NationalPoetryMonth.ca April 13, 2023
Old Age Is Actually Infused with Youthful Things by Josephine Corcoran is published on NationalPoetryMonth.ca on April 13, 2023
“Old Age is Actually Infused with Youthful Things
This visual poem combines two themes I've been particularly interested in recently - western stereotypes about old age, and working with natural materials. I own a three-year-old potted begonia which has never stopped flowering and leggily stretching itself. Occasionally a branch falls off, as has happened in this image, and sections wither and die but the plant still holds on to some of the colour and texture of its earlier days and is always interesting to look at. This seems to me like a beautiful metaphor for old age which I've noticed before in the growth of flowers and plants. The fallen sections from my begonia felt too precious and lovely to compost immediately so they sat on my kitchen table for a few days and a poem started to emerge. In 2019, I read an interview with actor Harvey Keitel, then aged 80, who was asked if had any plans for retirement. He replied "No, not really. Old age is actually infused with youthful things." He went on to say "I don't think anyone loses their powers as they get older. As long as you're involved and interested, you can't lose it." At the time I was in my late fifties, my 60th birthday was on the horizon, both of my children were approaching their twenties, leaving their childhood behind, so although not especially consciously, at some level I was gently preoccupied with ideas and perhaps worries about saying goodbye to my youthfulness and Keitel's words bolstered my spirit. I clipped the interview to the wall of my study in Wiltshire, UK, where I live and work and sometimes glanced at it for encouragement as I carried on growing older and continuing to write and make art. I thought that Harvey Keitel's quote and my broken pieces of begonia would make a good match and that is how my visual poem came to the page. I'm so grateful to you Amanda for selecting it for NationalPoetryMonth.ca.
I believe that giving focus to natural materials in art is a kind of activism in that it pays attention to the importance of what we're in danger of losing because of the climate emergency. I've also included here my visual piece 'Poem with no rhyme or rain' which I hope demonstrates my intention more clearly. It can also be seen on the (UK) National Poetry Library's website. where it was selected as a for 'Poem of the Day' in 2022.
I've been writing on and off for over thirty years, with some huge breaks along the way when I was raising my two wonderful children and working in jobs to contribute to our household's income. My children, and husband and best friend Andrew, have always supported and encouraged my creative work and I am so grateful to them for that. My professional credits include a full poetry collection with Nine Arches Press, a pamphlet/chapbook with tall-lighthouse and two BBC Radio 4 credits for an audio play and a short story. One of my plays was also produced at the Chelsea Theatre in London but that was twenty years ago. I'm mainly writing poetry and making visual poems these days. I was especially thrilled to have a visual poem selected by Amanda because the amazing book she edited Judith: Women Making Visual Poetry (Timglaset Editions, 2021) has been a superb reference point for my work. My blog and website is at www.josephinecorcoran.org and I share my visual work on Instagram at @andothermaterial. The UK small press and theatre ensemble Live Canon will publish my new pamphlet/chapbook Love and Stones, in 2023. This small collection will include poems that unfold against a Wiltshire backdrop of henges and standing stones and reflect a time when my life was interrupted by my grownup children leaving the nest and returning home in a global pandemic, as well as poems about the natural world in crisis, still finding a way to hold on to its astonishment.
Thanks again to Amanda for everything she does and for including me in this nourishing community of artistic endeavour. I'm so proud to be here!”
Please visit https://nationalpoetrymonth.ca/ to read poems daily in April. The work will remain online until February 28, 2024