Dear Friends and followers of my Blog,
Here are two offerings which I hope may interest you. Season of Creation: Snake and my reading of D.H.Lawrence’s poem and of how it found me. Soul food is also back with various offerings.
I have finally transposed a memorial service for my brother-in-law, Billy Cunningham from a Zoom powerpoint onto my blog to make it available to family and friends. Unlike powerpoint the reader has to move the slides move on, and in the right places click the video’s and music to play. It may be of interest to non family members to see how it has been possible to hold memorial services that people across the world can take part in, during a time of Lockdown.
Billy Cunningham Memorial service
When I was in Junior School many years ago in Woodstock, CAPAP students visited our class and performed various literary pieces for us. I may have been 10 or 11 then. I remember a round headed young man with a good girth, reciting for us Snake by D.H.Lawrence.
The experience was riveting and he was one of the influences that made me love poetry. For many years I said that I wished I could recite a poem like he did that day. He may have gone home disappointed with our response. Sometimes I wish that I could call back the past to tell him that the day he recited the poem was a significant moment in my life.
Later on in life I realised that if I put my mind to it, I could recite Snake, despite its length, to bring the poem to life for many other people and have done so.
The other day I was mentoring a friend who has suddenly discovered the power and delight of his own ability to write poetry, and Snake flooded back. Together we looked at the skills Lawrence used to express this long narrative poem about a meeting with a snake.
The poem is in free verse. He builds the story not in the traditional way with rhyme and metre. He builds the narrative with varying lengths of sentences, and run on lines that slither like a snake from line to line. He creates colour, tone, rhythm and atmosphere through repetition, word sounds (assonance) and pause. At key moments through these techniques time is slowed down, the reader become so present and can see the snake with amazing clarity.
In these slow down moments, the unconscious mind breaks through with all its fears and questions. The snake is dangerous it must be killed.
At another level the poem is a wonderful parable of creativity and of something quite beautiful emerging out of the mysterious black hole of the mind to find it place in our world and of our taking responsibility for it. It speaks of our moving beyond our comfort zones, our own fear to connect to other worlds in the created order.
The albatross suggests a sense of guilt because our actions can so easily destroy the natural world of which we are a part. His sense of educated fear can cause great damage to the invisible connection of the natural world.
The snake moves with great dignity like a king – but he treats it as though it were vermin. He throws a log at it. It scurries away.
The poem speaks to our relationship with the natural world and the great damage we have done to the world and continue to do.
A few days after my poetry session with my friend I went walking on Rondebosch Common. There were walkers before and behind me as we walked along the edge of the Common. I was looking down in thought when I saw up ahead a mole hole with what looked like a stub of a tree protruding from it. I stopped, and took a closer look. It was the head of a snake, black and silent. Then slowly, very slowly it disappeared into the black hole.
When I was little my sister Edna who died recently used to love reading my brother and I two poems which I have come to love, The Listeners by Walter de la Mare and The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. A reading of The Listeners by Margie Weir follows
Dorian Haarhoff, poet and storyteller is back with a true story about someone who lived a challenging and extraordinary life.
Films to recommend
David Attenborough’s new film A life on our planet. Kiss the Ground about the importance of sustainable farming. All on Netflix. and My Octopus Teacher filmed near Millers Point in Cape town?
- Reflection through poetry on death, loss and healing in the wake of the pandemic
- The Feast of the Conversion of St Paul
- Saint Francis and the Sow
- Inviting the New Year
- From Starlight to Candle-light