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Readers of this blog may already be aware of the tragic news that Social Brain colleague Emma Lindley recently passed away.  Below, I offer to you a poem I selected and read in Emma's memory earlier this week at a staff gathering in her honour.  Tributes by colleagues Jonathan Rowson, Gaia Marcus, and Matthew Taylor are also available.

 

I’d like to read a poem in Emma’s honour; but first, some background:

Some may remember that Emma wrote a blog post earlier this year about world poetry day.  This was the first time I learned that she was a poetry buff and more specifically a fan of poet William Carlos Williams.  I am a novice but from my limited exposure I too am a William Carlos Williams fan, so together we had a really lovely exchange about poetry in general and his work in particular.

More recently, when I “discovered” a famous poet of a similar style, Emma and I were in touch again and we had planned on taking some time to get a coffee and chatting more about this genre when she was next in the office.

So I thought it would be fitting to read out a poem today in Emma’s honour, a William Carlos Williams poem that I chose because it illustrates the quality of paying careful attention to the essence of a thing, a quality about which she wrote very elegantly in her blog post.

Emma wrote: “His poems often convey a certain haecceitas – the quality of ‘thisness’ – capturing something very particular. In the Social Brain Centre, we’re interested in the importance of attention, and one of the possibilities offered by Carlos Williams’ poetry is to focus attention very acutely. In a way, I think his poems illustrate mindfulness in action.”

With this in mind, I’d like to read “To a Solitary Disciple” by WCW.

 

Rather notice, mon cher,

that the moon is

titled above

the point of the steeple

than that its color

is shell-pink.

 

Rather observe

that it is early morning

than that the sky

is smooth

as a turquoise.

 

Rather grasp

how the dark

converging lines

of the steeple

meet at a pinnacle ---

perceive how

its little ornament

tries to stop them-

 

See how it fails!

See how the converging lines

of the hexagonal spire

escape upward---

receding, dividing!

--- petals

that guard and contain

the flower!

 

Observe

how motionless

the eaten moon

lies in the protective lines.

It is true:

in the light colors

of the morning

 

brown-stone and slate

shine orange and dark blue

 

But observe

the oppressive weight

of the squat edifice!

Observe

the jasmine lightness

of the moon.

 

In memory of Dr Emma Lindley.

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