I went to my bookcase, opened it, and for no apparent reason pulled out a slim book of poems I hadn’t looked at in close to twenty years. The volume was called ‘Out of Danger’ by James Fenton, and opening its pages was like rediscovering an old friend. More than that, it was like rediscovering a part of myself and an influence that I had completely forgotten existed. The first page of the book was signed; I had bought it at a poetry reading by the poet himself. As I read, the words were not just familiar, though long unremembered; I could also hear James Fenton’s voice in my head, as he read them – the rhythm, the musicality, the pace. And as I read, I realised what an enormous influence he had had on my own poetry writing. Poems of my own from that time started to come into my mind, as his words, rhythms and rhyme schemes acted as a trigger and a reminder. All of a sudden it seemed strange that I could have forgotten that book and his poems so entirely, and along with it that part of myself that loved that poetry reading so much – but I guess it got lost in one of the several inventions and reinventions of myself that followed.
One poem in particular struck me as I read it this time around, and I think it is because it chimed with the reading, thinking and writing I have been doing recently about my ‘inner child’ and transactional analysis. It’s about respecting the past and acknowledging and accepting who we were and are. The words run counter to the feelings I have about my own ‘inner child’, who, in as much as I think about her, seems more worthy of discarding than of respect. But the words of the poem are, in its own words, ‘the ideal’, and that ideal ‘is hard’. And yet, perhaps the following words from ‘The Games People Play’ by Eric Berne can provide encouragement to aim for that ideal, as a goal worth striving for: “…the Child is in many ways the most valuable part of the personality, and can contribute to the individual’s life exactly what an actual child can contribute to family life: charm, pleasure and creativity.”