Radio review: Poetry is food for the soul

Nuala McCann

Words and Music Radio 3

Poetry Please Radio 4

It is refreshing to hear another side of Nicola Coughlan – of Derry Girls fame.

Gone is the lilt and the laughter; but the voice is distinctively Irish and her words ring true. She can do much more than comedy.

She and reader Ray Fearon took on us a journey along the Nile and the Yangtze, from the Ouze to the Severn to the Suck and then closer to home.

We travelled in the company of Joseph Conrad, Kenneth Grahame and, in Northern Ireland, with poet Michael Longley.

But it was poet Jane Clarke's contribution, The River, that struck a chord.

To a backdrop of familiar bird song and the soft rush of water, Coughlan spoke lines about loss and grief; clear and pure as rushing water.

Clarke's poem is brief but beautifully sculpted - from the heart and deeply moving.

It's a poem about the nature of grieving that is breathtakingly honest.

“What surprises me now is not that you're gone

But how I go on without you.”

Followed by Joni Mitchell's The River, this was a beautiful moment in a programme that flowed easily through time and space.

Poetry Please also served up familiar poems which, nevertheless, have the power to strike you as if for the first time.

Roger McGough's guest was poet and teacher Raymond Antrobus who won the Ted Hughes prize for poetry and is deaf.

His choices included One Art by Elizabeth Bishop: “The art of losing isn't hard to master” – which starts with small losses like keys and a mother's watch and builds to the loss of houses, land and a loved one.

Death and loss are also at the centre of Do Not Go Gentle by Dylan Thomas, both fierce and passionate. Poetry? Call it soul food.

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