Dr Julie Carter



Of Joy and Sorrow.

It has been said that the global pandemic has its upsides. It is good for the environment, the air, the wildlife, and it has made us more mindful, more community spirited and less materialistic. It has been countered that speaking of such things is heartless, while people are dying without loved ones present. While people are imprisoned in one room flats with little money, no fresh air and no hope. Jobs gone, friends out of reach; leaving stress, violence and nowhere to go. Let’s get real – people are suffering, badly. And therefore, I am sad even as I rejoice in small things that I have never noticed so closely before. How many particular kinds of daffodil there are along the lakeside road as I enjoy a traffic free cycle ride in the sunshine.

My esteemed elder, Mary Oliver, invites; “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine”. And she may ask in confidence, to all of us, because surely we have all felt the brutal cut of pain through our hearts? Don’t we all have wounds?

And I am soothed by Kahlil Gibran who gives witness that “the self-same well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain.”
I find that neither Oliver or Gibran are offering platitudes. So many times, daily on the news, we are offered vacuous words, rhetorical unrealisable ideals which are meaningless. And poetry, I believe, needs to be a different thing from rhetoric. It needs to be true, and real and lifesaving. As Mary Oliver makes so bold – “For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed.”
Gibran saved my life when I was twenty-one and Oliver warms me through most weeks of the year. My teachers rightly set high bars and I cannot pretend to clear them. Nonetheless I will end with the closing poem from my book Is It Serious? since I don’t have a lot of news. And I send you all the good wishes which are in my heart.

Sweet point
There is a sweet point in my soul
where Joy and Sorrow meet,
where all is one and one is all
successes and defeats.
It is the facing of my fears
It is the dew point of my tears
and after all these years and years,
I stand serene to meet myself
at the sweet point of my soul
where joy and sorrow meet.


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