In my Crumbly Corner post of June 2017 I mentioned Diana Hendry, the Edinburgh-based poet who had contributed to ‘Second Wind’ and to a recent BBC Radio 3 programme ‘Late Style’. This post is an extract from my interview with her.
RLJ: You call your introductory section to Second Wind ‘Off/On Joy’. Which brings out the best poems in you – off or on?
DH: I think it’s when the two come together and that, despite there being a downside, I am able to reach some kind of joy. If I may quote from the section you mention:
‘Working on these poems I’ve counted up my losses of friends and family (most recently a sister) and pondered other losses, of looks, physical strength, expectations. But as hunger sharpens the appetite, so age intensifies one’s awareness of the beauty and wonder of the world, of love and of blessings. Mixed with grief and sorrow is kind of off/on joy.’
RLJ: What a wonderful passage! In the same introductory section, you quote some lines from the American poet, Alicia Suskin Ostriker: ‘I want to live/said the old woman/like a flame in light.’ Could you please say how ‘like a flame in flight’ applies to your poetry and your present life.
DH: I would love to be like that. It’s a wish, rather than how I do live, although I have quite a temper, which might be a bit of flame. Rather than mellowing, I think I’m probably getting a bit more irritable.
RLJ: Your poem ‘Beyond’ seems to be reaching out for something. It’s a poem that intrigues me. Please tell me more about it.
DH: A dream provided the spark for the poem. This dream was prompted by the haunting sound of a train going by in the night, a sound I remembered hearing as a child. And the poem that grew out of the dream was a kind of meditation on mystery. My notepad recorded a favourite quotation from one of Emily Dickinson’s letters – ‘The unknown is the largest need of the intellect although for it we never think to thank God.’ The need for mystery, the unknown, for whatever is beyond, became the poem that spread out in irregular lines across the page as if searching. I do think there is something beyond, not necessarily an after-life, but some kind of spiritual life.