Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Insomnia / Insomniac's Moon

I've always been a massive fan of Carol Ann Duffy. The World's Wife was the first of her collections that I encountered and remains my favourite for its wit, humour, and feminism. Shortly after beginning this slight obsession I was given Answering Back, an anthology edited by Duffy in which contemporary poets respond to poems of the past. It's a wonderful anthology and I loved discovering new to me contemporary poets alongside old favourites.

Insomniac's Moon is Ruth Fainlight's response to Elizabeth Bishop's poem Insomnia. Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet and short story writer who received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1956. Shamefully, I hadn't heard of Bishop before reading this anthology, but as more than one contemporary poet chose to respond to her works I have some understanding of her popularity and impact.

Insomnia is a poem I find hard to attach any adjectives to. I adore it, I adore the message, I adore the imagery and the description of the moon. As a teenager my nights were ruled by insomnia, but it was a fraught, fearful sleeplessness. This poem describes a more thoughtful and quietly passionate, if lonely, sleeplessness.

Insomniac's Moon by Ruth Fainlight takes again this image of the watchful moon at night and adds an element of harshness. The lack of sleep in this poem is much more negative, and almost brutal in a way. There is a sense of always being on the edge of something, of just missing out - on sleep, on dreams, on life.

These two poems are quite different, but I find them both equally compelling. I'm a sucker for moon imagery anyway and Bishop and Fainlight use the moon in innovative ways.

Side note: so I've already missed a few days, but I'm going to keep on going and posting poems as often as I can until Christmas Day. I'm really enjoying rediscovering old favourites.

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