Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh has a gallery out front, a recently renovated old church that is now the Queen's Gallery. It had a new exhibition of the Poets Laureate, a British tradition dating back a few centuries. One of the more recent poets was Cecil Day-Lewis, father of Daniel Day-Lewis. I heard an audio recording of a poem about his children recited by Daniel. Astonishing.
The current Poet Laureate is Carol Ann Duffy. Her "Last Post" tells the story of the first World War backwards. If only we could undo it all. (Yes I already have my own Prodigal Son version in my head.)
After the evening prayers at the mosque
came the looters in masks
and you three stood
beloved in your neighbourhood
brave, bright, brothers,
to be who you were -
a hafiz is one who has memorised
the entire Koran: a devout man -
then the lout in the speeding car
who purposefully mounted the curb
I think we all should kneel
on that English street
where he widowed your pregnant wife, Shazad
tossed your soul to the air, Abdul,
and brought your father, Haroon, to his knees,
his face masked is your blood
on the rolling news
where nobody's children riot and burn.
I had never heard of Carol. We not only read and heard her poetry but also saw it rendered by artist and calligrapher Stephen Raw. Carol's words are taking-breath, heart-felt, wise, disturbing and comforting. Stephen's art is fluid but form-finding, shaping yet opening words heard to be then glimpsed in colour and light. We came home with their book, Ritual Lighting.
Of course, Carols' poems, when they speak of the monarchy, honour it in ways that colonials would not. Yet even then, they plumb some kind of wisdom that we colonists would need to look to our local custodians just to glimpse.
Here is Stephen and his work...