With this being the end of the year, and summer holidays, it always feels like a time to regroup, reconsider, to keep some things and let others go, revive some things and throw others out, refine, rechoose, review.
Although it likely happens everywhere, I was talking with an American friend, who's spent half her life in each hemisphere. She thought perhaps it's more so here, as there is that sense of a breath taken with the summer season as well as Christmas, so it's more of a break in time than the shortstop of Christmas and a return to the busyness of life in winter. I know that the charity/op-shops are busy collecting the fruit of people's sorting and tidying efforts in January.
I found this book in Canberra, and it's introducing me to new friends and reminding me of old. I'm working one poem into an article I'm writing at the moment, as it seems to sum this time, the project, the idea behind it.
On googling, I find that Sheenagh Pugh is less than thrilled with the (considerable) response her poem has received. You can read her thoughts on her website here.
But then, that's the catch, whether you write a poem or play or article or story or novel or blog entry, whether you make a quilt or a softie or a bracelet or a doll, and then let your work be published. You can't hold onto your own version as the only one, and you have to expect that others may find ways and meanings you never thought of and didn't anticipate.
I've seen some versions of my quilt designs that take the ideas to entirely new places in colours and fabrics. Not always colours or fabrics I'd have chosen, but isn't that part of the choice, in publishing? To let others travel the ideas along new paths? I think so. It's a grace and gift that they liked what you did enough to be inspired to play with the idea for themselves, in their place, for their purposes, in their lives.
So it's a shame that Sheenagh Pugh isn't so happy with how her poem has been used (although it would get up my nose too if someone PC'd my prose, changing 'man' to 'human being' for example, damaging the work's scansion and put my name to it...).
In Cynthia Voigt's series - well, not exactly a series, but a group that belongs together - of teenlit books beginning with Homecoming, then Dicey's Song, there's one called Come a Stranger.
One of my favourite scenes from that is where the main character, a girl, engineers a meeting between a man she admires and respects, and the boy who was named after an uncle who died in Vietnam, an uncle who was a childhood friend of the man's. She does so as a gift - but finds that the gift she wrapped, so to speak, is not the gift he unwraps. What matters most about the meeting for that man is not the young boy who never knew the uncle whose name he bears, but meeting the boy's grandmother, his friend's mother, and their common ground in speaking of the son who was his friend. Their common ground, their common loss. We can wrap a present, or publish something, but we cannot control its subsequent journey. The world is too big, people are too varied.
On the link above, Pugh gives permission for her poem to be reproduced on personal blogs, so here it is. However she feels about it now, I'm glad she wrote it, glad it's in the world, and in this anthology, and that we can read it and find a meaning in it for ourselves and our lives.
Sometimes, things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave a stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.