from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

language giving shelter

I am reading the wonderful 'and our faces, my heart, brief as photos' by the incomparable John Berger (thank you for mentioning it, Simon). Here he is on poetry:

'Poems, even when narrative, do not resemble stories. All stories are about battles, of one kind or another, which end in victory and defeat. Everything moves towards the end, when the outcome will be known.
   'Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields, tending the wounded, listening to the wild monologues of the triumphant or the fearful. They bring a kind of peace. Not by anaesthesia or easy reassurance, but by recognition and the promise that was has been experienced cannot disappear as if it had never been. Yet the promise is not of a monument. (Who, still on a battlefield, wants monuments?) The promise is that language has acknowledged, has given shelter, to the experience which demanded, which cried out.
   'Poems are nearer to prayers than stories, but in poetry there is no one behind the language being prayed to. For the religious poet, the Word is the first attribute of God. In all poetry words are a presence before they are a means of communication...
   'The poet places language beyond the reach of time... Poetry can speak of immortality because it abandons itself to language, in the belief that language embraces all experience, past, present, and future.'


  1. Good quote. I'm in the process of writing a narrative poem and am concerned about this very thing - narrative versus story. So this helps. Thanks :-)

  2. The Berger quote sounds timely, then, Elly! Good luck with the poem...


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