Roots Home remember. Writing of events close to their happening involves a wide-awake mind and all senses alert in an effort to tell it true. To reread the journal is to live it again, more profoundly, given time to think. Poetry is a rhythmic way of thinking. If, in this reflective moment, a poem starts into life, a note in a journal opens itself to be shared with a reader. The hare in the gap, for example: the sudden heat of it, its breath, quiver, stillness, its aliveness saying, ‘you too are alive’. It records the nowness of now, the moment completely lived.
I felt every bit of me awake as I watched the hare, but a poem wasn’t ready. Literature was ready though. I recalled a brilliant few pages in one of Dylan Thomas’s stories, ‘The Peaches’, with a marvellous description of a child’s experience of consciousness. He writes of how alive he had felt, a boy playing wild games with a friend at his Aunt Annie’s farm, Fern Hill (which he calls ‘Gorsehill’ in the story) and how, and I quote: ‘I felt all my young body like an excited animal surrounding me, the torn knees bent, the bumping heart’, and ‘I was aware of me myself in the exact middle of a living story, and my body was my adventure and my name’.
‘In the exact middle of a living story’! ‘My body was my adventure and my name’! How I identify with that rich description of consciousness, of the aware young writer listening for language, alert for the truth of things.
Is consciousness a special human thing? My hare looked just as alive, as aware as I. Growing older, losing friends, the deaths of poets, sharpens consciousness and my need to write, to remember everything. In a poem written after the far too early death of my friend, the poet Frances Horovitz, I say: ‘I must write like the wind, year after year / passing my death-day, winning ground’. I often find myself saying, these days, after the deaths of Seamus Heaney, Dennis O’Driscoll, Dannie Abse, and others, ‘I must write like the wind’, ‘winning ground’.