Archives for Poetry

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Invictus’ by WE Henley #poetry #courage

William Ernest Henley began to write poetry at the age of twelve, when he was confined to his hospital bed following the amputation of his leg. Best known for Invictus, Henley continued to write poetry on the theme of inner strength and perseverance. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Invictus’ Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.   In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Listen to Dana Ivey read Invictus at The Poetry Foundation. BUY THE BOOK Most quoted is the line from Invictus, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” which has inspired much popular culture. Nelson Mandela read the poem to his fellow inmates at Robben Island prison, as portrayed in the Clint Eastwood film, Invictus. BUY THE DVD Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘A thousand years, you said’ by Lady Heguri ‘Winter Song’ by Wilfred Owen ‘Not Waving but Drowning’
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Valediction’ by Seamus Heaney #poetry #love

The poems that touch me are those that distil a feeling, an experience, an emotion, into a simple few lines. Seamus Heaney was a master of this technique. In Valediction, from the 1966 collection Death of a Naturalist, the absence of a woman is felt keenly. It is a love poem, short and honest, longing for the return of his love. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Valediction’ Lady, with the frilled blouse And simple tartan skirt, Since you left the house Its emptiness has hurt All thought. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Happiness’ by Stephen Dunn ‘May-Day Song for North Oxford’ by John Betjeman ‘I Loved Her Like the Leaves’ by Kakinonoto Hitomaro And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Valediction’ by Seamus Heaney https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4bN via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘A Shropshire Lad II’ by AE Housman #poetry

Alfred Edward Housman published two books in his lifetime, A Shropshire Lad in 1896 and Last Poems in 1922, followed after his death by More Poems. His part-patriotic, part-nostalgic poetry appealed to a population at war, his words of nature, sorrow and the brevity of life striking a chord during the Great War. This is the second poem in A Shropshire Lad. Please search out the poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘A Shropshire Lad II’ Loveliest of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom along the bough, And stands about the woodland ride Wearing white for Eastertide Listen to Alan Brownjohn read ‘A Shropshire Lad II’ at The Poetry Archive. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost ‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James ‘The Cinnamon Peeler’ by Michael Ondaatje And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘A Shropshire Lad II’ by AE Housman https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4bG via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Out Chasing Boys’ by Amanda Huggins #poetry

Recently published is this small poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds by Amanda Huggins, with 24 poems. Huggins is an award-winning writer of flash fiction and short stories, so knowing her skill with the short form I looked forward to this first poetry chapbook with anticipation. And I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve chosen the first poem in the book as it struck a chord from my own childhood. I can smell the salt in the breeze, hear the lapping of the summer waves on the shore and taste the tang of vinegar as I lick my fingers after eating haddock and chips. This poem is subject to copyright restrictions. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. A ‘poetry chapbook’ is a slim pamphlet of poems, usually no more than 40 pages. ‘Out Chasing Boys’ We spent summer on the seafront, two stranded mermaids killing time. We rolled up our jeans, carried our shoes, blew kisses at the camera in the photo booth. Always out, chasing boys, as if we had forever. BUY THE BOOK Read my reviews of Brightly Coloured Horses, and Separated from the Sea, both by Amanda Huggins. Read these other
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Dunt’ by Alice Oswald #poetry

‘Dunt: A Poem for a Dried-Up River’ by Alice Oswald won the Forward Prize for the best single poem in 2007. A water nymph tries unsuccessfully to conjure a river from limestone. Punctuated by the refrain ‘try again’ it feels like a wail against climate change and our changing rural landscapes. The water nymph is real, rather it is an artefact found by Oswald in a local West Country museum. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Very small and damaged and quite dry, a Roman water nymph made of bone tries to summon a river out of limestone very eroded faded her left arm missing and both legs from the knee down a Roman water nymph made of bone tries to summon a river out of limestone’ BUY THE BOOK Read this interview in The Guardian as Oswald talks about this collection. Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Winter Song’ by Wilfred Owen ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ by William Wordsworth ‘Tulips’ by Wendy Cope And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post,
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘My Life’s Stem was Cut’ by Helen Dunmore #poetry

What a glorious, gentle, heartbreaking poem this is about dying. Helen Dunmore, novelist, poet, winner of the Orange Prize, died too soon on June 5, 2017. In a slim volume of poetry, Inside the Wave, I found ‘My Life’s Stem was Cut’. I defy you to read it without feeling a combination of sadness and hope. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘My life’s stem was cut, But quickly, lovingly, I was lifted up, I heard the rush of the tap And I was set in water In the blue vase…’   BUY Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Because I Could Not Stop for Death’ by Emily Dickinson ‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James ‘I Loved Her Like the Leaves’ by Kakinonoto Hitomaro Read my reviews of Helen Dunmore’s novels, The Lie, Exposure, Birdcage Walk. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘My Life’s Stem was Cut’ by Helen Dunmore https://wp.me/p5gEM4-428 via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Unaccompanied’ by Simon Armitage #poetry

The Unaccompanied is Simon Armitage’s first poetry collection in more than a decade during which he wrote drama, translation, travel articles and prose poetry. This collection doesn’t disappoint. It’s a mixture of familiar Yorkshire moors and sea, urban depression, Nature and human nature, globalisation and social media. His poems are accessible; at times witty and sad, they set the big questions of life against the small familiar details of every day. My favourite poem from this collection is ‘The Unaccompanied’. A walker at night stops to listen to the sound of singing, songs about mills and mines, myth and the mundane. It is a poem about heritage, about traditions spanning generations, from father to son, of the fathers that went before. It reminded me of traditional fishermen’s choirs, still popular on the East Yorkshire coast. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Wandering slowly back after dark one night above a river, towards a suspension bridge, a sound concerns him that might be a tune or might not; noise drifting in, trailing off.’ Amazon   Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Woods etc.’ by Alice Oswald #poetry

The first time I read a poem by Alice Oswald I was deep in the countryside; in my imagination. She took me away from the bookshop where I stood in front of the poetry shelf, running my fingers along the slim spines, waiting to be tempted, to stand in a woodland deserted of people. It says something about my own need for nature that her words drew me in so effortlessly. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Footfall, which is a means so steady And in small sections wanders through the mind Unnoticed, because it beats constantly, Sweeping together the loose tacks of sound I remember walking once into increasing Woods, my hearing like a widening wound. First your voice and then the rustling ceasing. The last glow of rain dead in the ground’ BUY Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘After a row’ by Tom Pickard ‘Poems’ by Ruth Stone ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Serious’ by James Fenton #poetry

I picked up Selected Poems by James Fenton [below] in 2015] in my local library, drawn by the cover illustration; the colours, the corn cobs. I flicked through, and this was the poem that caught my eye. It is about love and hope and the fear of future regret.  Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Awake, alert, Suddenly serious in love, You’re a surprise. I’ve known you long enough – Now I can hardly meet your eyes. It’s not that I’m Embarrassed or ashamed. You’ve changed the rules The way I’d hoped they’d change Before I thought: hopes are for fools.’ BUY Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ by Emily Dickinson ‘Name’ by Carol Ann Duffy ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Serious’ by James Fenton https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3g2 via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘May-Day Song for North Oxford’

John Betjeman is an English poet so identified with his times and interests. Born in 1906, his family ran a firm in the East End of London making furniture and household items distinctive to Victorians. Betjeman remained fascinated by Victoriana, its architecture, English nature and society, and this is evident in his poetry. He was a founding member of the Victorian Society, and became Poet Laureate in 1972. In his introduction to his collection Slick But Not Streamlined, published in 1947, he wrote of himself ‘so at home with the provincial gaslit towns, the seaside lodgings, the bicycle, the harmonium.’ I read ‘May-Day Song for North Oxford’ on a freezing cold February morning, in a public library in West London. It was the sort of day on which you doubt you will ever be warm again. In a few words, I forgot my surroundings and was with Betjeman on a spring day. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Belbroughton Road is bonny, and pinkly bursts the spray Of prunus and forsythia across the public way, For a full spring-tide of blossom
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A #poem to read in the bath… ‘I loved her like the leaves’

The sense of loss in this Japanese poem is unquenchable. Written by Kakinonoto Hitomaro in 7th century Japan, it speaks of emptiness so great there is no hope or comfort. Hitomaro was a poet of the Asuka period [538-710], serving as court poet to the Empress Jitō, and is considered to be one of the four greatest poets in Japanese history along with Fujiwara no Teika, Sōgi and Bashō. ‘I loved her like the leaves, The lush green leaves of spring That pulled down the willows on the bank’s edge where we walked while she was of this world. I built my life on her. But man cannot flout the laws of this world. To the shimmering wide fields hidden by the white cloud, white as white silk scarf she soared away like the morning bird, hid from our world like the setting sun. The child, the gift she left behind – he cries for food; but always finding nothing that I might give him, I pick him up and hold him in my arms. On the pillow where we lay, My wife and I, as one, I pass the daylight lonely till the dusk, the black night sighing till the dawn. I
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘My Mother’

I was hooked from the first line here, I think because of the familiarity of the cornflake cake. So what came next was a surprise, not something my mother said to me when I made her a cake! This is My Mother by Ruby Robinson [below] from Every Little Sound. Published in 2016, Robinson’s first collection of poems was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Forward Prize for ‘Best First Collection’, and the TS Eliot Prize for ‘Best Collection’.  Here is the first stanza of My Mother. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘She said the cornflake cake made her day, she said a man cannot be blamed for being unfaithful: his heart is not in tune with his extremities and it’s just the way his body chemistry is. She said all sorts of things.’ Source: Poetry (October 2014) Read more about Ruby Robinson here.   ‘Every Little Sound’ by Ruby Robinson [UK: Pavilion Poetry] Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari ‘Tulips’ by Wendy Cope ‘Cloughton Wyke I’ by John Wedgwood Clarke And
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Unthinkable’

This poem grabbed me from the first line. It has action, it has colour, it has place. I could see the purple door, I could see the beach. And I wanted to write my own story about it. This is ‘The Unthinkable’ by Simon Armitage [below], included in his latest anthology The Unaccompanied.  Here is the first stanza of The Unthinkable. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘A huge purple door washed up in the bay overnight, its paintwork blistered and peeled from weeks at sea. The town storyteller wasted no time in getting to work: the beguiling, eldest girl of a proud, bankrupt farmer had slammed that door in the face of a Freemason’s son, who in turn had bulldozed both farm and family over the cliff, except for the girl, who lived now by the light and heat of a driftwood fire on a beach.’ Source: Poetry (May 2013)   ‘The Unaccompanied’ by Simon Armitage [UK: Faber] Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney ‘Alone’ by Dea Parkin ‘A thousand years,
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘A thousand years, you said’

Written in 8th century Japan, this poem speaks of the longing of love shadowed by impending death, and it is as relevant today as it was then. I discovered this poem in The Picador Book of Funeral Poems, and then stumbled on it again in an old paperback on my bookshelf, The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse. It was written by Lady Heguri in mid-late eighth century. No details are known of her, except that her poems are addressed to Yakamochi. ‘A thousand years, you said, As our two hearts melted. I look at the hand you held And the ache is too hard to bear.’   ‘The Picador Book of Funeral Poems’ ed. by Don Paterson Amazon UK Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari ‘Winter Song’ by Wilfred Owen ‘The Cinnamon Peeler’ by Michael Ondaatje And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘A thousand years, you said’ by Lady Heguri https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3dS via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Because I could not stop for Death’

This lyrical poem by Emily Dickinson sees the poet meet Death who, as a gentleman caller, takes a leisurely carriage drive with her. It was first published posthumously under the title ‘The Chariot’ in Poems: Series 1 in 1890, the edition assembled and edited by her friends Mabel Loomis Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Here are the first two verses. ‘Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality. We slowly drove – He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility.’ The poem has since been set to music by Aaron Copland as the twelfth song of his cycle The Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson.    ‘The Picador Book of Funeral Poems’ ed. by Don Paterson [UK: Picador] Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Happiness’ by Stephen Dunn ‘Lost Acres’ by Robert Graves ‘The Roses’ by Katherine Tempest And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ by Emily Dickinson https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3dG via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Along the field as we came by’

Best known for A Shropshire Lad, the poems of AE Housman reflect the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside. Popular throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods running up to the Great War, this two stanza poem by Housman transitions from first romantic love to death and grief, followed by hope and new love. It was his simplicity of style that appealed, and his nostalgic nature settings. Here is the first verse. ‘Along the field as we came by A year ago, my love and I, The aspen over stile and stone Was talking to itself alone. ‘Oh, who are these that kiss and pass? A country lover and his lass; Two lovers looking to be wed; And time shall put them both to bed, But she shall lie with earth above, And he beside another love.’   ‘The Picador Book of Funeral Poems’ ed. by Don Paterson [UK: Picador] Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Cloughton Wyke I’ by John Wedgwood Clarke ‘Elegy’ by Carol Ann Duffy ‘Sometimes and After’ by Hilda Doolittle And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘After a Row’ by Tom Pickard #poetry #nature

Winter Migrants by poet Tom Pickard is a collection of poetry and prose, starting with the prize-winning sequence ‘Lark & Merlin’, an erotic pursuit over the hills and fells of the poet’s Northern-English homeland. In truth, I could have selected anything from this slim volume, but ‘After a Row’ just caught my mood today. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘After a Row’ A lapwing somersaults spring, Flips over winter and back. After a fast walk – my limbs The engine of thought – up long hills Where burn bubbles into beck and clough to gill BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Sometimes and After’ by Hilda Doolittle ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’ by John Wedgwood Clarke ‘Forgetfulness’ by Hart Crane And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘After a Row’ by @tompickardpoet http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2UD via @SandraDanby SaveSave SaveSave
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Tulips’

Anyone who enjoys gardening understands this poem, the feeling of planning for a garden of the future, digging, sowing, hoping, and then the temporary feeling of joy when the flowers appear. To be replaced again by the annual cycle of planning, digging and sowing. Wendy Cope obviously has a garden. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Tulips’ Months ago, I dreamed of a tulip garden, Planted, waited, watched for their first appearance, Saw them bud, saw greenness give way to colours, Just as I’d planned them.   ‘If I Don’t Know’ by Wendy Cope [UK: Faber]  Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘The Boy Tiresias’ by Kate Tempest ‘The Roses’ by Katherine Towers ‘Elegy of a Common Soldier’ by Dennis B Wilson And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Tulips’ by Wendy Cope http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2Uo via @SandraDanby SaveSave
Read More

Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Death of the Hat’

Billy Collins is a favourite poet of mine, he is so good at making the ordinary everyday things suddenly become personal and touching. So true. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘The Death of the Hat’ Once every man wore a hat. In the ashen newsreels, the avenues of cities are broad rivers flowing with hats. The ballparks swelled with thousands of strawhats, brims and bands, rows of men smoking and cheering in shirtsleeves. Hats were the law. They went without saying. You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd. I challenge you to read the very last stanza [not shown here] without a tear in your eye as he transitions from hats to the loss of a loved one. Read two other poems by Billy Collins which I love:- The Dead On Turning Ten   ‘Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes’ by Billy Collins [UK: Picador]  Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ by William Wordsworth ‘Oxfam’ by Carol Ann Duffy And if you’d
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘We Needed Coffee But…’

There is something mesmeric about the rhythm of this poem by Matthew Welton which draws you onwards, like being tugged forward by the rope in a tug-of-war competition without your own momentum. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘We Needed Coffee But…’ We needed coffee but we’d got ourselves convinced that the later we left it the better it would taste, and, as the country grew flatter and the roads became quiet and dusk began to colour the sky, you could guess from the way we retuned the radio and unfolded the map or commented on the view that the tang of determination had overtaken our thoughts, and when, fidgety and untalkative but almost home, we drew up outside the all-night restaurant, it felt like we might just stay in the car, listening to the engine and the gentle sound of the wind Matthew Weldon is from Nottingham, UK. In 2003 he received the Jerwood-Aldeburgh First Collection Prize for The Book of Matthew [published by Carcanet], which was named a Guardian Book of the Year. Listen to Matthew Welton read from ‘We Needed
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Poetry.