Archives for Poetry

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Road Not Taken’

You may perhaps be aware of this poem by New England poet Robert Frost, for it is often quoted and often misunderstood. But that doesn’t lessen its impact. I read this first as a student, and it has stayed with me since. In our lives we all face a choice at times, a forked path, take the left or the right? And so rightly this poem is thought fondly of at times of indecision, choice and how the uncertainty of the future. It speaks to everyone, I think, to poetry lover and poetry novice. ‘The Road Not Taken’ Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;   Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that, the passing there Had worn them really about the same,   And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Oxfam’

I read this glimpse at the detritus of life and I am standing in my local Oxfam shop. Another great offering from Carol Ann Duffy. 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. ‘Oxfam’ A silvery, pale-blue satin tie, freshwater in sunlight, 50p. Charlotte Rhead, hand-painted oval bowl, circa 1930, perfect for apples , pears, oranges a child’s hand takes without a second thought, £80. Rows of boots marking time, £4. Shoes like history lessons, £1.99. That jug, 30p, to fill with milk.” A reminder that in today’s world of excess, one person’s cast-offs can be another person’s treasure. For Carol Ann Duffy’s website, click here. Click here for Sheer Poetry, an online poetry resource, by the poets themselves, for all poetry lovers from general readers to schoolchildren. Why did Duffy write a poem about a charity shop, click here to read a story from The Mirror explaining why.   ‘The Bees’ by Carol Ann Duffy [UK: Picador]  Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘On Turning Ten’ by Billy Collins ‘Elegy of a Common Soldier’ by Dennis
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A Poem-a-Day in April: ‘My Mother the Cow’

A big thank you to poet Angelique Jamail who has chosen one of my poems for her Poem-a-Day series throughout April. Angelique is celebrating National Poetry Month so please check back again to see the other poems she has selected. My poem ‘My Mother the Cow’ was written quickly when I was musing on fertility, springtime and motherhood. I grew up on a dairy farm and, of course, milk depends on cows and the birth of calves. So, I was surrounded by fertility from an early age, even if I didn’t quite understand the significance. My mother, the farmer’s wife, was the centre of the farm and our family. To read my poem, click here to visit Angelique’s website ‘Sappho’s Torque’. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem for #NationalPoetryMonth: ‘My Mother the Cow’ by @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Ca
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Categories: Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Sometimes and After’

I am making a point of reading poets I am unfamiliar with, and wanted to share this poem by American poet Hilda Doolittle. ‘Sometimes and After’ Yet sometimes I would sweep the floor, I would put daises in a tumbler, I would have long dreams before, long day-dreams after;   there would be no gauntleted knock on the door, or tap-tap with a riding crop, no galloping here and back;   but the latch would softly lift, would softly fall, dusk would come slowly,   and even dusk could wait till night encompassed us; dawn would come gracious, not too soon,   day would come late, and the next day and the next, while I found pansies to take the place of daisies,   and a spray of apple-blossom after that, no calendar of fevered hours, Carthago delenda est and the Tyrian night. Doolitte died in 1961. I love the transitory passing of time in this poem. And no, I didn’t understand the last line. Google Translate tells me ‘Carthago delenda est’ means ‘Carthage is destroyed’ in Latin, which I didn’t study at school. ‘Tyrian night’ still mystifies me, can anyone else help? For more about Hilda Doolittle at the
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Name’

Today’s poem to read in your bath is another by the wonderful Carol Ann Duffy. I flick through her slim anthologies, looking for poems to select for this feature, and stop again and again: ‘this one, and this one… and this one.’ ‘Name’ is about the delights on new love, not necessarily young love, just the feeling when you realize liking is loving. 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 or click the link below to hear Duffy read the poem aloud. ‘Name’ When did your name change from a proper noun to a charm? Its three vowels like jewels on the thread of my breath. Duffy encapsulates that feeling of new love so well it is impossible to read without being drawn back through years of memories. To read another Carol Ann Duffy poem, ‘Elegy’ in my blog series ‘A poem to read in the bath…’, click here. To listen to Carol Ann Duffy read ‘Name’ click here for The Poetry Archive website. In 1989, Carol Ann Duffy spoke to the BBC Programme ‘English File’ about what inspires her to
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘My Heart Leaps Up’

This short poem by William Wordsworth says a lot of me about being a child, being an adult, and appreciation of nature. I had a wonderful Wordsworth lecturer at university who truly loved the poet and she brought his poems to life with her enthusiasm, so this poem is dedicated to Mary Wedd who recited Wordsworth’s poems and showed us photographs of the Lake District. ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.” Above is my old copy of ‘Selected Poems’, written on the inside cover with my name and college and the date ‘December 1979’ making it one of the first books I bought. I remember the anticipation I felt, never having studied Wordsworth before. My Everyman’s University Library edition was published in the Seventies by JM Dent & Sons. Dent is now an imprint of Orion. For the Poetry Foundation’s biography
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Winter Song’

I came first to the war poets when I studied English Literature at university in London. We read them all: Owen, Sassoon, Graves, Brooke. I think it’s fair to say that in my early twenties I didn’t ‘get them’, not really. Wilfred Owen [below] composed his war poems between January 1917 when he was first sent to the Western Front, and November 1918 when he was killed. Only four of his poems were published during his lifetime. He is agreed to be the finest of the English poets writing about the First World War. Instead of his most famous poems, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, I have chosen ‘Winter Song’. Written in October 1917, it immediately conjures up for me a Paul Nash painting [below] called ‘We are Making a New World’, painted in 1918 and on display in London at the Imperial War Museum. ‘Winter Song’ The browns, the olives, and the yellows died, And were swept up to heaven; where they glowed Each dawn and set of sun till Christmastide, And when the land lay pale for them, pale-snowed, Fell back, and down the snow-drifts flamed and flowed. From off your face, into the
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Not Waving but Drowning’

I remember the title of today’s poem by Steve Smith from my schooldays but have no strong memory of reading the poem until many years later. But it always made me smile, then feel guilty for smiling. 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. ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought And not waving but drowning. Stevie Smith [1902-1971] was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, and knowing that made a big impression on me: born in East Yorkshire, 1960. The fact that her family moved to London when she was three didn’t stop me seeing her as a Yorkshire role model. Her poetry never seemed to fit a label and she seems to have been rather overlooked. I love her rather dry wit. My copy of Selected Poems was bought in October 1981, I know this as I have written my name and the date on the inside front cover. The green cover design [below] is still a favourite of mine. To watch a 1950s
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

Dealing with reviews… the Robert Graves way

I’ve been reading poetry by Robert Graves recently, an anthology bought on impulse because of his war poetry. I knew little about his other works. ‘Tilth’ stands out because of the inspiration, as follows:- From a review in a New York critical weekly: “Robert Graves, the British veteran, is no longer in the poetic swim. He still resorts to traditional metres and rhyme, and to such out-dated words as tilth; withholding his 100% approbation also from contemporary poems that favour sexual freedom.” ‘Tilth’ Gone are the drab monosyllabic days When ‘agricultural labour’ still was tilth; And ‘100% approbation’, praise; And ‘pornographic modernism’, filth – Yet still I stand by tilth and filth and praise. Now that is how to answer the critics with style! ‘Selected Poems’ by Robert Graves [Faber] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: How to deal with reviews… the Robert Graves way #poetry via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-Kp
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Categories: On Writing and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’

John Wedgwood Clarke writes about the edges of North Yorkshire, the forgotten bits, the ugly bits, the hidden bits. He is a new discovery for me. His latest pamphlet, In Between, was written for the York Curiouser Festival, and is inspired by the snickets and alleys of old York. 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. ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’ Iron light. Fulmar and kittiwake laugh in Anglo-Saxon, ripple quick shadows over the beach. It transports me instantly to the North Yorkshire cliffs where I grew up, and the constant presence of seabirds. Cloughton Wyke [below] was one of many destinations for the Danby family explorations on Sundays, sandwiches wrapped in foil, trifle in colour-coded Tupperware bowls, orange squash. I cannot read this poem enough. For John Wedgwood Clarke’s blog, click here. To find John Wedgwood Clarke’s poems around York as part of the York Curiouser Festival, click here for a map. To listen to John Wedgwood Clarke read his poem ‘Castle Headland’, click here. For more poetry published by Valley Press, including In Between, click here.   ‘Ghost Pot’ by John
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Elegy’

Today’s poem to read in your bath is about timeless love that persists beyond death. ‘Elegy’ by Carol Ann Duffy is from her anthology Rapture, published in 2005, before she was appointed Poet Laureate in 2009. Her poetry is at once instantly accessible, and bears deep consideration. 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. ‘Elegy’ Who’ll know then, when they walk by the grave where your bones will be brittle things – this bone here that swoops away from your throat, and this, which perfectly fits the scoop of my palm, and these which I count with my lips, and your skull, which blooms on the pillow now, and your fingers, beautiful in their little rings – that love, which wanders history, singled you out in your time? The love, the longing, the wistfulness, brings tears to my eyes. Click here to visit Carol Ann Duffy’s website. Listen here to Carol Ann Duffy interviewed by The Guardian after her appointment as Poet Laureate.   ‘Rapture’ by Carol Ann Duffy [UK: Picador]  Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Digging’

Today’s poem is about the gulf between two generations, father and son. In our upwardly-mobile society today, we should all take a moment to consider our origins and those of our parents and grandparents: what were they doing when they were the age we are now, where were they living, what was their daily routine? Author Sandra Danby chooses a favourite ‘poem to read in the bath’. This is ‘Digging’ from ‘Death of a Naturalist’ by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. 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. ‘Digging’ Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into the gravelly ground: My father, digging… I am an author, my father was a farmer, his father was a farmer. They milked cows, I write stories. Click here to hear Seamus Heaney read the poem in full. Read Heaney’s biography here at The Poetry Foundation. If you don’t know this website, it is a wonderful resource about poetry. To learn more about Heaney, read Dennis O’Driscoll’s Stepping Stones:
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Lost Acres’

I often read poetry, often in the bath, so this is the first of an occasional series sharing with you my discoveries. I often read them aloud, which for some reason seems to aid my understanding and stress the rhythm of the language. My first poem is by Robert Graves [1895-1985] a writer known in the UK for his First World War poems and his war memoir Goodbye to All That. His novel I, Claudius won literary prizes and has been turned into numerous television series and films. Graves [below] was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1961-1966. My favourite is ‘Lost Acres’. 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. ‘Lost Acres’ These acres, always again lost By every new ordnance-survey And searched for at exhausting cost Of time and thought, are still away. This makes me think of rural Yorkshire where I grew up in The Sixties, roaming the fields free to explore, never thinking about lines on a map or county boundaries. For more about this collection of Graves’ poems, click here. ‘Selected Poems’ by Robert Graves [UK: Faber]  Read
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.