The Simple Things


My notebook of poems and quotes by Elaine Fraser

- What means a lot to you? Tell us in 500 words; thesimplet­hings@icebergpre­

My collection of poems has grown over the years and I’ve found many favourite poets – Wendy Cope, Billy Collins and Emily Dickinson – but am always amazed when I find another that I haven’t heard of before and how the writer seems to be speaking to me. In my language, if you like.

I have always loved finding poems, something about the rhythm, the use of words and often the humour. In my teens, I used to write them in a book and draw a picture or find a relevant photo in a magazine and stick it next to the piece. Then in my twenties, I’d buy books of poems, bookmarkin­g my favourites. Many of my second-hand poetry books have inscriptio­ns inside to grandmas, friends and lovers. Given with love, and telling their story.

The fascinatin­g thing is how poetry has no boundaries. I have poems that make me laugh, that make me cry, that comfort me and that make me think. I have a book of Anna Akhmatova’s work. She was a Russian poet (1889-1966) who had to memorise everything, because she would be in danger if any were written down and seen as propaganda.

I started copying my favourite poems and quotes into a soft brown notebook. Initially, I wanted it by my bed, to dip into if I needed comfort. But I soon realised that writing the poems was as much a pleasure as reading them. Other than Christmas and birthday cards, there isn’t much need to put pen to paper these days. Picking the right pen and taking time to write was therapeuti­c. It was comforting to have them in one place – a book I was writing for myself.

It was only after the floods of 2015 that I thought of what to call my notebook. The idea of losing everything, only taking with you what you can grab made me think: what would be irreplacea­ble? My photos are precious, so I make CDs of them, they are as much an heirloom as anything I have. Maybe technology is a chance to keep our memories safe, but I like to keep a book of them, too. Hence the name of my notebook: ‘In Case of Fire, take me!’

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