“I wasn’t expecting to feel moved by a poem” – Patricia’s Reader Story
This Reader Story was collected and written by Fiona Magee.
Patricia is a Shared Reading group member who attended a group at a local community centre until Covid-19 hit and the group started meeting online.
Before going to the reading group, I hadn’t read any stories or poems for years and years. The last time was at school. I remember doing Shakespeare, but none of it made sense. I didn’t really grasp it, it was going too fast. Two years ago, at the age of 57, I found out that I was dyslexic. I did a test and it came up that I had visual, motor and cognitive processing issues. That was a bit of a shock to me.
I remember the first time the Shared Reading person came in to the coffee morning at the centre: I wasn’t expecting to feel moved by a poem! I was surprised. They’d always seemed kind of abstract to me. But the way we read it together in the group, it resonated in some way.
I don’t read books or poetry by myself. It’s a bit lonesome and sometimes it’s too much to do, it takes too much. But in the reading group the time just goes so quick, even though we read at a slower pace. We just read a little bit then we stop and we all give our ideas and thoughts of what we understand about it, from our perspective, and no answer’s wrong.
I’m a detail person and the detail we read in, it really helps me to consolidate everything. You’ve got time to process it and get a deeper understanding of what you’re reading. You know like when you watch a film and it makes you jump or makes you shout out, because you get lost in it? That’s how I feel in the group. Pictures and images come up in my head and you really get the fullness of it.
It’s a break in your mind and a bit of escapism. Even though we’re adults I wish I had somebody to sing a lullaby to me, or read a nice story to me. We’ve lost that as adults, we don’t have the time for it anyway, most of the time. But in the group, it’s like you’re being read a story to and it takes you back to being nurtured, in a sense.
We’re reading Of Mice and Men at the moment and it touches on different parts of our own experience. As a black person, I’ve experienced discrimination and when we speak about the black character in the book – Crooks – and what’s happening to him, it’s good to draw out as a shared group how we all feel about that. No matter whether you’re black or not, it’s as though you know what it feels like, through him (Crooks). It’s part of the human experience to think about these things – that’s how I feel. There’s a saying, isn’t there, that ‘There’s a time for everything’. There’s a time when you have to be sad, to properly absorb whatever it is you are going through. I like reading all of it, whether it’s happy or sad – it’s like the seasons, you want all of them.
I remember one week we read a poem about a tree and it kind of triggered nature to me. I have a tree outside my house, which I’ve never paid attention to; as a city person it was something I just pass without a second thought. But when I started to read in depth about this tree, when we examined little particles of the poem – it’s inspired me to look at my surroundings a bit closer and really see the things I just took for granted and appreciate them more.
I teach knitting, and there’s a saying, when you’ve got a very complicated pattern: ‘That’s Retirement Knitting, you can’t do that now!’. Because you feel like you’ll never have the time in your busy life to do the really complicated, intricate work, until you retire. I feel like Shared Reading has given me a chance where I can spend the time to examine the littlest, smallest, intricate detail.
If the group hadn’t carried on, I think lockdown would have affected me much more. I was amazed with Zoom! Amazed that I could interact and see people – that first time we held the group, we were all laughing because we couldn’t believe that this could happen!
I really like it. I didn’t realise how much, until one week when the reading group clashed with something and I couldn’t attend and I felt lost, like ‘What am I supposed to do today?’ It felt like a void. Like something was missing. It made me feel a bit like nothing’s got any meaning. I would have just carried on with my usual routine of doing housework, cooking lunch, watching Channel Five movies, and then the day’s over. Being able to discuss the same topic of the story or poem, that we’re all seeing together at the same time; with people who are willing to discuss those things – to them it‘s not boring or a waste of time – that’s meaning. You feel enriched.
In the place that is my own place, whose earth
I am shaped in and must bear, there is an old tree growing,
a great sycamore that is a wondrous healer of itself.
Fences have been tied to it, nails driven into it,
hacks and whittles cut in it, the lightning has burned it.
There is no year it has flourished in
that has not harmed it. There is a hollow in it
that is its death, though its living brims whitely
at the lip of the darkness and flows outward.
Over all its scars has come the seamless white
of the bark. It bears the gnarls of its history
healed over. It has risen to a strange perfection
in the warp and blending of its long growth.
It has gathered all accidents into its purpose.
It has become the intention and radiance of its dark fate.
It is a fact, sublime, mystical and unassailable.
In all the country there is no other like it.
I recognize in it a principle, an indwelling
the same as itself, and greater, that I would be ruled by.
I see that it stands in its place, and feeds upon it,
and is fed upon, and is native, and maker.
by Wendell Berry