Humans and Dancers

In a recent creative writing class we were given a prompt based on a misquote from an Adrian Mitchell poem. I thought – but probably just misheard – that the line we were given Just look at your beautiful hands was the title of the poem. After I had written my rather sentimental effort (which I have attached for your perusal) I took time to find out about the Adrian Mitchell original. I was delighted to discover it was called Human Beings and fell very much into the category of anti-war poetry with which he is often associated – and importantly very pro-human-get-on-with-life inspiring. I also enjoyed the fact that it ended with a reference to dancing as encapsulating the positive things we can usefully do (rather than all the negative stuff) –

lets try to be human


I don’t have the rights to reprint the poem here but it is easily found online and I recommend it with enthusiasm. My reading of the Mitchell poem triggered a related thought. There was a piece of music in my head which mentioned ‘human’ and ‘dancer’; it was ‘Human’ by The Killers. Unlikely as it seemed, I wondered if Brandon Flowers had been influenced by Adrian Mitchell’s poem. I had misgivings, particularly as ‘dancer’ in the Killers’ track seemed to be a negative reference. And so it proved. Flowers explained in an interview that he was inspired by a Hunter S Thomson quote – 

America is raising a generation of dancers, afraid to take one step out of line

So that blew my theory right out of the water!

Undeterred, I now move on to make an another quite random connection. Just read a New York Times article about the association between walking and writing, which reminded me of an online writing course I completed a few years ago. It covered lots of genres and I suspect I learned more useful practical tips than this but one of the most unlikely elements of the course remains lodged in my brain clear and immoveable – dancing. Yes, dancing as a cure for writer’s block. You heard it here first…unless of course you did the same online course as I did, in which case you heard it here second.

P.S. there were many other activities recommended as a break from unproductive writing effort, some of them physical and mostly involving fresh air and moving – as in the New York Times piece I just read – but, because it seemed so ‘outside the box’ dancing is the one that sticks in the brain. Although the writing course didn’t mention this – nor did the New York Times feature – I think remembering to be human from time to time also helps.

Finally, as promised the sentimental WIP inspired by a line from ‘Human Beings’

Look at your beautiful hands

Look at your beautiful hands

No longer little podgy sausage fingers sprouting

No longer the sole instrumental modes of communication 

pointing at what you wanted when

you didn’t know the word

No longer the dirt-bearing

snot-encrusted trowels

held up at tearful eyes

when the time came to return indoors

at sunshine day’s adventures ending

Look now as your beautiful hands play

upon instruments of transcendent universal communication

Propel magical notes from wood and metal

Fill listening spirits with heightened feeling

Words composed in your beautiful soul laid

down in script by the same beautiful hands

Just look at your beautiful grown-up hands

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