Writing and walking go hand in hand for me and have for some time now. In 2020-21 I completed a Higher Diploma in English at UCC and I always found that walking helped with my writing. It clears the head and allows for new thinking; sometimes to think outside the box, so to speak. It was essential during Covid and those dreadful lockdowns. Previously I spent four great years studying social sciences in my undergraduate degree. All through this time my faithful companion and best friend, Lady, was by my side. Her little sister, Gracie, took over when she passed away. Of course, Gracie being a puppy needed lots of walking! So now Gracie and I walk the paths, beaches and woods that once Lady and I did.
Poetry was never a strong point for me; I never really gave it much thought. It just seemed too difficult to comprehend. That is until I studied the H Dip in English. I completed two poetry modules, Poetry of the Vikings, and What a Literary War. Both opened my eyes to a different ways of writing, and understanding the content in them. Poetry can tell us so much; it’s not just the feelings, emotions and ideas of the author, it also tells us so much about history, the cultural and societal aspects of the time and the lives of people. Take Poetry of the Vikings for example. The poems, chants and writings, originally written in Old Norse, tell us about the mythology, beliefs, battles and lives of the Vikings. The collection of poems in the Poetic Edda by Carolyne Carrington is well worth taking the time to read. The original manuscript, known as the Codex Regius is kept very safely and contains 31 anonymous poems. It was written during the 13th century. Also worth reading alongside the poems is Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda which is a text book rather than poems. It helps readers understand the poems and the stories behind them.
Two of my more favorite poems are about “the story of the creation, and indeed destruction, of the world as written in the Vǫluspá, told by a Seeress, a female Shaman, who has access to the world of sprites, both good and evil. Hávamál , although a didactic poem giving ethical advice about human relations and social behaviour, warms men about women, particularly ones who refuse to be controlled. But the poem also goes on to recount Óðinn’s own bad behaviour in the seduction of giantess Gunnlod” (Farley 1)
Please follow the link below to watch a video that will tell you all about the Norse God Óðinn
Farley, Michelle. “Stories about Norse goddesses may have been suppressed in the transmission of the poetry, but accounts of female figures that survive still complicate our notion of women’s roles in early medieval society.” 2020.
Now, of course, I cannot write poetry, this goes without saying. However, I am starting to write down some little ideas that come into my head. Hence, Lady, above. I may even get to write one about Gracie soon, so watch this space !
What a Literary War was very interesting. I especially liked the poetry by Vera Brittain. She not only recounted the horrors and traumas of the First World War from her experiences as a VAD nurse but also from the experiences of her own brother, two friends and fiancée, Roland Leighton (1895-1915). They all died during the war, and left her very badly affected. The poems also are very emotional, and tell a love story developing between Brittain and Leighton. “Chronicle of Youth: The War Diary, 1913-1917 (1981) was based on Brittain’s diary and is maybe one of the most accurate writings she has published. This diary was written from childhood on a regular basis, throughout the war, and contains vivid information about the experiences she went through, her reactions to them and her feelings and emotions at the time. Letters From a Lost Generation (1998) contains letters written during the First World War between herself, her fiancé Roland, her brother Edward and their two friends, Victor and Geoffrey. Both these genres are important as they give, perhaps, a more accurate account of her experiences rather than her autobiography Testament of Youth (1933)” (Farley). This is an extract from one of my own essays, and I think reflects the way I see Brittain’s books. I read them alongside each other, and it all gives a great understanding of the First World War, how people’s lives were shattered and the conditions of the time. The descriptions of the trenches in France and the human suffering feel as real now as it actually was at the time. Her poetry is very vivid.
Farley, Michelle. “Vera Brittain makes use of various genres to articulate her personal experience of the First World War”. 2021.
Follow the link below to watch an interview about Testament of Youth and her memoirs being made into a film –
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) wrote a moving poem titled My Boy Jack. Many believed it was about his son who went missing in action while serving with the Irish Guards in the Battle of Loos during World War One after only 3 weeks in France in 1915. His body was never found: he was just 18. Kipling had great difficulty accepting his son’s death.
Actually it is not about his own private grief. It is about a 16 year old boy called Jack Cornwall, the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross, who stayed at his post on board ship during the Battle of Jutland. I have posted it here because I believe it is so moving and sad. It must reflect the loss of many parents during the war.
Have you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
Kipling, Rudyard. My Boy Jack. Poetry by Heart
Above is the film version starring Daniel Radcliff