Poem of the year?

Before I start, I want to say that this is not about stats. This is not about stats. What this is about is connection and emotion and wanting to put something out into the void that can help make everything a little bit, just a little bit more bearable. That is the point of this. Not stats.

Having said that, this is also absolutely about stats. The stats of one poem, one blog post, that have gone off the scale this year, beyond wild imaginings, just like everything else in 2020.

I am talking about a poem which I posted on this blog in October 2012, Derek Mahon’s Everything is Going to be All Right. I first encountered the poem as an undergraduate English student, reading off piste all the contemporary poetry I could get hold of. As you do when you fall in love, I didn’t need to ask too many questions about the poem. All the things that apply to all the poems I love were in play immediately. I got it. It hit me. I felt as though it had been written for me.

So after I had finished my treatment for cancer and began copying poems into a notebook that became this blog that became a book, I absolutely knew Everything is Going to be All Right was one of the first I wanted to include. Chemobrain (may you never experience it) is a thing. It means you forget everything, including the sentence you have just read. This included poetry.

Just as I reached for poetry once my concentration had returned, people have reached for it in this year of pandemic and grief. In their thousands. I know this because of my stats. It started in late March. A secondary school in Ireland included a link to it, in their end of term newsletter to parents just as lockdown was getting under way. Boom went the stats. A fluke, I thought. By next month they will have tired of it.

But April was off the scale, too. May even more so. Things calmed down a bit over the summer (they always do), but once the second wave materialised, boom went the stats once more. October (the month of Mahon’s passing) was even busier than May. It has not really slowed down much since.

I am glad that poetry has been of such use to people. Though I would not have wished this year on anyone, it has reaffirmed my reasons for writing it, writing about it, talking about it. Here is a poem. I think you might like it. Let’s talk about it. Really? I hadn’t noticed that. That’s amazing. I saw it completely differently. But I still love it. I’m glad you do too. Everything is going to be all right.

12 Comments

  1. It strikes me how the perfect poem or song seems to find its way to me just when I need it the most.

    I lost my brother in November. Covid related. He went into hospital with something supposedly non life-threatening, but contracted the virus within a few days of being on the ward. Then complications. Then the news that he wouldn’t be coming home.

    We have been overwhelmed by messages of condolence and support… often from the most unexpected sources. In many cases, casual acquaintances have delivered pitch perfect messages of support and understanding more effectively than close friends, who have struggled to find the words. Perhaps a little distance helps when it comes to verbalising such universal themes as grief and loss.

    However, one friend simply sent a card with “Everything is Going to be All Right” hardwritten inside. Uncredited, untitled, intimate and immediate. It is the card that I keep coming back to, and is like medicine.

    I had a feeling that I’d encoutered Mahon’s work before (in “Lifesaving Poems”, it turns out) but it had not had the same impact on me when I first read it. And now this Blog post.

    I have been very fortunate in life that the right poems or songs seem to stalk me when they are most needed. Thank you, Anthony, for helping to make that happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Marcus
      Thank you so much for getting in touch to leave such a typically generous and honest response to my blog post.

      I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your brother.

      The experience of receiving people’s sympathy that you describe resonates with my experience of diagnosis of cancer and subsequent remission.

      In the midst of all of this, I am glad that you have been ‘stalked’ by this poem at this time and that it was there just when you needed it. As if further proof were needed that poems can indeed be lifesaving. All they need is readers. Like you.

      With very best wishes and thanks as ever
      Anthony

      Like

  2. Well – it doesn’t even ring a bell with me – not even the dink of a BIC biro on the shade of a cheap anglepoise lamp.Go figure! Sure – it’s timely and appropriate given the circumstances but even now it doesn’t cover me in silvery star-shaped goose bumps.

    Now the ones that stick in my mind off the top of my head are:
    https://anthonywilsonpoetry.com/2020/04/22/we-have-to-have-great-meals/
    (in particular) and
    https://anthonywilsonpoetry.com/2020/08/01/lifesaving-poems-sean-obriens-before-2/

    I have enjoyed your blog more this year than ever for the breadth of poetry and the poets you have introduced me to and all of your poetry woven in to the fabric of your observations and reflections – reading it is always time well spent. Thank-you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anthony thank you for sharing this beautiful poem. I’m touched. Years ago I was starting wrinting my books during my cancer therapy. It was my soul medicine, my strength, my life. I’m alive, I’m hopeful and grateful. I wish you a wonderful 2021. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

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