There's nothing like writing in the heat of things - capturing an image, a glimpse, a fleeting insight. Out of such scribbles a new poem may grow.
Carol Ann Duffy must have written her latest laureate poem, Silver Lining, in the heat of things. Between the UK airspace closing down on Thursday 15 April and Monday 19 April, Duffy had written and was ready to present the piece on radio and in the national press.
Some of the online comments seem mean spirited. One said something along the lines of - well, it's an OK poem, about GCSE level.
Is it a great poem?
Does it matter?
What I admire about Silver Lining is the way in which Duffy has captured a split second of insight, the kind of thought that, for most people, passes through the mind and remains unrecorded.
Duffy captures it and lets it travel. The finished poem contains that sense of the immediate present whilst glancing back to the past and implying the future. From the domestic garden, Duffy draws attention to the natural world and our relationship to it. She then goes further, reminding us of the legacy of poets who have also draw our attention to the natural world; all this whilst acknowledging the ambivalence of the enforced grounding.
Whether it stands the test of time seems irrelevant. For now, she offers this concentration of thought and feeling, patterned in language we can all relate to. Duffy has shaped and recorded what many of us were thinking during the ash crisis. And, given it to us while we're in a frame of mind to linger a while on such thoughts.
As the planes took to the air again the monthly meeting of the Poetry Reading Group [The PRG] focused on poems that were also written in the heat and in response to events - the poetry of the First World War. So many of those poems, especially those of Wilfred Owen reverberate today: 'Parable of the Old Men and the Young', 'Anthem for Doomed Youth,' 'The Send-Off.' With his unflinching gaze, capturing the vivid details of life in the trenches and his technical innovation - those half rhymes - what might he have gone on to write? A possible laureate?
He was certainly a poet who produced his best work in the heat of things.
Re-reading Owen I was struck by this sentence from his draft preface to the collection of poems he didn't live to see published. He wrote this shortly before he died in 1918:
All the poet can do to-day is to warn.
Reading Owen made me think again about Carol Ann Duffy's Silver Lining - not so much a warning but a timely reminder. Both poets reveal the documentary power of the poem, an alternative to twenty-four hour news.