Where Poppies Blow

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Photo Image: Davy D

Imagine, if the poem you are writing now was to be the last one you ever wrote.

This is a thought playing on my mind after finishing an excellent book, “Where Poppies Blow – The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War” by John Lewis-Stempel.  I have brought this thought and the book to the Go Dog Go Treetop Café to ponder over a cup of tea.

Where Poppies Blow is not a collection of poetry per se, but a record of British soldier’s experiences in the First World War, provided by letters and poetry they wrote during the period. Against a background of carnage and destruction, the book portrays how the soldiers were still able to find beauty in nature and the animals they encountered in the battlefields.

From the splendour of the Skylark, set against an early morning sunrise, to their relationship with the horses and dogs following them into battle, the archive of writing shows that even in the darkest situations there is still a glimpse of hope and poetry to be found.

For many of the soldiers the letters and poetry were the last things they ever wrote and, with what they were experiencing around them, death was probably at the forefront of their mind.

Earlier in the week I read an interview with writer and poet Gina Gallyot by Mandibelle 16. One of the things jumping out at me from the interview was part of Gina’s response to one of the questions, “but write as if it is the last essay or poem you will ever get to write.”

Together, the book and the interview do make me mindful, one day, the poem I am writing may be my last.  In a positive way they are reminders to continue to immerse myself in the writing experience.

So, from this week’s hangout I leave you with a wonderful book and the thought that life can be fleeting; enjoy each breath and write like it was the last thing you may ever write.

What are your thoughts on this? The teas are on me.

32 Comments

I think the constant misery, horror and threat of death, after a while ‘wipes clean’ our usual
ordinary thoughts and preoccupations . The void then filled with a simpler, more gentle way of thinking which is more able to help the mind endure. A sort of displacement activity or a means of hanging on to a snippet of good . I’ve read more memoirs than I can recall and the presence of birds crops up the most and I always sense the soldier feels hope. Hope that if a bird can survive all is not lost. An omen maybe ?
Milk no sugar please mate.

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    Milk one sugar coming up Nigel. You are right. The horror and experience of war would have become their normal and made them appreciate many of the things that we take for granted in times of peace. Thanks for your insightful thoughts and comment.

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Beautiful reflection, Davy. The cover of this book reminds me of An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum, who died in Auschwitz. At one point, Etty sees a flower through the fence that confines her. The glimpse opens her heart to beauty. It is a powerful scene, one that is captured on the cover of Where Poppies Grow. I must check it out…. 🙂

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A serious thought to contemplate Davy. I would not like to think that the last verses I wrote were flippant ones. Yet there has to be a place for the light-hearted and the casual from time to time. Yet there can be beauty amongst the mire. I suggest it is the poet’s role to seek and to express it.

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thank you for the mention Davy, as always the perfect gentleman! And this book sounds amazing. May I add a little to this? In my job I see a lot of sorrow, death and heartbreak and most days I am fatigued feeling compassion for all that happens around me. But Davy these are the people who also give me the greatest strength, they show me true human spirit and the wonder for the small and beautiful because they know they wont have long to enjoy it. Which Your last line of writing is all about, brilliant words! – “and the thought that life can be fleeting; enjoy each breath and write like it was the last thing you may ever write.” – I forgot that these past few months but happy to be getting back on track again. Oh almost forgot! A flat white please. No sugar! No more!

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    On its way Gina and thank you for your thoughtful and compassionate words. On a different level the hatred and evil I experienced in the Police was always countered by people who did the most amazing things in very tragic circumstances. As you say, some people give you great strength and always manage to refocus you.

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Expressing oneself by writing poetry should always be a fulfilling experience to the writer and the reader, whatever the tone may be.

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It is the quiet times of war, when the thoughts of death invade your head. Reflecting upon the past or planning for the future lets you escape, if only for a short while. You find that you have no time for hate.

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    Thanks Jerry. I can only equate this to my policing experiences where, when the proverbial hits the fan, you are occupied with staying ahead of the game. It’s, as you say, in the quiet moments when the thoughts invade.

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There is good/God to be found in every situation even the most dire…if only we’d open our eyes to see. This book sounds amazing & telling of the human capacity to live, love & hope even at death’s door. And I like my tea light and sweet, thanks!

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That sounds like a great book. Thanks for the recommendation.

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Will you share this with me this summer Mr D?

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That opening like tugs the heart. it clenches. it grips. because what if? what if? as death is as normal as birth, one day our inks will die with our heartbeats. and what if?
now i want to reflect. what last lines would i want to leave? what final rhymes would i want to breathe?
geez. this is so inspiring and thought-provoking Davy. i think i might write something about it. 🙂

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Thank you for the link and mention Gina. The café and its writers is turning out to be a special place.

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Trackbacks and Pingbacks

[…] D brought a new book to the café and I love being introduced to a new book or writer! In his post “Where Poppies Blow” he takes a few lines from a recent interview I did with another amazing writer Mandibelle, (thank […]

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[…] D brought a new book to the café and I love being introduced to a new book or writer! In his post “Where Poppies Blow” he takes a few lines from a recent interview I did with another amazing writer Mandibelle, (thank […]

Liked by 1 person

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