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Editorial April 2002
Bridges in Poesy
By Hilary Williamson

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? Seems lately that we are always celebrating some worthy cause or other, but the onset of spring does seem an especially suitable time to turn our thoughts to poets and poesy as we 'tiptoe through the tulips' outside. But have you ever considered how effective poetry is as a form of communication; how the best of poets manage to encapsulate and convey the most complex ideas and emotions in just a few phrases?

Unfortunately what comes first to my mind these days is W. B. Yeats' The Second Coming:

'Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;'

However, since spring is a season of hope, let's move on to something more optimistic. I used to travel a great deal and enjoyed exploring each new country through its poets, when I could find them in translation. I was thrilled to discover the famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore in Calcutta. His Highest Price is about a man who unsuccessfully tries to sell his cares to people that he meets, until:

'Along the sea-shore the sun shines, the sea breaks and rolls.
A child is on the sandy beach: he sits playing with shells.
He seems to know me; he says,
"I'll buy your cares
For nothing." Suddenly I am released
From my heavy load; his playful face has won me free of cost.'

I enjoyed the works of Lu Xun while cycling in China from Nanjing to Shanghai. Here is A Riposte to a Friend (1932):

Does a true hero have to be heartless?
Surely a real man may love his young son.
Even the roaring, wind-raising tiger
Turns back to look at his own tiny cubs.

Russia has Yevgeny Yevtushenko and there are so many more great poets writing in various countries and in their own languages. Read them and see how similar their hopes and feelings are to our own, across geography and across time. Celebrate this spring by crossing the bridges of poesy to other cultures. Read their stanzas aloud; they might surprise you with familiarity, like this playful verse by Yevtushenko ...

"Who's there?"
"I'm Old Age.
I've come after you."
"Not now.
I'm busy.
I've got things to do."
It wasn't Old Age.
Maturity came by
which couldn't wait
and left me
with a sigh ...

Enjoy Poetry Month around the world!
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