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Featured Poem: Imagination by John Davidson

Written by Rachael Norris, 3rd June 2019

This week's Featured Poem is Imagination by John Davidson chosen by The Reader's Learning and Quality Leader, Chris Lynn.

This week we get to spend some time with John Davidson’s poem ‘Imagination’. Let’s get stuck in.   

The opening lines have a riddle-like quality that makes it feel as if we’re being whispered a secret. The lines are intriguing - they convey a theme of containing the uncontainable. I’d usually associate imagination with a fleeting, dream-like, ephemeral quality, so, it’s satisfying and surprising to hear imagination described as a tool that can help us make a solid cast out of something that is usually beyond us. We get the reveal soon after:

Imagination, gathers up
The undiscovered Universe,

It alludes to untapped potential. ‘Gathers’ is an interesting word, collecting and piecing together remnants of a vast unknowable world. For me, this speaks of the feeling when the world feels like it has so much to offer – how different objects can hold hidden meaning for us or offer a beckoning finger. I also know the opposite feeling, when the day-to-day humdrum can leave our sense of potential completely withered – not even a thread to follow. Can you think of a moment when you’ve stepped from one state to the other – when the world suddenly opens up? When does this happen?    We delve into further descriptions of imagination and are asked to consider it’s sheer power. I’m struck by the recurrent descriptions of water here, ‘fount’ and ‘source’, which draw a line between imagination and it’s water-like qualities, how it is ever-changing, fluid, life-giving, momentous!

The mart of power, the fount of will,
The form and mould of every star,
The source and bound of good and ill,
The key of all the things that are

It is interesting to think of imagination as a source of energy here, at the core of ‘will’ and ‘the source and bound of good and ill’. Imagination is arguably a unique human trait, and one that may well drive our sense of moral capability. ‘Bound’ marks a defined end to our capacity here – do we agree with these lines? It’s put in very strong words – look again. ‘The key of all things that are’ – ‘all things’ - how can we make this phrase true for us? 

To think about the act of reading, the imaginative interaction with any text, how it is simply between learned shapes and our minds eye, is incredible! I learned this week that an adolescent boy who has been part of a Shared Reading project has improved his reading age from 10 to 16! He can now read longer words and more complex sentences, yes, but I also wonder what this improvement means in terms of his inner world; what he can comprehend, a better sense of what’s possible, an improved instinct for what is unseen, a better ability to imagine a future self.

Imagination, new and strange
In every age, can turn the year;
Can shift the poles and lightly change
The mood of men, the world's career.

 


Imagination

There is a dish to hold the sea,
A brazier to contain the sun,
A compass for the galaxy,
A voice to wake the dead and done!

That minister of ministers,
Imagination, gathers up
The undiscovered Universe,
Like jewels in a jasper cup.

Its flame can mingle north and south;
Its accent with the thunder strive;
The ruddy sentence of its mouth
Can make the ancient dead alive.

The mart of power, the fount of will,
The form and mould of every star,
The source and bound of good and ill,
The key of all the things that are,

Imagination, new and strange
In every age, can turn the year;
Can shift the poles and lightly change
The mood of men, the world's career.

by John Davidson

Would you like the opportunity to read this or other poems in a Shared Reading group?

If you like the idea of listening along to a story or poem, why not come along to a Shared Reading group? We run groups across the UK, you can find one near you here.

If you can’t find a group in your local community, why not help us bring Shared Reading to your area by becoming a volunteer?

 

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