No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home



Place of refuge, place where we can be ourselves; place we long to escape from, place where we are confronted by absence and loneliness; shabby downtown apartment or idyllic country cottage. Like it or loathe it, home is where we do most of our living.
Home is, of course, many things to many poets. It is Billy Collins's favourite armchair and Imtiaz Dharker's 'Living Space' in the slums of Mumbai. It is Wordsworth's 'dear Valley' of Grasmere, and Philip Larkin's Coventry, that place where nothing so famously happens. It may be somewhere we long for, perhaps unattainably: Ovid and Mahmoud Darwish lament their home countries, Kapka Kassabova seeks 'a house we can never find', while Jules Supervielle is 'Homesick for the Earth'.

There is an abundance of domestic life. Attend a miserable breakfast chez Jacques Prévert; observe Wendy Cope and partner happily 'Being Boring'. Cut to Anna Barbauld's washing-day, Marilyn Nelson dusting, Buson mending his clothes and Fiona Wright contending with a Tupperware party. Peep in on Amy Lowell in the bath and John Donne in bed, Auden in the privy and Joy Harjo at the kitchen table. Here are removals and homecomings, neighbours good and bad. Inevitably, after a year of enforced domesticity, some lockdown thoughts (Anna McDonald, Pauline Prior-Pitt); Mary Oliver's dream house, Naomi Shihab Nye's homes where children live, the far-from-safe houses of U. A. Fanthorpe, and some final reflections on the idea of a dwelling place from Rumi, Emily Dickinson, John Burnside, Vinita Agrawal, Derek Walcott, Les Murray and Iman Mersal.
It may not always be sweet, but there is certainly No Place Like Home.

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