I am deeply honoured to have my poem When The Holy Spirit Danced With Me In My Kitchen used as a source text by Lizzie Winn and Justin Wise from the Turning Towards Life project which you can join on Facebook here, on their YouTube channel here, or on their blog here.

If you don’t already know their amazing work, you can tune in to their discussions on Facebook each Sunday morning at 9am UK time; or head over to Justin’s blog On Living and Working which is essential reading.

Make yourself a pot of your favourite tea or coffee, allow yourself to put your feet up for 35 minutes, and see where the discussion takes you. My response to Lizzie and Justin can be read, below -but do watch the video first. I would be glad to see what you make of it.

 

 

Dear Lizzie and Justin

Thank you so much for your generous and insightful reading of When The Holy Spirit Danced With Me In My Kitchen.

I am delighted that you have used it at all, let alone to spark such a profound discussion of some very deep issues and questions.

I am thrilled to see more in the poem than I had assumed was there, certainly at the point when I wrote it.

Justin, I loved your point about being ‘good’ or ‘the good one’. I grew up as the eldest of four, and one of the dominant narratives of my early life was that I was the good and sensible one of my siblings, to the extent that I spent most of my teens trying to resist that narrative as strongly as possible. (I only realised this quite recently, having read your blog post about Letting it Crumble and watched The Hidden Cost of Hiding, early on in this series.) Looking back at my at risk behaviour from those days I think it is a miracle that I am still here.

And Lizzie, I loved your phrase which summarises this very pressure we often put ourselves under, the ‘barrage of shouldness’. As Justin would say, Boy, do I know that feeling.

I was also struck by the way that you picked up on the explicit and implicit narrative and commentary in the poem about how we live with, respond to and behave towards our relatives. Someone who knows my work well said to me the other day that they feel my main subject is family. Whether or not they are right (I am not sure I am the best person to judge), it is certainly true that family is a subject I seem to return to again and again.

As you were speaking I replayed in my mind several scenes from the recent Christmas season, where, as an introvert in a gathering of seventeen people, I persuaded and/or allowed myself to play different roles at different times (e.g. caregiver, performer, listener, parent, child, helper and exile). For example, there was one session of washing up I remember joining in with, but not in the joyful way Lizzie describes. While I don’t think I was behaving resentfully, I do think there was an aspect of me using the task just to disappear for a bit, to ‘get through life’ to use Justin’s phrase, rather than as a release into the present moment with those around me.

Raymond Carver has a line somewhere about the purpose of literature, and discussions of the same being to bring us back to life, not as it were, but literally. Your discussion this morning has certainly done that for me, and I salute and thank you for it, from the bottom of my heart.

Wishing you both joy and peace for 2019, and as ever with thanks,

Anthony