Today is World Poetry Day.
Says it all really. It's a day to celebrate poetry, read poetry, write poetry and basically ... just think poetry!
I love poetry and I do even write a bit, from time time. But today I'm not going to impose one of my rather poor creations on you. Instead I'm going to share a poem with you that I had to learn many many years ago. So it's one of those that I can (sort of) still recite. If I think about it a lot.
I learnt the poem for an Eisteddfod, a creative arts festival. I stood on a stage and performed this.
I didn't win the contest, but for someone who wasn't keen on performing in front of others, at the time it was a great, if terrifying, experience because I was forced out of my comfort zone. I was much more comfortable being part of a team, so this was different and unsettling, but character building.
Some of you reading this might be surprised to hear I wasn't that keen on putting myself forward in public when I was a child and a teenager, because for years I worked as a TV and radio presenter. And I've done a whole load of presenting not just in the media but also on stage in some really really big auditoriums - including Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall in London.
I can't say I haven't had nerves and anxiety over those appearances and the media presenting - sometimes that anxiety has been debilitating - but at least I've done it. And it was experiences like the Eisteddfod poetry moment that helped me at the start of the long journey towards a future career which required me to put myself forward and not hide behind others.
And what was the poem I recited?
Well, it's this.
IF, by Rudyard Kipling.
I think I mentioned a couple of days ago that he's one of my favourite authors and poets, and this is where it all began.
It was a strangely prophetic performance because although the poem was written as a general advice for life, for me it has become personal.
In the media, it's easy to get above yourself and think you are better than others, but also you can be intimidated by others, people who hold high office, those who believe themselves superior to you, people (even your own colleagues) who act like they are the only individuals in the universe. This poem speaks into that.
It also tells us a little about how to deal with the sort of negativity that can come one's way. These days, especially, people in the media (and anyone actually if you give yourself a bit of a profile) can come in for all kinds of abuse on social media, and sometimes when things are going badly, you just need to keep believing in yourself. And then, when you need to change course, to follow the dreams you once had, these words can inspire.
This poem has so many nuances. It's one I've gone back to time and time again over the years. And it doesn't matter that it says 'Son' and 'man' at the end ... it works for us girls as well. I find it empowering!
And on this World Poetry Day I will simply say ... enjoy and be inspired!
by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!