Recital reaffirms the importance of poetry in education

Christine De Luca shares her passion for poetry at the My Life In Poetry sessions at the Scottish Poetry Library

The Scottish Poetry Library has invited writers to discuss their favourite poems over the past decade as part of their series of events called My Life in Poetry. Christine De Luca is a Scottish poet from Shetland who lives in Edinburgh and writes poems in both Shetlandic and English.

On Wednesday 14 October, in conversation with Scottish Poetry Library director Robyn Marsack at the National Library of Scotland, she talked about her life through the poems that have affected her most at different stages in her life.

De Luca, who has been appointed Edinburgh´s Makar or Poet Laureate, passionately recited poems from her childhood that she remembers for their rhyme and rhythm, as well as poems that spoke to her and inspired her through her adolescence and adulthood. De Luca fondly described her childhood in the Shetland Islands, filled with the pleasures of reading poetry and having poetry read to her. At home, as both her parents were teachers, poetry was often recited and De Luca recalled that at school her teacher ordered her to “Say it with expression, Christine!”, making sure that the children understood that the words on the page were not just that. Through an emotive recital of the children’s poem ‘Camel’s Complaint’, De Luca described the development of her enthusiasm for rhyme, the importance of rhythm and the magic of language. Her childhood was, in other words, the start of a life-long love affair with the art of poetry.

This passion for poetry was something De Luca had always imagined she would pass along to the next generation through teaching. However, as she moved to Edinburgh to study English Literature, she found that some of the intimacy of reading – that she, herself, greatly appreciated – was taken away in the lecture theatre with hundreds of students, and thus her wish to teach diminished. Living in Edinburgh, she also found that she lacked awareness of the contemporary literary scene of Scotland, and as she struggled in her private life and had not yet found consolation in writing herself, she started reading anything and everything she found at the Scottish Poetry Library. She fell in love with the lyrical and sentimental nature of Irish poetry.

Her recital of Michael Longley’s ‘Ceasefire’ moved her listeners, and De Luca’s beautiful language inspired the required compassion and reconciliation that the sonnet described. De Luca was a great choice for My Life in Poetry because she is able to read poetry in a way that ensures the audience do not just hear the words, but rather feel what De Luca is feeling. Even when reading a poem in her mother tongue, which much of the audience could not understand, the plot of the poem was tangible through De Luca´s voice and engagement. Through this incredible ability to make the audience shiver, feel, and engage as she read children’s poems as well as Irish lyrical poetry, De Luca urged, in accordance with the aims of the Scottish Poetry Library, not to forget the pleasures of reading poetry and having it read to you.

Moreover, she encouraged her audience to nurture their interest and to widen the access to the benefits of poetry. It is, however, worth mentioning that the average age at the event was roughly 60 years old. Through this we may question whether poetry is as present in school and at home as it used to be for De Luca´s generation.

Robyn Marsack cleverly remarks, at the discovery of a handwritten note from De Luca’s father in one of the poetry collections, that “you can not do that with a Kindle”. Part of a generation that is more fascinated with pop culture, technology and prefers reading Fifty Shades of Grey to Robert Frost, I was almost embarrassed to have heard the greater part of the poems for the first time that day, the same poems to which the rest of the audience lip synced. However, De Luca aspires to change that.

Image: Shetland.org

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