I’m delighted to welcome Lucy Crispin, former Poet Laureate of South Cumbria.
It’s great to have a space to talk about one of the poems from shades of blue. Thank you so much. I’ve chosen ‘a libation for small things’, in part because it reflects some of my characteristic thoughts and interests; in part, also, because through the pandemic I think we’ve all appreciated the ‘small things’ which helped us keep going.
Both my jobs—as poet and therapist—involve considering what it is to live happily and well. Of course, this varies from person to person—your ‘small things’ will be different from mine—but whatever the ‘things’ are, they help offset the inevitable pain of being human. Blackbird song at 5am; the unselfconsciousness of a fancy-dressed child; the fleeting beauty of changing light; the kindness of a friend: all these things can redeem a day and make it lovely. I’m often reduced to tears by ‘delight or tenderness’—struck by thankfulness, a sense of grace. ‘Pulpit’, ‘beatitude’, ‘libation’: these words reflect the precious, sacred nature of these gifts.
I’m just as liable as anyone else to getting stuck in what Marie Howe calls ‘the whir of I should be, I should be, I should be’, or otherwise failing to be present. It’s my job(s), though, to notice things, to see them as clearly as I can, and that’s where my best work comes from. I seek to anatomise encounter and emotional experience. ‘Libation’ shows my appreciative attentiveness to the natural world. I walk every day, often early in the morning, and most of the poems in shades of blue speak of encounters with nature—birds, animals, plants, landscapes, water. (I don’t know if anyone’s written as many poems about sheep as I have!) Connection is central for me—with ourselves, with each other and with the natural world around. All three of those modes of connection are mentioned or implied in ‘libation’, and in that the poem is representative of my work.
I write in all sorts of structured verse forms as well as free verse, and a subject usually tells me what form it wants to be written in. There’s a certain kind of mischief or wryness which asks for rhyming couplets or villanelles, for instance; and I have an ongoing sequence of ‘holy sonnets’ (apologies to John Donne!) which are love poems really and which, like ‘libation’, honour what is sacred in the apparently everyday (a couple of these are in shades of blue). In ‘libation’, though I wasn’t consciously aware of it as I wrote, there is something important about the freedom in the verse: the extensive use of enjambment and lines run-on over stanza ends has something to say about flow, about how one thing is linked to another; as does the miscellaneous quality of the images. Because that’s the thing: we never know how ‘small things’ we do may in fact be hugely important—may ‘chang[e] no worlds,/ [yet] change them entirely’. I find that a comforting thought, and hope that readers do as well: you can never know what will make someone’s life feel more bearable for a moment, or when some stranger’s tiny act will light up your day too. How strange, and how wonderful too.
Read my review of this compelling collection next week.