Sunday, May 11, 2008

April Prize Poem

Working with form is an interesting process. It restricts by virtue of its pre-determined shape, yet it liberates because we can focus more on what we want to say, our ideas and language choices, rather than deliberating at length over the line breaks as we would during the making of a free verse poem.

In the poem prompt based on Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem I said:

And of course the other important thing is to write about something that will be served by the form and rhyme I’m asking you to use.

And for this reason I’ve chosen ‘Peace of Mind’ by Mary Rose as April’s Prize Poem.

The poem is both a lament for someone lost (‘amid grieving’) and a poem of perseverance in the face of that grief (‘the only way’). It bears witness to the strength of the human spirit, but does not idealise it, as the last line movingly states: ‘the blessing of night’ brings relief from the harsh situation that the light of day all too glaringly reveals.

The long third lines in each stanza are particularly effective in this poem as they both contain ‘lists’ and the accumulation of the items adds to the atmosphere of someone keeping busy.

I also admire the line break after ‘peace to be won/’ – the fall to the next line works very well with the emotion expressed there as well as slowing us down as readers to feel the impact of what is said.

I wasn’t sure, at first, about the title – is it too familiar a phrase, verging on cliché, perhaps? But when I read the poem again I realised how the familiar phrase is being concretised by the poem, and that the activity of gardening IS the peace of mind the poet seeks, although what is also interesting about this poem is that there’s no specific point of view. For me this choice contributes to the universality of the poem: the poem was written in response to one particular person’s grief yet we are all included, we have our own memories of keeping going, or we feel comforted by the fact that we are not, or we will not be, alone.

Many congratulations, Mary Rose. Your prize will be in the post next week.

Peace of mind

It’s a garden for today
where work waits to be done.
There’s a stream to keep clear, weeds to uproot, peace to be won
amid grieving, the only way.

There’s a bonfire to light,
seeds to be sown,
plenty to leave for another day, edges to trim and grass to be mown.
First the blessing of night.

Mary Rose

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