What attracted me to this poem was its interesting, twisty rhythm. Its odd grammar is a bit of a tongue-twister, and invites the reader to really concentrate on what’s being said. And this rhythm is offset by the poem’s very simple theme. Basically, this poem boils down to the idea that creativity has the power to console us emotionally, just as food sustains us physically.
It’s awash with natural imagery, and I think anyone can relate to the solitary heron. We have all had moments in our lives when we felt alone, even if just for a brief period. Company is often the best medicine, but poetry, fiction, music and anything else creative, for that matter, are another kind of company. In a sense, the artist speaks to him/herself while also, presumably, having a reader/viewer in mind.
Helen Harrison’s poem ends with a command to the reader, or maybe it’s a plea. That’s fair enough coming from someone who has experienced the wonders of creativity. It might even encourage someone to take up writing for the first time. And why not. But, for some readers, art could be substituted for something else. Physical activity, say. Or just experiencing nature. In a world of technology and constant communication, we all need to find peace somehow.
After the Drought
The climate that dampens a human heart
Is the one where the heron thrives, feeding
Nourishment they need; frogs, insects and seeds.
Though seasons that flow soon suffer drought
As humans suffer pain and doubt, until all
That’s left to soothe a heart is art.
To tap-in to a creative zone, find
Calm through all climates; like a heron's
Individual path of flight. Put your human
Mind to use; make no excuse for unnecessary
Hardship; find your gift then feed your art
To find some peace within your heart.
I began writing poetry before I had even read any, which is not something I’d recommend, but it worked for me. My first collection was published by Lapwing during 2015. https://sites.google.com/a/lapwingpublications.com/lapwing-store/helen-harrison
I’m not sure if it would have happened without the influence of reading novels, particularly by Irish authors like John McGahern, Niall Williams, Sabastian Barry and Joseph O’Connor, to name but a few. I now thrive on poetry from the likes of W.S Merwin, Raymond Carver, Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, William Stafford, Patrick Kavanagh, Ted Hughes, Carolyn Forche and, more recently, W.B. Yeats. There are many more I could mention. I’m also very excited by the writing from young females here in Ireland. I try to share their poetry often online to renew interest in the craft. Often a first collection of poetry can be the best.
Many are listed here: https://poethead.wordpress.com/c-murray-the-poethead-site/ edited by Chris Murray. I’m also a fan of many of the mature writers also featured here, and never fail to share something if it’s good. I believe in fairness.
As to my own writing I tend to pick up paper when I get a line into my head. I write, rewrite and eventually type, retype, print, write over what I’ve printed, retype and a final print. All I need to carry when I travel somewhere is a small notebook and pen. I don’t even get bored on long bus journeys – in fact I often thrive on them. My main holiday last year consisted of a seven-day open-road Bus Eireann coach ticket which I used to travel Co. Kerry and the Beara peninsular in West Cork. I adore meeting characters who have often inspired my poems.
I have also participated in open mics. It was from there that I got invited to be guest reader at venues.
My independent nature stems from my upbringing on the Wirral, England (born to Irish parents) where I was allowed the freedom others were denied. I would often go trekking or cycling on my own. I was adventurous and brave. It was only my physique (spotty and lanky) and being a late developer as a teenager that knocked my confidence. I found I had little in common with other girls, especially in school, and was often bored. I day-dreamed the time
away and wished I’d been writing then.
One of my favourite memories was summers spent among the hills of Castleblayney with my brothers and sisters on granny’s farm. My granddad liked poetry and apparently recited the poems he had learnt at school as he worked the farm during his adult life.
I returned to live here in Ireland when I was in my twenties, married a fellow from the City of Liverpool and we have a grown-up daughter with an Irish accent living here in Ireland. So finally back to our roots.....
Samples of my poetry can be found here: http://poetry4on.blogspot.ie/
You refer to “the climate that dampens a human heart”. How does the weather affect your writing? And do you, like many writers, find that you’re more productive when it’s lashing rain outside?
The same way as it affects people's moods. I like a sunny bench outside the house best of all.
Artistic creation as a therapeutic process is an established idea, though many artists can be wary of embracing the idea. Does writing function as a therapy for you in any way?
Definitely. If I'm stressed about something I try rhyming patterns (terza rima a favourite) as writing in form focuses the mind. Other times poetry like happiness is as natural and easy as breathing.
Nature features strongly here. Is it in our nature to be creative, or is art literally an “artificial” or unnatural preoccupation?
The oldest musical instrument we have is a bone flute (40,000 years old) exquisitely crafted and would have been a month in the making. People have had the same brain as us for hundreds of thousands of years only the culture is different.
There’s a nice rhythm in this poem, and no shortage of assonance or internal rhyme (eg. “feeding”, “need”, “seeds”, “season” and “find”, “climates”, “flight”, “mind”). I think these are somewhat neglected elements in a lot of modern poetry. Would you agree or disagree, and what do you think such sound techniques can bring to poetry?
It's important to learn about different techniques, and listening to and reading poetry to pick up on the rhythm. Also just to sit down with a pen and paper and let free your mind.
Why do you write?
To make a sense of something. I enjoy weaving words and the use of metaphor.
If you had one piece of advice for a writer, what would it be?
Everyone's life has its own rhythm, some slow, some fast; follow your own rhythm and enjoy it.