As it’s a Bank Holiday, we’re taking a trip down the rabbit hole and visiting Wonderland…this week in 1862, while taking a trip out onto the river from Oxford, Lewis Carroll told a fantastical story to three young sisters – Lorina, Edith and Alice. So enthralled was Alice that she asked for it to be written down, and that very story became Alice in Wonderland, named after the young reader who loved the tale.
The text of Alice in Wonderland features a number of parody poems, and this narrative poem is taken from Through The Looking-Glass, recited by Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Alice. A good example of shared reading, even in a world much more unusual than our own…
The Walrus and the Carpenter
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”
“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”
“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?
“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”
“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”
“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the march of time, then this Monday morning may prove more muddled than usual…here in the UK the clocks went forward by one hour early on Sunday meaning, that it is now officially British Summer Time. Unfortunately an elusive hour was stolen from us all collectively (not good for us busy Readers), but on the up side it also means that there’s an extra hour of daylight for us to enjoy from now on (no more poring over books by candlelight, unless of course you prefer to read that way).
The notion of going forward is one that, barring losing precious time sleeping, is largely positive. If you’re feeling in a hesitant mood about whether you should have made that certain decision lately, are in need of a push along the way towards the Easter weekend ahead or just fancy seeing the world in a new light, then this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke (translated into English by Robert Bly) will go down a treat. We especially like the line ‘It seems that things are more like me now,’ – a sentiment to make us all feel settled when the world appears to be an uncertain place. We’re not so sure about ‘my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes’ (here at The Reader, we wouldn’t advocate standing on fishes or any other form of marine life)…one to ponder this Monday morning.
The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can’t reach.
With my sense, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,
and in the ponds broken off from the sky
my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.
Rainer Maria Rilke
The weekend just gone saw two phenomenons of nature, the most talked-about being that of the solar eclipse. Though we experienced 85% partial eclipse here in the UK, the clouds made it seem rather less spectacular than it really was – a shame, as now we have to wait until September 2090 until the next one. By coincidence, the Vernal Equinox took place on the same day. The arrival of Spring is something we can all take part in whatever the skies overhead look like, though we hope those clouds clear up soon to leave us with more suitable sunshine.
As the seasons change and we get a spring in our step, this poem by Walt Whitman has left us pondering. One of our shared reading groups in Cornwall recently enjoyed it alongside their reading of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The Reader Organisation’s Reader-in-Residence for Cornwall Sally Sweeney tells us more:
The poem takes you on a journey through nature and through human life. On the page, the constant repetition, at the start of each line, of the words; ‘and’, ‘the’ and ‘they’ can seem a bit clunky at first glance. However, the almost hypnotic rhythm created by those repeated words, and the vast array of images described, make it wonderful to read aloud.
We could have talked about it all afternoon – definitely needs a good 45 minutes to do it justice!
Why not take some time out of your Monday to have a read and relax into what we hope will be a far sunnier week from here.
There was a Child went Forth
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass’d—and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls—and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.
His own parents,
He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.
The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay’d—the sense of what is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves—the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide—the little boat slack-tow’d astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.
A huge congratulations go to The Reader Organisation in the South West, who were winners at the Wiltshire Public Health Awards last night.
Our Wiltshire shared reading project, running in partnership with Wiltshire Libraries, picked up the prize for improved mental health and wellbeing across the area. Running since January 2014, Library Memory Groups bring the shared reading experience to people living with dementia and memory loss on a weekly basis. With poems and short stories that are read aloud, group members are immersed in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, with the texts being read and digested allowing people to piece together collective personal memories related to the stories and poems, which in turn encourages feelings of wellbeing.
Group members and their family members and carers have reported that the weekly sessions have a positive impact on their mood, allowing them to rediscover and enjoy literature with others and giving the opportunity to make new friends and connections within their community.
The project has also involved volunteers to assist in running the groups, allowing it to extend further across the region.
The Wiltshire Public Health Awards, run by Wiltshire Council, recognise individuals, projects and organisations for their contributions to improving the health and wellbeing of people who live and work in Wiltshire in nine different categories, including the mental health award. This year’s awards saw a staggering 120 nominees enter, so the achievement is something we’re especially proud of.
Jennifer McDerra, The Reader Organisation’s Development Manager for Public Health and Dementia, was at the ceremony in Trowbridge to pick up the award on behalf of the team. A special congratulations goes to Wiltshire Project Worker Josephine Corcoran who has done so much to get the project off the ground and maintained its success onto to award-winning status!
You can read more about the Wiltshire project, and the remarkable effects it has had on group members on Josephine’s blog:
A new Library Memory Group will be starting at Salisbury Library in Wiltshire on Thursdays, 11am-12pm, weekly from 23rd April. Other Library Memory Groups in the area currently run in Trowbridge, Warminster and Mere (Wednesdays) and Royal Wootton Bassett and Pewsey (Thursdays). For full details on the groups, visit our website or follow @TheReaderSW on Twitter:
On Thursday 26th March Everton in the Community – the official charity of Everton Football Club – will be giving business executives from across Liverpool the opportunity to do their part to tackle poverty deprivation and disadvantage across Merseyside as it hosts the North West’s CEO Sleepout event at Goodison Park.
In partnership with Church Urban Fund and Together Liverpool, the event will see over 40 of the city’s leading business figures joining forces to spend one night sleeping outdoors all to raise awareness and vital funds to improve the lives of some of Merseyside’s poorest and most marginalised people, giving up their beds to help those who don’t have one whatever the weather may be.
With Liverpool being rated as the most deprived local authority in England, poverty is an issue that affects thousands of lives. Working with Together Liverpool and the Diocese of Liverpool, Church Urban Fund have already supported nearly 400 projects in Liverpool to a value of £4.2 million, going some way towards changing lives for the better.
To date, CEO Sleepout events have raised over £300,000 around the UK, with an average of £1,000 per participant being raised at each event.
One of the executives taking part in CEO Sleepout Liverpool is Steve Hawkins, Chief Executive of Local Solutions and former trustee of The Reader Organisation. Being aware of the impact deprivation has on people’s lives having started his career working in a night shelter at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral’s crypt, the work Steve does at Local Solutions has seen thousands of homeless people being provided with accommodation and initiatives to prevent poverty. Taking part in this special event will help to do even more for the city’s poorest – and as a diehard Liverpool fan, spending a night at Goodison is no easy task!
Steve is currently on CEO Sleepout Liverpool’s ‘Hall of Fame’, but with a week to go until the event there’s plenty of time left to raise even more money. You can donate to Steve’s CEO Sleepout through his JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/Steve-Hawkins2
See a full list of the participants and find out more about CEO Sleepout Liverpool on the website: http://www.ceosleepoutuk.com/liverpool.html
It’s Shakespeare Week this week, encouraging younger generations to be inspired through encountering Shakespeare’s stories, language and heritage. Therefore, there could be no other choice than to feature the bard himself as our Monday offering for the week ahead.
Most of us are likely to start off our experiences of Shakespeare by reading the plays while in school or university, but to know the true scope of his work it’s well worth looking at his sonnets too – of which there are a staggering 154. Perhaps if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could dedicate this week to reading them all?
We’ll give you just one in the meantime, which shows how Shakespeare was the master of inventiveness in his writing. Consider all of the oppositions within…
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
You can experience the wonder of one of the Bard’s most classic tales as Romeo and Juliet comes to Calderstones Mansion House this July with Shakespeare’s Globe. See this post for all the details on how you can book your tickets for what promises to be a spectacular version of the enduring love story.