An Age of Communication?

How will the early 21st century be remembered? The digitally preoccupied may say, “as a communications age”. Well, I wonder if that’s the true experience of many. Or are we – increasingly – speaking into the vacancy of cyberspace? Surely nothing will (or could ever) replace the sort of communication that takes place between people face to face; it is such a crucial part of what makes us human.

This is why I long for a world where small, shimmering screens are not viewed as substitutes for open-hearted conversation, lively debate, friendly exchange of useful information, and the sort of kind, attentive listening that relies as much on the face and body language of another as on the words spoken or written. (And, yes, I do understand the irony that I am writing this blog on a small, shimmering screen.)

I wrestled with this dilemma some years ago in the two poems that follow. Here is the first, with the second to follow soon.

Communications Age

Microchips track criminals,

And wires along the line explain

Why with the wrong kind of leaves, or rain

The trains are stalled.


Sharp missives dart through outer space

Between pedestrian earth and bold sky walkers,

Between Whitehall, White House and heedless talkers

In benighted cyberspace.


Laser beacons bounce bright beams, fiercer far

Than any lost Napoleonic flames,

While satellites dish up news like microwaved

Hot meals—burning, instant—of some exploding war.


Yet still I dream an age when we shall chart

Thick distance from the head to heart.


© Lizzie Ballagher




Motherhood: perhaps not a commonly used word now, but beloved, nevertheless. Because most of my work is about inner and outer landscapes, poems which my children might read when they grew up have rarely come to mind. “The Cry of Birds” (below) is, however, one such. Recently chosen for Poetry Space’s 2015 spring showcase, this poem was in fact written for my daughter over thirty years ago.

The Cry of Birds

I pause for a moment
Weary and still
In the first spring rain
That falls uncertainly on my hair.
The splash and spit and drip
Are all I hear
On this country grey March morning
That hangs thin mist in my eyes.

The child in my arms wakes
From uterine dreams; her eyes
Wondering and still seek mine to explain
The sweet, the shrill, the shriek:
The cry of birds in the rain.
Hush! Never before has my summer-born child
Heard birds sing
In spring rain.

© Lizzie Ballagher