It’s raining, a persistent soft drizzle that the ground is soaking up so I can see the dried out lawn greening in front of my eyes. Rain seems to lead to reflectiveness, perhaps because it literally sends us inward, even the dog doesn’t want to stay out too long.
Today, sad stories pop up in email and on Facebook and the rain intensifies. Now that the water butts are full, the rain is overflowing my gutters, splashing onto the deck, The buddleia and lavender are collapsing and there’s a scatter of white rose petals beaten prematurely from their stems. Things that in yesterday’s heat were grasping towards the sky are now literally kissing the earth, returning to their roots.
There are two poems that come to mind when it rains, especially when the rain feels new as it does today after a radiant few weeks of constant sunshine. I’m writing this in the interstices …
I give someone a lift to the station and we get soaked as we unload the car and I find an old umbrella in the boot that belonged to my stepdad. Umbrellas are really communal property – my various homes have always accrued forgotten umbrellas and I have more than I need, so it seems right to pass them on. Is that because when it’s not raining, it’s hard to imagine it will, hence the tendency to forget umbrellas? My friend is welcome to have the old umbrella and yet, because it was Harry’s , there’s a slight pang when I let it go. Writing this, I now remember a very rainy time in Italy at Poetry on the Lake where I mislaid a pretty striped umbrella, my own that I’d bought, and the disproportionate feeling of loss and then later, relief.
Back to the poems.Rain by Edward Thomas echoes the sound of the rain, especially when listened to from in bed, inside, alone. He repeats: ‘solitude’, ‘solitude’, ‘solitary’, ‘die’, ‘dead’, ‘dying’, ‘dead’, ‘death’ . The poem is first person –me, I, me, I, I, me, me and could be seen as solipsistic and self-centred but the poem ripples outward to include relationship – ‘loved’, ‘love’, ‘love’, love’ – and the sense of war, conveyed by the simple signifier ‘hut’ in the second line and the way the rain in the final line turns into ‘the tempest’.
Poetry therapy talks of the ‘isoprinciple’ – the way a poem can be satisfying and comforting, whilst being sad and, in some ways, ‘bleak’ because it’s so accurate in its evocation of the feelings rain gives. It’s a poem that holds many tensions just as today the rain is welcome, but still melancholy, still wet.
Robert Creeley’s poem The Rain seems to me an argument for permissiveness, letting things be without effort, just as the rain falls quietly and persistently. Where does our dis-ease come from? Why do we need to strive, analyse, understand, when life, mostly, ticks over quietly and persistently, until, like the rain, it stops? There’s tension in this poem too – how to acknowledge the idiocies of the world and still find a ‘decent happiness’.
I’m going to step out barefoot onto the grass to photograph the rose petals, then head into the city, past the hordes of wet tourists in their bright cagoules, with my stripey umbrella, and possibly take in Evensong in a building that’s been rained on for over 1400 years. The cathedral is always a good place to go to escape ‘the semi-/lust of intentional indifference’ Creeley describes.