

I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers, then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.

Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.
We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

D.H. Lawrence

As an extra treat, hear Humming-Bird being read by Nellibobs a.k.a Brian Nellist. If you’d like more of Nellibobs in person, he’ll be leading a course on T.S. Eliot: Fifty Years On at Calderstones Mansion House in Liverpool this June. This three-part course will explore some of Eliot’s classic works, including The Waste Land and The Four Quartets. For more details, see The Reader Organisation’s website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/courses

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76uSJOEmM44]