friday feast: “The Self-Playing Instrument of Water” by Alice Oswald (+ giveaway winner)

“If I break my leg I’ll go to a doctor, if I break my heart, or if the world breaks my spirit, I will go to a poet.” (Jeanette Winterson, 2007)

Life-giving, purifying, restorative. Here’s a moment of lyrical beauty to savor, note by note.

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THE SELF-PLAYING INSTRUMENT OF WATER
by Alice Oswald

It is the story of the falling rain
To turn into a leaf and fall again

It is the secret of a summer shower
To steal the light and hide it in a flower

And every flower a tiny tributary
That from the ground flows green and momentary

Is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

If only I a passerby could pass
As clear as water through a plume of grass

To find the sunlight hidden at the tip
Turning to seed a kind of lifting raindrip

Then I might know like water how to balance
The weight of hope against the light of patience

Water which is so raw so earthy-strong
And lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

Drawn under gravity towards my tongue
To cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

Which is the story of the falling rain
That rises to the light and falls again

~ Copyright © 2013 Alice Oswald.

 

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I only just discovered Alice Oswald’s poetry a few months ago. I loved this poem from the opening lines — an astute observation expressed in deceptively simple terms.

In a reading she gave at Boston University two years ago, Oswald likened the water cycle — how water returns and returns — to the roll of a pianola, an instrument she loved as a child.

As water takes the path of least resistance, so her stanzas, with their absence of punctuation, naturally flow one into another, without the impediment of cliché or predictability. Upon first reading, I was so taken with her pristine diction and following her train of thought that I wasn’t aware of the rhyming couplets! I love her skillful use of slant rhyme, too.

A former gardener who read Classics at New College, Oxford, Alice now lives on the Dartington Estate in Devon with her husband and three children. She is the recipient of the TS Eliot Prize, the Ted Hughes Award, and the Foreword Prize.

In an interview with Susannah Herbert at The Guardian, she said:

To be a poet is as serious, long-term and natural as the effort to be the best human you can be. To express something well is not a question of having a top-class education and understanding poetic forms: rather, it’s a question of paying attention.

Today’s poem, retitled “A Short Story of Falling,” appears in Oswald’s 7th poetry collection, Falling Awake (W.W. Norton, 2016).

At a time when the world feels toxic and unbearable, I was grateful for this poetic cleansing.

Here’s Alice reading her poem at BU:

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 🍭HORRIBLY HUNGRY GINGERBREAD BOY GIVEAWAY WINNER! 📘

You’ll forgive me if I’m a little out of breath. Been chasing that rascally Gingerbread Boy all week. Wanted him to pick our giveaway winner. It wasn’t easy catching up with him, let me tell you. I sprinted all over San Francisco (thankfully I was able to have lunch in Chinatown to fortify myself in the process). Though the city was beautiful and I enjoyed seeing all the wonderful landmarks mentioned in the story, to my dismay the Gingerbread Boy was nowhere to be found. Sigh.

Wise Mr Cornelius suggested I contact our dear friend M. Random Integer Generator directly. He is, after all, a robust gastronome who can sniff out gingerbread an ocean away. Some of you may remember that tracking down M. Generator can sometimes be tricky in itself. Double sigh. Thankfully M. Generator answered my telegram right away. Seems the Gingerbread Boy had already devoured the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and half the Arc de Triomphe. Mon Dieu! Quelle Catastrophe!

Mais, as soon as M. Generator told the GBB we needed him to pick a winner, he flew to the Alphabet Soup kitchen in a wink. After a little snack (34 apple pies, 54 Twix bars, 4 gallons of lemonade), our favorite Gingerbread Boy reached into the cookie jar and picked a name.

The winner of a brand new copy of THE HORRIBLY HUNGRY GINGERBREAD BOY is —

*drum roll, please*

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*trumpet fanfare*

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uh-huh

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katmaz2012!

🎈HOORAY! CONGRATULATIONS!! 🎉

Thanks to everyone for entering the giveaway!

(Best to back away before the Gingerbread Boy eats you.)

Just kidding.

Hey, one of my ears is missing.

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poetry fridayThe clever and talented witty ditty darling Michelle Barnes is hosting the Roundup at Today’s Little Ditty. Be sure to sashay on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week!

 


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.