Archives for Poetry

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Invisible Man’ by @MargaretAtwood #poetry

At Christmas I was given Dearly, the slim hardback book of Margaret Atwood’s poems. I’ve never thought of her as a poet but Dearly is a revelation. As with her novels, Atwood crystalises those intense emotional moments of life, the ones that stay with us, and sets them into everyday context. This is a wonderful collection about growing old, rememberings, endings and beginnings, passing by and moving on. Dedicated to her partner it is a personal collection, and very touching. The poem I have chosen is ‘Invisible Man’. A short poem of five verses, full of how it feels to lose your lifelong partner. The absence at the table, on a walk, like an invisible man in comic books, still there but seen only by the one left behind, remembering This poem is subject to copyright restrictions so here’s the first verse as a taster. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Invisible Man’ It was a problem in comic books: drawing an invisible man. They’d solve it with a dotted line that no one but us could see’ BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:-
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Lark & Merlin’ by Tom Pickard #poetry #nature

Tom Pickard grew up in the working class suburbs of Newcastle upon Tyne and left school at fourteen. Three years later he met poet Basil Bunting and Pickard began his life as a poet. His background in the North East is the spine of his work, local words and slang inhabit his work, but two recent volumes have taken him to the isolated countryside of the Borders where England meets Scotland. Most magical of all this work is ‘Lark & Merlin’ is about the dance between a man and a woman; like the hunting/courting flight of two birds – the lark and the merlin – diving and flying, tossed in the wind as memories are tossed in the middle of the night. ‘Lark & Merlin’ is included in Pickard’s Fiends Fell, a combination of journal entries and poems, telling of one year in his life on a bleak fell in Northern England. Pickard is now working on the second edition of Fiends Fell. This poem is subject to copyright restrictions. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Lark & Merlin’ a wren, perched on a hawthorn low enough to skip the scalping winds,
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Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Poor Girl’ by Maya Angelou #poetry #women

I can hear the sorrow in every word of this woman who feels cheated, cynical in her understanding that she loved a wrong ‘un. This is ‘Poor Girl’ by Maya Angelou. She is angry, talking directly to a former lover who has betrayed her. It has a simple structure, a repetition that reflects the sense of inevitability as he finds a new love; and the inevitability that this new love will soon turn into another old love, another poor girl, as yet again he uses then moves on. In her poetry Angelou loves men, but she also trashes badly behaved disrespectful unloving men. This poem is subject to copyright restrictions. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Poor Girl’ You’ve got another love             and I know it Someone who adores you             just like me Hanging on your words             like they were gold Thinking she understands             your soul Poor Girl             Just like me BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘My Father’ by Yehuda Amichai  ‘Sometimes and After’ by Hilda Doolittle ‘I Loved Her Like the Leaves’ by Kakinonoto Hitomaro And if
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Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘My Father’ by Yehuda Amichai #poetry

I came across this very short poem – only six lines – in an anthology. The book has been on my shelf for quite a while and every now and then I pick it up and flick through at random. One day, the page fell open at this exquisite poem by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, translated from the Hebrew by Azila Talit Reisenberger. Written as an adult, in this scant lines Amichai captures the ongoing love of child for parent, caught in a tiny everyday familiar detail. Said Ted Hughes of Amichai, “I’ve become more than ever convinced that Amichai is one of the biggest, most essential, most durable poetic voices of this past century–one of the most intimate, alive and human, wise, humorous, true, loving, inwardly free and resourceful, at home in every human situation. One of the real treasures.” Amichai died in 2000. His poems, written in Hebrrew, have been translated into 40 languages. All poetry is political, Amichai told the Paris Review: “This is because real poems deal with a human response to reality, and politics is part of reality, history in the making. Even if a poet writes about sitting in a glass house drinking tea, it
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Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘What I Learned From My Mother’ by Julia Kasdorf #poetry

Written in 1992 by American poet Julia Kasdorf, What I Learned From My Mother is a poem that crosses time, languages, cultures and continents. Its message is familiar to all women. The rituals of death and grieving, of condolence, of a kind word, flowers and chocolate cake and the blessing of your presence. This poem is subject to copyright restrictions. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘What I Learned From My Mother’ I learned from my mother how to love the living, to have plenty of vases on hand in case you have to rush to the hospital with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole grieving household, to cube home-canned pears and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins and click out the sexual seeds with a knife point. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Invictus’ by WE Henley  ‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari ‘Valediction’ by Seamus Heaney  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem
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Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ by Dylan Thomas #poetry

Dylan Thomas’s most famous, arguably most familiar, poem is a villanelle with five stanzas of three lines followed by a single stanza of four lines, making a total of 19 lines. It is structured with two repeating rhymes, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ and ‘Rage, rage, against the dying of the light’. Written in 1947 when Thomas was in Florence with his family, it is popularly thought to refer to the death of his father though his father did not die until 1952. In contrast to many poems of death, popular for reading at funerals, this speaks clearly and strongly at the anger and resentment at dying. Due to copyright restrictions, I cannot reproduce the whole poem here. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and race at close of day; Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.   Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.   Good men, the
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Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Sounds of the Day’ by Norman MacCaig #poetry #Scotland

The poems of Scottish poet and teacher Norman MacCaig are noted for their simplicity and directness. Irish poet Seamus Heaney described MacCaig’s verse, ‘His poems are discovered in flight, migratory, wheeling and calling. Everything is in a state of restless becoming: once his attention lights on a subject, it immediately grows lambent.’  Describing his native Scotland, MacCaig shows us the familiar world with a freshness and a keen eye for humble subjects. This poem is subject to copyright restrictions. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Sounds of the Day’ When a clatter came, It was horses crossing the ford. When the air creaked, it was A lapwing seeing us off the premises Of its private marsh. A snuffling puff Ten yards from the boat was the tide blocking and Unblocking a hole in a rock. When the black drums rolled, it was water Falling sixty feet into itself. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Along The Field As We Came By’ by AE Housman ‘The Boy Tiresias’ by Kate Tempest ‘The Roses’ by Katherine Towers And if you’d like to tweet a link to
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A poem to read in the bath… ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti #poetry #funeral

Christina Rossetti was 31 when her most famous collection Goblin Market and Other Poems was published in 1862 but perhaps better known are two other poems. Her 1872 poem A Christmas Carol was set to music by Gustav Holst and renamed In the Bleak Midwinter, and her short poem Remember appears regularly in poems of funeral verse. Her lines of sweet and lyrical verse go straight to the emotional heart of her subject and explain which she remains popular today. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Remember’ Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney ‘My Life’s Stem was Cut’ by Helen Dunmore ‘The Unthinkable’ by Simon Armitage And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4c6 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: 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’
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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
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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
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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
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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,
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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