Poetry please

by Martin MacConnol – Mar 31, 2020

I started a blog the other day with a quote from a poem. I felt a bit pseudy, but thought sod it, I am who I am.

Poems are a guilty pleasure of mine. I can recite huge chunks of everything from Lear to Yeats off by heart. As you can imagine that makes me about as popular in the office as my admission that I don’t get football.

But this morning I felt a little less alone. On Radio 4’s Today programme they introduced a new regular segment – a poetry reading by one of their famous voices. Today’s poem was from Benedictus, A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue read by journalist Fergal Keane.

Keane, best known for reporting from some of the grimmest places on the planet, said the poem helped him in the dark days of dealing with PTSD. “This is the time to be slow, to lie low to the wall, until the bitter weather passes…” is how the poem begins.

Great poems are important because they reveal lasting truths – or if not always truths, then at least huge ideas for our brains to unpack and repack over the course of a lifetime. They provide anchors and hooks which root us into the human condition. They link us, in all our own wonderful uniqueness, to people who have come before us and will come after.

Poetry or prose, words at this time are incredibly important. Who hasn’t parsed every detail of what the government or its medical advisers have been saying in their briefings, to try to understand what the risks are, what the advice is and, most importantly, just how long this lockdown will go on for? I trust and hope that such leaders are picking their words incredibly carefully at the moment, balancing the need for realism with the need to keep society feeling motivated and hopeful.

Of course, we understand the power of words as a team at Wardour. They are a key part of our daily life, whether packed into a 1,000-word article, a 280-character tweet, a video or an infographic. We know the right words, correctly framed, will inspire an audience to take action. The wrong words, or the wrong packaging will do the opposite. And sometimes the dividing line between what is good and what is bad is very, very fine.

We’ve yet to be asked to create a poem for any of our clients. Now that would be a challenge to embrace. My poem to raise my spirits in these dark days Is Invictus, by William Henley… “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” It’s not that original a choice, Mandela kept it close to his heart during his 27 years of imprisonment.

If anyone wants to share their favourite poems I’d love to hear from you. I’m always keen to learn more by heart and there’s plenty of time to do that in the days ahead.

And in case you’re interested: here’s the link to the Radio 4 poetry segment with Fergal Keane. He’s got a voice like Kerrygold butter melting into warm soda bread. https://bbc.in/3bEnLGW Enjoy!

Published Mar 31, 2020

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