Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Power of Prose

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I was first introduced to this beautiful poem at the age of 10. 
Just the other day I was reminded of its ethereal beauty and both genuinely delighted and more than a little surprised, to find that I can still recite it word for word. I hated school, but thankfully no amount of bullying could stop me learning, or deter me from my thirst for knowledge. Sadly, genuinely inspirational teachers are few and far between, (don't get me started) but I was lucky enough to encounter one, even if it was under less-than-wonderful circumstances, who thrust this poem, and many others, under my nose, and then taught me to inhale.
From Frost's snowy woods, to WH Davies' daffodils, with Conan Doyle's eagle circling overhead, each week my imagination was expanding without me even realising. Little did I know that these words were padding quietly across the soft expanse of my childhood consciousness, silently imprinting their images in the corner labelled "For Future Use." 
People have always said that children have minds like sponges, and for me, it is these poems and their lasting effect on me that has cemented this. If, or when, I have children of my own, I will do my utmost to fill their fledgling years with the beauty, and inspiration of the written word, in the same way mine were. I will read at them until I am hoarse, read with them until my fingers are stiff and blackened with ink, and listen to them conjure words until my ears no longer hear. When my life was being made a misery at the tender age of 10, it was the weekly poems that helped me escape, even transcend, the cruelty of the world I found myself in, along with the books of poetry handed down to me by my Mum, which seemed to hold together at the spine through faith and faith alone. I truly believe that I put my faith in those pages, and those pages in me, which is testament to the fact that we have both survived to this day. 
I can pinpoint literary works that have actually shaped and influenced my life. Anyone who knows me away from this keyboard will know that I am positively cuckoo for cats, and I very definitely have T.S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats to thank for it. The fact that the musical "Cats" stems from this collection of wonderful characters is also very definitely entrenched in my love of music, but that's a different tale for a different time. 
I am a passionate believer in the written word, and as much as reading saved me back then, so writing rescues me now. My parents taught me to read, and spell, inside out and back to front: literally. Words were fun in my house. I was taught that words are meant to break down barriers, not build them; words are not to be feared, or used to exclude or intimidate. I think this is why I have such an affinity with words: I turned to words when my peers turned against me, because words themselves at least, don't judge. 
The beauty of words, of literature and of prose, is that they never stop giving. With age, words read differently, and life will throw stuff at you that will change both you, and how you read. 
The love affair I have with words is mutual, everlasting, and ever-forgiving, and nothing else will ever come close.

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