The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

A Chant Against Procrastination


In terms of poetry production, last week’s retreat on the North York Moors was a dead loss. That’s okay. With the book coming out next month and with other tasks to complete, I gave myself permission to be unproductive and spent most of the week writing less creative things.

Every morning, three or four of us gathered at the kitchen table – the Eleven O’Clockers, we called ourselves – and at 11:00 we did two or three quick exercises, each one lasting eleven minutes. Sometimes this produces a worthwhile ‘seed poem’ and sometimes not. One morning I brought along Mervyn Morris’ A Chant Against Death, which I admire for its simplicity and strength; and we wrote in reaction to it.

I don’t know if the resulting poem will work as a talisman against my greatest sin, but it’s got to be worth a try, no? This is for anyone who, like me, finds that they have inexplicably avoided every item on their To Do List at the end of the day.

A Chant Against Procrastination
(after Mervyn Morris, A Chant Against Death)

Say yes. Say thanks.
Say sweat; give thanks for work.
Say work; say carry and deliver.

Deliver us from sleep; say morning,
run, say messy desk and messy mind
is what we have, so run with it.

Say mind the gap. Say jump.
Say start. Start with an open eye,
a busy heart. Say bumblebee.

Say anything, and fast. Be here
and ready for the rainstorm.
We are building palaces from mud. Say NOW.

Incidentally, speaking of great poets with Caribbean roots, there was a wonderful programme on Radio 4 about James Berry at the weekend, narrated by Hannah Lowe. Listen again here.

2 comments on “A Chant Against Procrastination

  1. Suzanne MacLeod
    March 24, 2015

    Thank you for that gee-up, Jo.
    Best tip I had on these lines was ‘only ever have a single to-do list’. So I did. Not that it helped for long. Now Apple Corp has contrived — by means of the multi-page ‘Reminders’ app — to dump me right back at square zero. Now I can divvy my tasks into so many categories that none of them ever gets any attention. Anyhow, at least I got to use a pair of em-dashes.

  2. Kim Schroeder
    March 24, 2015

    Lovely poem and sentiment. Very kick up the jacksie-ish… !

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