Tuesday 7 September 2021

Poetry and pain, by Dawn Finch

Have you seen this villain?

This is going to be a very brief post because I'm in pain. Nothing serious, just a toothache from a tooth cracked by a curly wurly back during Lockdown. I have waited too long to book an appointment, and then had to wait even longer to get an appointment. It has been getting worse and worse over the last few weeks and now it's all that I can think about. Getting off to sleep has been very difficult with waves of pain and I realised that I was returning to a method I developed as a child that helped me get off to sleep. 

When I was at school I won a small prize for memorising a poem. We all had to do it but, thankfully, my teacher was lovely and he let us pick any poem we liked. We didn't even have to tell him, we just had to do our best to memorise it and then repeat it to the class. After much musing and choosing I ruled out all of the weighty and meaningful ones I'd chosen first. After a few trials in the mirror I just felt too awkward with lines like "She walks in beauty, like the night, of cloudless climes and starry skies...." or "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night...." etc.. (yes, I was that child)

I decided that as much as I loved reading these poems to myself, they really would make my life even more challenging than it already was if I stood in front of the rest of the kids in our creaky mobile classroom and read it aloud.

 No, something different had to be chosen. After much deliberation I opted for Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death, by Hilaire Belloc. As you can imagine this went down a storm. It is one of those poems that particularly lends itself to being read aloud and even better when performed.

 Decades later I introduced my own child to the poem and they memorised it and made a whole school laugh with a great performance of it. This poem has sat so well in a little niche in my head and I now run the lines of Matilda and other Belloc poems on repeat in my head until I fall asleep. They make me smile and bring back happy memories and it eases my current pain.

 The power of poetry is just that. It can be a puzzle, or a moment trapped in the glorious amber of words, or it can be a laugh, or a pause for thought. Sometimes it can ease very real pain.

 I won't write any more because I'm terrified about seeing the dentist tomorrow. I think I'm going to need some Belloc to sleep. Maybe this one...


The Microbe*


 Hilaire Belloc


 The Microbe is so very small

 You cannot make him out at all,

 But many sanguine people hope

 To see him through a microscope.

 His jointed tongue that lies beneath

 A hundred curious rows of teeth;

 His seven tufted tails with lots

 Of lovely pink and purple spots,

 On each of which a pattern stands,

 Composed of forty separate bands;

 His eyebrows of a tender green;

 All these have never yet been seen--

 But Scientists, who ought to know,

 Assure us that they must be so ...

 Oh! let us never, never doubt

 What nobody is sure about!


 Dawn Finch is the current chair of the Children's Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) and she has a toofache.

* this poem is in the public domain. Please be mindful of the work and copyright of others when sharing poems.

1 comment:

Rowena House said...

Joyful poem! Hope the tooth is much, much better. X