A Blade of Grass
What is it that guides our choices as a writer? I don’t just mean regarding genre choice, I mean subject matter, theme, characterisation, dialogue, setting, the way we want our writing to feel, the tone. Do we want it to be realistic and grounded or do we want to create something abstract and surreal? Do we want it to be lyrical or prosaic or a combination of both? Do we want people to think about it, for it to have social implications? I’m talking about… the whole shabang! We, as writers, choose. All ideas are formulated in the writer’s mind and undergo a uniquely individual creative process.
Everything we write is a product of each of us, of our imagination, our experiences, our back story and of how things appear through our unique stained-glass window. But is what we choose to read an extension of this? Are we drawn to a book, poem, play, because we think, in some way, it might relate to who we are, to our own idea of self? Are our favourite books ones where we relate to the protagonist and either see something of ourselves in him/her, or they reflect the person we would like to be? Or has the writer somehow embodied a similar stained glass window to our own?
With these questions in mind, I was thinking about one of my favourite pieces of writing and why it became, and still is, one of my favourites. It’s a poem called, ‘A Blade of Grass’ by Brian Patten, which I first read while studying GCSE English Literature as a not so very mature student of 21 years. Honestly, I could amuse you for hours with some of the things I got up to at the ripe old age of 21… but I won’t. Another blog post maybe. Anyway, I digress. Of all the things I’ve read, ‘A Blade of Grass’ is the piece of writing, not written by me, that most feels like me. It sent shivers down my spine on the first read and still does, making me fill up every time. Its soul feels like my soul. Something at the heart of it beats in me. A tad self-indulgent possibly, but then isn’t that part of the magic of reading? That complete absorption in something which resonates with each of us?
There’s no better way to convey this than to offer it to you HERE where you can listen to it being read by the poet himself. (NB. I’ve had a few probs with this link, so if it doesn’t work, please Google it, or you’ll be missing a real treat!)
Amazingly, the poem was written in 1946. It could have been written today, and in a hundred years time I don’t doubt it will still feel as relevant, because the sentiments are timeless and universal. I used it for a study piece with a group of students once, and some of the students really didn’t ‘get it’. I think that really shows just how subjective literature is, and this applies to our reading of it and our writing of it. I just happen to think it is an amazing poem that says everything that needs saying about life and love and the things that really matter.
Is there a piece of writing which you feel echoes the essence of you?