The Invisible College

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I have just come back from a thing. I am tired. A good afternoon of good conversation about large, important and (mostly) abstract ideas. I decided to drive home in silence, letting my thoughts settle then leave me, the riotous Devon sunshine unspooling in green and golden flashes on hills in the distance.

I finally caved into the temptation to switch on the radio as I approached my house. A voice I had not come across before, belonging, it turns out, to Dr Cathy Fitzgerald presenting The Invisible College on Radio 4. A programme of bewitching simplicity and directness, splicing (mostly) abstract ideas together via brief and illuminating commentary and rapturous readings and performances by voices that hook you instantly. If you like the Brain Pickings blog you will love it.

As I parked my car I munched on an apple and heard, in quick succession, Ted Hughes’s description of fishing from Poetry in the Making, marvelling again at his astonishing depiction of a float filling the gaze of the fisherman ‘like a lentil’; a recording of Langston Hughes reading The Negro Speaks of Rivers; and Doris Lessing commanding her unconscious, dreaming mind to provide her with the next day’s writing material each night; and WB Yeats ‘bonkers’ description of his ideal ‘Poets’ Pub’.

Finally there was Ray Bradbury talking in what sounded like a large lecture hall insisting that ‘We’re here to witness and celebrate. You owe it to the universe to be an audience to the miraculous.’ The overall tone was relaxed, celebratory and wholly enraptured with the importance of creativity as a necessary act, even a duty, for everyone. It put me in mind of one of my favourite phrases of Seamus Heaney, when he remarked that making a poem was in essence and act of ‘truancy’.  I do have things which need doing. But suddenly I need to take the rest of the afternoon off and just be.

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