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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008
    Seek out the overfamiliar
     
    I've just discovered Ode to a Postbox by Aidan Andrew Dun which shares some common ground with my Common Prayers, but goes much further, deeper. Excellent stuff.
    It's a revolutionary act to remain in one place in the metropolis.
    Letterbox, you project the colours of an activist and a militant.

    Yet your dissidence is Gandhian, nonviolent. In the modern anthill of hyperactivity you're a smallish postbox with steel rimmed spectacles and a loincloth.

    The world's motion sick. Who stands still in the city, a receptacle for messages? Out in the rain, a lonely man and a letterbox could be mistaken for one another.
    The poem informs a Poetry Workshop in which Dun encourages participants to consider how 'the most trivial recollection will lead us straight to the sacred'.
    The most common object in the modern world is potentially the most sacred because its restoration to sanctity is totally unexpected. The poet has traditionally helped to keep the sacred alive by associating the world's great symbols - a tree, the ocean, the sky - with simple feelings of compassion, humanity, love, non-violence, noble resonance. Big ideas have most often been expressed in straightforward language (naturally I mean the direct intensity of Shakespeare, not the gibberish of a lawyer or a government). But as oceans, trees and skies die in front of us, and the world and all its strange wonders are desanctified, our exercise is to seek out the overfamiliar and disregarded, the rejected, marginalized and faceless even, and to load these obscure players in life with larger significance. Here is a work of unification and of 'invisible legislation', to paraphrase Shelley.
    I don't know what responses he got, but if I'd known about this at the time then he'd have had a wheelie bin poem in his inbox...