It has been fascinating to see the world’s reaction to Amanda Gorman’s poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ at the US Presidential inauguration this week.
Even before I saw and heard her delivery, I knew how she would sound because the cadence, the rhythm, the inflection was contained in the words themselves.
This is not to dismiss the power of delivery – it is to point out the power of words as the bedrock of the poem.
My daughter is a poet, anthologized on two continents, and the issue of poetry came up in our weekly online catch-up this afternoon.
She had just returned from a poetry group meeting and as I was waiting to set up our skype call, I was wryly amused to see her post a picture of her desk with the caption “How did my desk get so lousy with poetry?”
My response .. “Look at me, I’m Lyndal C, lousy with desk po-etry…” (with apologies to Stockard Channing) probably didn’t add anything meaningful to the discussion.
But I am just so pleased that my offspring love the language the way I do 🙂
Let me take you back to the summer of 1965, turning to 1966.
I was about to turn eight years old, and the youngest of four children.
Money was tight – but that was all right – because mum and dad and Santa always seemed to come up with something to make me happy.
That Christmas, it was a scooter – with pump-up tyres and a bell, and streamers from the handlebars!
But that wasn’t the REAL gift I was given that year.
No, it was something that has lasted for more than 50 years since then.
For my birthday a month later Mum and Dad arranged for me to get … my very own Library Card.
This is back in the days when the Bookmobile – a giant caravan towed by a semi-trailer – would come around to our suburb every week and a library card was the key to this magical kingdom.
And such a magical kingdom!
I could go back in time, or across the world, or out to space, or … well, I could go any-WHERE, and any-WHEN!
With that card, I could borrow any books I wanted – no longer having to check with mum and dad about their suitability – and borrow I did!
Two books, three books, four books a visit .. I positively DEVOURED books.
And, to this very day, I have rarely been without a library card.
These days, I am more likely to download books onto my Amazon Kindle, or read them on my phone – but I am constantly surrounded by books, magazines, and other reading material.
Biographies, philosophy, history, art .. I read them all.
But mostly, I read fiction.
It might be science fiction, it might be historical fiction, it might be contemporary fiction … it might be stories of hard-scrabble lives in harsh desert landscape – it might be hard-boiled detectives in the slums of our cities.
It might be starry-eyed youngsters starting their lives together, or comfortable couples growing old gracefully.
It might be historical novels bringing the past to life, or fantasy realms of dragons and demons.
It might be young-adult novels, or hard science forecasts – but always, ALWAYS, it is examining what writers might call ‘the human condition’ – how we deal with the world around us and with the issues that make us human.
My mum once said, only half in jest, that I would read the label of a jam jar if there was nothing else handy – and she was right.
But the credit (or the blame) lies with her and dad for that gift of a library card.
Because that gift, so many years ago, came with another gift as well.
It came with the gift of imagination. The gift of wonder. The gift of loving the language, the lilt, the laughter of literature.
If there was only one gift I could give my children, it would have been that.
Fortunately, I was able to give them more – but I am glad to say they have also accepted the gift of loving to read, and to write.
My son, while not as voracious a reader as me, enjoys exploring the universe via books.
We catch up for dinner every couple of weeks, to share our news and our lives and our plans.
And we share what we’ve read – what we have loved and have left.
For example, Alan sent me a message last year, excited to share that he had been featured in a book!
“It was the door to the wards and his counsellor, Doctor Alan Cairns, came out…”
No, Alan isn’t a doctor – but there’s an author based here in our home town of Brisbane who incorporates the names of fans into his latest works.
Alan was, as you can imagine, pretty chuffed!
His sister, Lyndal, not only reads poetry for pleasure, but is a published poet in her own right.
This week one of her works (from her series on the demotion of Pluto) was selected for a science-poetry journal in the US (I believe it is from her book Planet-ish).
Her father is, as you can imagine, pretty proud 😊
So – my children have accepted the gift of imagination, the gift of loving to read – and write.
That’s the gift that I was given – the gift that I still enjoy today, and the gift that I have been able to re-gift to my family.
Have YOU got a library card?
Give yourself the gift .. and get reading!