Roots Home sound that belongs to the known shape. Familiar words are repeated, favourite stories told and retold. That early pleasure in repeated sounds, in short, echoing word groups, in spells, in rhymes, in legends where choices come in sets of three, as well as the mysterious music of nursery rhymes, are the makings of the literate person. In my case they were surely leading to the art of writing, and the love of and practice of poetry.
I don’t remember being taught to read. My mother read me stories, and as she read her finger followed the words, so I could hear the sound of each word-shape. Sentences and paragraphs guide the reader’s path through prose. A poem’s music is shaped by lines and verses. The form informs, tells us how to hear. The poem’s shape on the page is the sound you hear. A poem is like a page of music. The line is the bar line. It carries the word-music of poetry.
Before I was born, my father had travelled the world with the merchant navy, a wireless officer with the Marconi company, until his radio skills and bilingualism brought him a job as a broadcasting engineer at the BBC in Wales. In his radio cabin on board ship, tapping spells in Morse code, he sent messages across oceans: storm warnings, sightings of icebergs or wreckage. The radio transmitted cries for help, ships in distress heard too far off course to assist, as messages passed ship to ship, ocean to ocean across the world between men like him, nicknamed as ‘Sparks’, in their subterranean cabins. As I write, I remember how exciting it was to be told how, decades before the internet, the international language of Morse could cross the world, travel all round the globe which I loved to spin in the corner of my bedroom. Morse code was another magic alphabet which, much later, my father tried to teach me.
I remember ‘writing’, or scribbling, with a pencil my father had sharpened to a dangerously perfect point. My parents must have forgiven my graffiti and trusted my tool management