This was one of the three poems that changed the course of my life. That sounds rather dramatic, but it’s true. We “Did” Yeats for A-level and I was blessed with one of those teachers whose capacity to inspire you feel at the time without really realising what’s going on. Without Stevie I don’t know if I would have “got” literature and followed it as student, teacher, writer, throughout my life. So this is a very important poem for me. Here it is: ‘The Wild Swans at Coole‘ by Yeats.*Read More
At the 42 group this month (glad we made the most of it as it’s probably going to be a while…) by special request of one of the regulars we had an evening of poetry which makes us smile or laugh. It was just lovely: a different kind of light in the darkness. Wendy Cope featured a lot, as you might imagine, and her ‘Poem on the theme of humour’ reminded us of how po-faced it’s possible to be about Serious Literature and the Function of Art. ((I’d love to give you a link to the poem, but I can only find it on The Telegraph‘s site and I’ll to leave it to you as to whether you want to get involved in those particular strong toils…)Read More
I apologise for that appalling pun. Had to be done. If you’re still speaking to me, have a look at this poem, ‘A Bitterness’ (here), then think about what it would feel like with even only a slight change in the title—’Your bitternesss’, or just ‘Bitterness’, or even ‘The Bitterness’? Wouldn’t that make it a really different poem?Read More
Something to move and comfort us today, a poem nourishing and everyday-special as homemade soup. Naomi Shihab Nye’s ‘Kindness’ actually mentions soup, but her poem is not the ‘weakened broth’ to which it refers. No, this is a complete meal. It’s tender and wise and lives up to its name. You can read it here or hear the poet read it here.Read More
but thinking makes it so’. A trio of poems which see the coming of the new year from very different places. First, we have Ogden Nash’s ‘Good riddance, but now what‘, which finds the poet in characteristically wry mood. The apparent cosiness of the opening invitation—’Come children, gather round my knee’—is soon dispelled with the imagery of something ‘about to burst/… like a time bomb in the hall’. It brings to mind Dorothy Parker’s notorious way of greeting visitors or answering the phone: ‘What fresh hell is this?’. I love the fact that here Nash has the clock ‘crouching, dark and small’—small, as a bomb is, in relation to the size of the destruction it can wreak. Assume brace position. Be ready to duck. I can certainly recognise in myself a mood where I look at the future with that sort of attitude.Read More
What on earth is she talking about? you may be wondering.
The Stickleback series is the collection of micro-pamphlets published by Hedgehog Press. Mine, wish you were here, has arrived from the publishers.
Much excitement. First edition, hot off the press and all that.
If you’d like a copy, get in touch via the contact form, and I’ll get back to you.
As anyone knows who’s been to a workshop or event I’ve facilitated (or follows what the afternoon knows), this is something I bang on about a lot. I’m unapologetic about it, though, because it’s such an important dimension of reading (and indeed experiencing any kind of art). Surely anything that pierces our loneliness—whether from each other or from (parts of) ourselves—is worth celebrating? So today I want to think about how reading helps us know we are not alone, and do so in relation to the understated but marvellous poem ‘Things’ by Fleur Adcock.Read More
I am excited about this column. It’s going to be a place for sharing and rejoicing in poetry—for celebrating the joy, power and wonder of words.
Every week there’ll be a new post about whatever poem, or idea about poetry, has currently got hold of my imagination. Get in touch: let me know what’s got hold of you—what you’re reading; what has delighted, engaged, enraged or puzzled you. Let me know, too, if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to read, or write about.
I’ll be starting our poetry conversation tomorrow, when I’ll be reflecting on how ‘poetry makes the invisible appear’. Until then…