Hello Everyone – death has been at the forefront of our awareness during these recent months of pandemic and whilst mindful of the awfulness, I want us to take some of that sting away for a while and slip into other times.
I’ve always been drawn to churchyards and cemeteries – the ‘eternally resting’ permeate the atmosphere and there is usually a bench or two for us the living, to also rest awhile. Elizabeth Bartlett knows it too in her “Drop me off at the Cemetery”:
…” Cemeteries are very comforting places; levelled off
laid low at all ages, there’s no way of telling
who loved who, she thought, and who would have liked
to dance on graves or jumped in with the corpse” …
Most welcome too are such green acres as respite on long walks when I stop off with a packed lunch and peruse the names, dates relationships, ages and verses on the headstones. There is nothing morbid about it. “Media vita in morte sumus “ – in life we are in death” – a beautiful Gregorian chant but equally we can say: “in death, we are in life”
Here is Leslies Norris’ “Elegy for an old Man found Dead on a Hill”
“Under the hill, and among the dropping fir-cones,
Dressed for death the old man lay alone
With his cap over one eye and one white hand
As white as a muffler, flung among the fern-roots
It was Sunday. The bells from the wide town
Broke like a river against the old man’s head
Without moving, at home in the little grass
The Old man lay and the sky was in his eye…”
As I read this, my curiosity is piqued. Who was he, what was he doing there? How did he die? How did he live? Longfellow’s “In the Churchyard at Cambridge” posits this kind of curiosity too:
…“In the village churchyard she lies,
Dust is in her beautiful eyes,
No more she breathes, nor feels, nor stirs;
At her feet and at her head
Lies a slave to attend the dead,
But their dust is white as hers.
Was she a lady of high degree,
So much in love with the vanity
And foolish pomp of this world of ours?
Or was it Christian charity,
And lowliness and humility,
The richest and rarest of all dowers?
Who shall tell us? No one speaks;” …
For this Poetics prompt, that is exactly what I want us to do – but first some advice from Ted Hughes:
“ First a character is brought alive…by precise descriptive flashes [not belabouring detail]. Second a person’s whole life can be suggested by recounting one or two typical incidents from it – incidents in which we feel the person’s general way of thinking and feeling” (“Poetry In the Making” – 1967).
Dylan Thomas does this so concisely in Under Milkwood where Captain Cat dialogues with his dead companions and they with him:
“Fourth Drowned: Alfred Pomeroy Jones, sea lawyer, born in Mumbles, sung like a linnet, crowned you with a flagon, tattooed with mermaids, thirst like a dredger, died of blisters”
So for this prompt we must rely totally on our imagination. We are reconstituting a deceased person, one that is unknown to us, neither family nor famous. By way of poetic resurrection, we see them live again.
- choose the character from the Norris or the Longfellow poem or even one of Captain Cat’s old seasalts (follow the link above to the text – its near the beginning)
- OR find a similar poem that introduces a deceased character for you to fill in or posit the details
- OR pick a name from a headstone in any churchyard or cemetery
- bring the deceased to life by letting them speak (first person) or speak with them (2nd person) or speak about them (3rd person)
- it is NOT the whole life story that is required but the essence of the person’s character and life
- meter and rhyme is entirely your own choice
Once you have published your poem, add it to the Linky widget and leave a comment below. Then go visiting, reading and sharing your thoughts with other contributors which is half the fun of our dVerse gatherings.