#DeleteMonday with Poetry Off the Shelf

by Menaka Raman

Can I make a confession?

Poetry makes me feel inadequate. “Have I understood what the poet is trying to say here?”, “Is this what they mean?” and “Have I understood the symbolism embedded in these lines?” are just some of the fraught conversations I have with myself as I read a poem.

But a recent conversation with a friend about how COVID-19 has changed friendships, and the ways in which we now spend time with each other, had her send me a link to an episode of the podcast ‘Poetry Off the Shelf’ called Wild at the Root.

Oh no, a poetry podcast I thought? This can’t be for me.

How wrong I was.

In the episode, producer Helena de Groot talks to Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison, two friends who wrote a collection of epistolary poems, In the Field Between Us.

It’s not just poetry that the two poets have in common, McCully Brown has cerebral palsy, and Nevison was born with a congenital birth defect that affected her legs and feet. As young children, both of them underwent numerous medical procedures, so young, that neither remember their bodies from before.

For me, the episode was a great listen on different levels. As I tentatively dip a toe in interviewing people for the podcasts we make at Vaaka Media, I find myself listening more attentively to podcast hosts and the manner in which they hold the space. Helena de Groot asks questions with gentleness and empathy, often giving both Molly and Susannah space to excuse themselves from answering if they’re not comfortable.

As a writer, it was fascinating to listen to them discuss how they co-authored this book, how a question or desire to be seen and heard in one person’s poetry, was answered by the other in theirs.

But the real joy for me was in listening to McCully Brown and Nevison talk about their bodies - freely, intimately, and with tenderness.

You can listen to Wild at the Root here.

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