David N’s Prize-Winning Poem

This poem captivated all the judges to varying degrees… but it scored the highest among the five of us. Why? It is such an extraordinary treatment of the most ordinary. A pair of old shoes that contain and tell a whole life-story both that of the wearer and the creator. And after this, after years of use and near-distintegration they burst into the loveliest transformation: a brilliant thing of beauty, radiant colourful, breathtaking…

Tearing the cardboard away, the real treasure smothered my breath with a
Heart-wrenching awe. A fabric, soft as silk, deep maroon with flowers of yellow centers
Slightly faded but alive with fiery petals of green and orange. Blue wisps of string
Smothering them was ripped away with prying fingers to gaze at the inside of a slipper.
Never had I seen such hidden beauty as these crystallized stones of blood hidden behind
Walls of slender fibers in parallel bands.

I think it takes quite an intense meditation on an object to bring its inner beauty to life in this way…. there echoe in my mind the classic lines from Francis Webb (“Five Days Old”): ” To blown straw was given all the fullness of heaven”. But there is no talk of heaven in David’s poem, but there is talk of the blazing glory hidden in the most demeaning object… hidden… waiting for us to wake up to see it..

It was the famous German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in the first of his Duino Elegies who wrote about the fact that everything around us in the created universe is crying out for our creative response, our inbuilt capacity to transform the muddle of existence into shapes of beauty and meaning… but usually we are too asleep to respond, to take the time to see, to watch the leaves of meaning gradually unroll themselves to reveal the moist, glistening texture of the unfurled rose…. here are Rilke’s lines in translation:

Yes, Springs needed you. Many stars
waited for you to see them. A wave
that had broken long ago swelled toward you,
or when you walked by an open window, a violin
gave itself. All that was your charge.
But could you live up to it? Weren’t you always distracted by hope… (form “The First Elegy”)

So for me, the last few glowing lines from David’s poem, which -as I experience them- is a response to something beckoning from an “open window” . It is a moment when someone DID live up to the call latent in all things.

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