My Year-End Search For Wisdom in Verse…

There’s probably a special word to describe the gap of time in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. If there isn’t, there ought to be, and perhaps I’ll get the ball rolling by calling it a “pregnant pause”.

After all, the lead up to Christmas is always absolutely frantic, and then you have exactly a week to rest, recover, put the old year to bed, while developing either a word or a list of resolutions for the new year, along with strategies and tactics for implementation and success. After all, you don’t want to start the new year off with an instant fail, do you? Especially, after 2020! No, we need to do everything in our power to get 2021 off to a good start. Indeed, we could well need a magic wand.

So, after watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy the other night, I decided I turn to the wisdom of British bard, Geoff Le Pard, who sent me his The Sincerest Form of Poetry a few months ago. In my usual well-intentioned way, I offered to write a review, and got side-tracked, and this “pregnant pause” at the end of what’s been the weirdest year I’ve ever had, seemed the perfect time to get on with the job.

I’ve lost count of how long Geoff and I have been bantering in the blogosphere. However, you can find Geoff at TanGental https://geofflepard.com/. I read and enjoyed his anthology online, and again once the hardcover version arrived in the mail. I really loved it, and it made a huge difference knowing him all this time.

However, as much as I enjoyed the poems, I was struggling to write my review. Although I’d reviewed his novels before, I found reviewing an anthology of poetry much more challenging. There were so many ideas inside, and what was I supposed to say? Why couldn’t he just write it for me, and I’d Australianize it to make it sound authentic? Of course, that’s cheating.

So, I decided to take a different approach.

Indeed, after I read The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I found myself questioning whether we still need poetry in the 21st Century. Or, has it become redundant, obsolete, and irrelevant? Indeed, has it gone the way of the chalkboard, a 35mm roll of film, the VCR, cassette tapes and by and large, the Christmas card? Taking a leaf out of Nietzsche’s book…Is poetry dead?

As a poet myself, my immediate response was: “Of course not!” The inner yearnings of the soul still matter, and are as relevant now as they’ve always been. Indeed, I’d even argue that we’ve needed poetry in 2020 more than ever, after Covid brought us to our knees.

However, even I’ve been corrupted by the forces of practicality, reason, and putting a meal on the table. As much as it’s good to ponder things, sometimes, you just need to get on with the job. Or, in the words of the Brits: “Keep calm and carry on!”

Moreover, it would also be fair to say, that there have always been people who have found poetry irrelevant, incomprehensible, alien drivel. There is also poetry that’s pretty dreadful, too, and doesn’t do us poets any favours. Not all poetry should see the light of day.

However, for me personally, when life isn’t going to plan for whatever reason, that’s when I turn to poetry for comfort, solace, connection, understanding, empathy as well as simply immersing myself in beautiful words.

So, 2020 and this dreadful covid pandemic, has been the perfect time for poetry.

Knowing Geoff, who is rather unassuming much of the time in his enchanting English way, he’d never set himself up as THE ultimate interpreter of life, the universe and everything. Indeed, he’d be rather aghast that I’m viewing his anthology through this light. However, for the first half of the anthology, Geoff repurposed poems which appeared in a collection of the greatest British poets compiled by the BBC for National Poetry Day in 1995. So, you’ve got a good chance of finding something meaningful in there somewhere.

Some of these poems and their progeny include:

Leisure – William Henry Davies Now – Dog At Leisure

How Do I Love You? – Sonnets From The Portuguese XLIII, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This Be the Verse – Philip Larkin Now – Contradicting The Curmudgeon

Home Thoughts From Abroad – Robert Browning Now – Foreign Is Quite Ghastly.

If – Rudyard Kipling Now – If (Or When) The Truth Finally Dawns.

Christmas – John Betjeman Now – Christmas 2018

Upon Westminster Bridge – William Wordsworth Now – Dog Show.

Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare Now – Only Skin Deep.

Sonnet 91 – William Shakespeare Now – Life Lessons (For An Englishman).

Twas the Night Before Christmas – Clement Clark Moore Now – We’re All Santas Now.

The Glory of the Garden – Rudyard Kipling.

…..

So, what wisdom have I gleaned from Geoff Le Pard’s book of verse?

Here goes…

“Come friend, reject facebook, texts and tweets

And all your social media conceits.

To win this war, you’ll need to be better,

Buy some stamps and write them a letter”.

In Christmas 2018, he asks:

“So what’s the point of Christmas time?

We have to ask ourselves

Surely it’s more than a cheesy rhyme

Sung by unpaid elves?

It’s time we took back full control

Of all to do with Xmas

We need to hold a people’s poll

And get out the vote for Brexmas.”

In Life Lessons (For An Englishman), which could well apply to rogue Australian women as well, he writes:

“Contentment’s path is clear, as was ever thus:

Always say you’re sorry and never make a fuss.”

I have gained much wisdom, support and understanding over the years through my friendship with Geoff. We used to belong to a blogshare called “One Thousand Voices for Compassion” which sprang up after the Paris bombings in January 2015, and tried to make the world a better place. We’ve also had a heart for fringe dwellers and those who don’t quite fit the norm or any approved prescription, which for better or worse, seems to include us. Through this time, my kids have almost grown up and his daughter recently got married and Geoff had the honour of walking her down the aisle. On top of this, we both have dogs, who I swear must be a tad dyslexic, and think they’re God.

However, before I head off, which indeed was my intention, I can’t help noticing these poems depict a world which is lusciously pre-covid. He’s out there walking his dog in the park without wearing a mask or being fined; and I’m not too sure how many folk are currently sharing his desire: “Oh, to be in England/rather than abroad…” Rather, I’d say now more than ever, the English wish they were in Australia or New Zealand, and especially well away from their more virulent form of the virus.

If that doesn’t entice you to at least wander over to check out Geoff’s blog and consider ordering The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I’m not sure what else I could do. I don’t think you want me to tap dance on the table. I hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I apologise that this review might be a little stilted, even garbled. It turns out this precious pregnant pause between Christmas and New Year’s Eve has been sabotaged by our teenage son who decided to clean up his room, by channelling everything into our loungeroom and tomorrow night we’re having a dinner party. OMG! It looks like Mt Vesuvius erupted and spewed her guts in an almighty blast. However, although we’re almost buried in his mess, his room is remarkably clear. Indeed, that’s the very sort of thing which inspires poetry, don’t you think?! However, somehow I’m stuck for words.

9 thoughts on “My Year-End Search For Wisdom in Verse…

  1. TanGental

    Well this is delightfully Ro-ified. Love your take and excerpts too. Thank you kindly.
    PS btw you’ve made my blog a bit more woke than it is by renaming it Transgental in the link rather than Tangental!! It might be easier to use the geofflepard.com link.

  2. Rowena Post author

    Oh dear. That’s me at my Daffy best. I’ll blame the Christmas -New Year gap for that. I’ll fix it up. How are you and the family going? Your mother-in-law? I hope you’re all well and staying safe. Things don’t sound good in the UK on TV.
    There are a few clusters in Sydney with an outbreak at a bottle shop (of course) and thousands of people passed through there. With this going on, we’ve decided not to visit Geoff’s sister and her husband next week and stay closer to home.

  3. TanGental

    It’s grim up here. We’re well, but this new variant is overwhelming things. A new full lockdown from Wednesday and realistically, given that and its mid winter we probably won’t be out of it until Easter and possibly later. A real mess, frankly.

  4. Rowena Post author

    I heard about the latest lockdown on the news tonight. So sorry for you. This new variant sounds like a nightmare. It’s going to be a hard slog for you all. There’s definitely going to be a huge mental health fall out from it, but what else can you do? I’m an extrovert and I need people interaction, but I have my research and my blog and I’m used to spending a lot of time by myself. We’ve also got the dogs and they make anything more bearable.
    Will be thinking of you!
    Best wishes,
    Ro

  5. Darlene

    I too enjoyed Geoff’s book of poetry. I found I read more poetry in 2020 and many have said the same. So it certainly is not dead and it maybe took a pandemic to get folks reading it again. Stay safe down there!.

  6. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much, Darlene and it’s great to hear you’ve read Geoff’s poetry. I’ve ended up spending much of 2020 researching WWI and looking at how fate panned out and how there were so many incredible acts of kindness even in those bleakest of times. It’s been so encouraging.
    One of my next steps is to get my own poetry organized.

  7. Rowena Post author

    I just quoted that phrase myself in regard to your lock down. I said that we know from history that we know that it will pass, but we don’t know when.
    This more virulent form has escaped quarantine in Queensland via a cleaner. It wouldn’t surprise me if Australia blocks people coming in from the UK. There’s certainly been discussions.
    Meanwhile, there’s America and Trump…

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