I wrote ‘Time will not’ for fun – it’s a formal take from Edwin Morgan’s poem ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. As the sense comes from the last line, you read the poem in reverse in a way – it’s playful, as it questions the sense of words and the odd gaps between letters mean that you pair together meanings in different ways. This is typical of the idea of ‘retrospect’; through looking backwards, we try out different angles and visions in order to make sense of what has come before.
Time will not make linear sense although we like to shut it into clocks; it spills out of the frame that clock hands provide. Time jumps and slithers and slows, and we measure it in different units. In Nick Hornby’s novel ‘About a Boy’, time is measured in 30 minute slots:
‘His way of coping with the days was to think of activities as units of time, each unit consisting of about thirty minutes. Whole hours, he found, were more intimidating, and most things one could do in a day took half an hour… that was nine units of a twenty-unit day (the evenings didn’t count) filled by just the basic necessities. In fact, he had reached a stage where he wondered how his friends could juggle life and a job. Life took up so much time, so how could one work and, say, take a bath on the same day?’
Another reason I thought of Edwin Morgan for the theme of Retrospect is that his line, ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ is taken from the story of Lazarus in the New Testament, whom Jesus resurrects from the dead. To look backwards is to attempt to resurrect, to give new life to what came before. In Kate Atkinson’s novel ‘Life after Life’, her character has more lives than a cat; with each attempt at life she tries again and again to get past the twists of fate that shoved her onto one course. In one life, Hitler is involved.
We return to horrific happenings in an attempt to change what has gone before, revisiting where it happened, trying to find new meaning and new messages to take forwards into the future.
‘Past is prologue.’ (The Tempest, Shakespeare)
Recommended listening: Same mistakes by The Echo Friendly
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Rebecca Audra Smith is a lyrical feminist poet living in Manchester. She is a member of Stirred Poetry Collective
Keep an eye out for more blogs on this theme over the next couple of weeks, in the lead up to our In Retrospect event