This week’s Featured Poem is an extract from a poem by George Crabbe, a poet, surgeon and clergyman well known for his realistic narrative and descriptions of working life and people.
One of our project workers recently read this extract at a shared reading session in a drug detox centre, with some incredible responses emerging:
“People in the group seemed to feel quite empowered by the poem. I think this sense of empowerment had something to do with the capacity for change allowed in the poem – even in the darkest lines when ‘absorbed by their peculiar cares,/ The vacant eye on viewless matter glares’, there was a sense for the group both of recognition ‘I know what that feels like’ but also the knowledge that you might be able to change what you see around you by shifting your perspective on the inside. Something about being self-aware of how your inside affects the external rather than experiencing world as feeling the external is impacting on you. ‘It’s like if there’s a sunset outside. You might be so caught up with what’s going on in here [the detox centre] – like if someone’s taken the butter out the fridge and not put it back – that you don’t see the sunset because you’re too busy saying ‘where’s the butter?’ – but the sunset’s still there – it’s just that you don’t see it.’ “
from The Lover’s Journey
It is the soul that sees; the outward eyes
Present the object, but the mind descries;
And thence delight, disgust, or cool indiff’rence rise:
When minds are joyful, then we look around,
And what is seen is all on fairy ground;
Again they sicken, and on every view
Cast their own dull and melancholy hue;
Or, if absorb’d by their peculiar cares,
The vacant eye on viewless matter glares,
Our feelings still upon our views attend,
And their own natures to the objects lend;
Sorrow and joy are in their influence sure,
Long as the passion reigns th’ effects endure;
But love in minds his various changes makes,
And clothes each object with the change he takes;
His light and shade on every view he throws,
And on each object, what he feels, bestows.
Following on from two recently published reports by the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool, there’s due to be more upcoming research looking into the benefits of shared reading.
Together with Goldsmiths University, London, CRILS will be running a 3 year research project examining and establishing the value and effects of shared reading sessions on individuals. The research is funded by Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital Trust and is part of our South London project, which focuses on a whole population approach to shared reading. A shared reading group which will be the focus of the research is to be set up in Croydon Central Library for an initial period of 24 weeks.
The project will continue ongoing research into the social and cultural value of shared reading, and is the first to take place in London, where our shared reading projects have been operating since 2009.
Last month, two new reports were published by CRILS examining the benefits of shared reading, looking in particular at the intrinsic cultural value of The Reader Organisation’s shared reading model as a particpatory and voluntary experience and further investigation into how shared reading impacts on improving quality of life for people living with dementia. Conclusions from both reports were positive, finding a series of factors which emphasise the humanising presence of literature and support previous research which has discovered benefits such as improved self-confidence, reduced stress, increased social interaction and community integration . You can download ‘Cultural Value: Assessing the intrinsic value of The Reader Organisation’s Shared Reading Scheme’ and ‘Read to Care: An Investigation into Quality of Life Benefits of Shared Reading Groups for People Living with Dementia’ on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/what-we-do-and-why/research
We’re currently looking for anyone who would like to take part in the new shared reading group in Croydon Central Library as part of this new and valuable research. Shared reading groups are informal and voluntary, with no pressure to take part in the reading – you can simply listen to the texts as they are being read aloud.
If you’re interested or would like more information, please call 0781 332 4852.
Our selection of Featured Poem this week has been inspired by the Penny Readings, which is just over a month away. Tickets are available today to the public, and they’re expected to sell fast so make sure you get in early and don’t miss your chance to be at this year’s festive extravaganza of reading and entertainment. All the details can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events/penny-readings
A penny doesn’t just get you entry into our famous Penny Readings; in this poem by W.B. Yeats it seems it can predict the future and the promise of love, although it may be ‘crooked’…
I whispered, ‘I am too young,’
And then, ‘I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
‘Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.’
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.
To commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One, The Reader Organisation has published an anthology of poems collected from the ‘Great War’, showcasing the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people during the course of war as it happened.
‘On Active Service: 1914-1918′ features a selection of poems that emerged from WW1, chosen and edited by Brian Nellist, co-editor of The Reader magazine and a guiding force of literary spirit for The Reader Organisation. As well as including ‘famous’ names typically associated with the Great War such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, the anthology features poems written by less well-known poets – in fact, some selections so rare that they required a considerable effort to be tracked down. By including the work of these poets, the anthology helps in ensuring that the experiences of generations now passed will live on for years to come, in their own words.
Instead of being categorised by year, the poems have been compiled by themes widely felt by those fighting in WW1, both on and off the battlefield. The backdrop of war inspired the moving, poignant and, at times, grimly humorous words of the verses included, presenting a full portrait of the lives that were irrevocably changed.
On Active Service was launched this morning – Armistice Day – at a special event for our shared reading group members at Calderstones Mansion House. Following a commemorative two-minute silence, a selection of poems from the book were read by members of TRO staff, along with a moving historical account of Liverpool and its Pals Battalion who enlisted in their thousands at the advent of WW1, many believing they would be home for Christmas and who would not see a Christmas again afterwards.
There were also tours of the Mansion House which operated during WW1, and a Trench Cake baked to the original recipe from housewives who sent the fare out to their husbands and family members in the post to the Front. It went down so well that it was just as well we had recipes on hand to distribute!
On Active Service will be read in our shared reading groups across the breadth of the UK this week as commemorations for remembrance continue, with the poems read aloud and thoughts shared. You can reflect upon the verses for years to come by purchasing your copy from The Reader Organisation’s website, for the price of £6: http://www.thereader.org.uk/anthologies
At the weekend, we let you know about the arrival of Issue 55 of The Reader, featuring contributions from Maxine Peake, Howard Jacobson and David Constantine. We’re pleased to say that technical issues have now been resolved, and you can order your copy of all the latest Readerly goodness online now: http://www.thereader.org.uk/magazine
This week’s Featured Poem has been inspired by the recent explosive events – following on from Guy Fawkes Night last week – we’re partly surprised the smoke still isn’t swirling in the atmosphere…
Often when we talk about ‘fireworks’ between people it’s usually a good sign – think of that slightly strange phrase ‘they got on like a house on fire’. Yet in this case the metaphorical explosions are far more disruptive. Perhaps hate – or a strong dislike – of someone or something fuels us as much as love, and there certainly are some evocative descriptions in this poem by Amy Lowell. Perhaps it will spark off some interest for you at the beginning of this week.
You hate me and I hate you
And we are so polite, we two!
But whenever I see you, I burst apart
And scatter the sky with my bursting heart.
It spits and sparkles in the stars and balls,
Buds into roses – and flares and falls.
Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks,
Silver spirals and asterisks,
Shoot and tremble in a mist
Peppered with mauve and amethyst.
I shine in the windows and light up the trees
And all because I hate you, if you please.
And when you meet me, you rend asunder
And go up in a flaming wonder
Of saffron cubes and crimson moons,
And wheels all amaranths and maroons.
Gold lozenges and spades
Arrows of malachites and jades,
Patens of copper, azure sheaves
As you mount, you flash in glossy leaves.
Such fireworks as we make, we two!
Because you hate me and I hate you.