Thursday, 7 October 2010

National Poetry Day 2010 --What's your favourite poem?

Again, another literary event that has failed to be promoted in any major way!

I learned via Twitter this morning that today is National Poetry Day so Happy NPD to you all! I mention this at this late stage as I love poetry and couldn't let the day pass without writing about it. I love poetry of all shapes and sizes and languages. I've always read poetry to the kids and A is partial to a bit of verse. I love to read and adore books but it always amazes me what an impact a few lines of verse can do. When reading a novel, you embark on a journey one that takes you places over a period of time, a roller-coaster of events and emotions and reactions. Verse is immediate, whether it makes you laugh or weep, for me it always reinforces the power of words and the impact it can have.

I've been thinking all morning about what poem and poet to share and I'm struggling. I enjoy so many diverse types so I'll pick a few at random. My mood could probably change later on in the day and I'll add another and another and another. I've also had about two hours sleep so I'm not the sharpest this morning.
 I thought I'd start off with Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (for obvious reasons...)

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known---cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all---
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, my own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle---
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine. 

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me---
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 


Now, I won't start ranting and raving about it's form and content but let you read for yourself and see what you think of it. 

My second choice is wildly different and is by Charles Bukowski, an American Beat poet, entitled The Genius of the Crowd. 

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always 
reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

Again make up your own mind about this. 

If you want to you could even post a favourite poem of yours in the comment box below to mark this occasion. 

Poetry is also special to us as we discovered that poetry gave A just enough food for thought but didn't require as heavy a commitment as say a novel, in the early years of his schooling and after his diagnosis. Now he's fully caught up to his peer group with his reading but poetry helped him explore language, a difficult thing for an autistic child to do.  Here is a copy of an interview with A's favourite poet, Michael Rosen. We've started showing Miss B his poetry on YouTube. She even went with us to see him perform at the Edinburgh Book Festival (again!) this year.

Thursday 7 October is National Poetry Day and Books for Keeps is celebrating with an exclusive interview with the poet and former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, whose latest collection is Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things.
Q: Some of the poems in your new collection, Mike Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things, are quite challenging. Do you see it as part of a poet’s role to challenge young readers?A: I think I like to challenge myself first. Then I look at the poem and think: will any child I know (including the child I once was) be able to get something from this? Will it arouse anyone’s curiosity? Will it be something that adults and children could share? If there are enough yes’s to those questions, the poem will go into a book for children.
Q: How important is craft when writing poetry for children?A: I avoid the word ‘craft’ but I can see that there are elements of craft in any kind of work that involves re-shaping. I like to feel that what I’m doing is getting to the heart of something, trying to find something ‘authentic’ – which might be a feeling of the ‘real’ whether that’s in its setting, its thought, its feeling, its people or wherever.
Q: Many of your poems are written from a child’s perspective. Do you draw on memories of your childhood?A: Very nearly always when I say ‘I’, it really is me. On occasions, and usually obviously, the ‘I’ is a joke ‘I’ and couldn’t possibly be me.
Q: Which poets, if any, have influenced your poetry for children?A: It all started with D H Lawrence – that self-questioning voice giving an account of something. Then it was the US poet Carl Sandburg, with his collections of sayings and conversations and jazz poetry. Over the last 30 years it’s my colleagues, people I’ve performed with. They’ve all influenced me and still do: James Berry, John Agard, Jackie Kay, Charles Causley, Grace Nichols, Ian McMillan, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, Benjamin Zephaniah, Judith Nicholls, Julie O’Callaghan, Paul Lyalls, John Mole, Gerard Benson, Wes Magee, Andrew Fusek Peters, John Hegley, Adrian Mitchell, Margot Henderson, Carol Ann Duffy, Pauline Stewart... these are all people I listen to as they’re performing and what they write opens up possibilities in my mind about how to write, or what to write about.

Q: Should we be concerned that so few single poet collections are published for children these days?
A: Yes, there’s something wrong if children only come across poems when they’re themed. I’m think it’s good for children to find poems in different contexts – yes, in anthologies where methods and approaches are contrasted. But it’s also good to engage with the ‘theme’ of a poet’s writing over a period of time. That’s a reminder that it is a real human being, living in a particular place and time who writes. And that is just like you, the child.


  1. ΙΘΑΚΗ

    Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,
    να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
    γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις.
    Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
    τον θυμωμένο Ποσειδώνα μη φοβάσαι,
    τέτοια στον δρόμο σου ποτέ σου δεν θα βρείς,
    αν μέν' η σκέψις σου υψηλή, αν εκλεκτή
    συγκίνησις το πνεύμα και το σώμα σου αγγίζει.
    Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
    τον άγριο Ποσειδώνα δεν θα συναντήσεις,
    αν δεν τους κουβανείς μες στην ψυχή σου,
    αν η ψυχή σου δεν τους στήνει εμπρός σου.

    Να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.
    Πολλά τα καλοκαιρινά πρωϊά να είναι
    που με τι ευχαρίστησι, με τι χαρά
    θα μπαίνεις σε λιμένας πρωτοειδωμένους·
    να σταματήσεις σ' εμπορεία Φοινικικά,
    και τες καλές πραγμάτειες ν' αποκτήσεις,
    σεντέφια και κοράλλια, κεχριμπάρια κ' έβενους,
    και ηδονικά μυρωδικά κάθε λογής,
    όσο μπορείς πιο άφθονα ηδονικά μυρωδικά·
    σε πόλεις Αιγυπτιακές πολλές να πας,
    να μάθεις και να μάθεις απ' τους σπουδασμένους.

    Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
    Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν' ο προορισμός σου.
    Αλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξίδι διόλου.
    Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει·
    και γέρος πια ν' αράξεις στο νησί,
    πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
    μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη.

    Η Ιθάκη σ' έδωσε το ωραίο ταξίδι.
    Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
    Αλλο δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια.

    Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε.
    Ετσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα,
    ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν.

  2. And an English Translation


    When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
    pray that the road is long,
    full of adventure, full of knowledge.
    The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
    the angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
    You will never find such as these on your path,
    if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
    emotion touches your spirit and your body.
    The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
    the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
    if you do not carry them within your soul,
    if your soul does not set them up before you.

    Pray that the road is long.
    That the summer mornings are many, when,
    with such pleasure, with such joy
    you will enter ports seen for the first time;
    stop at Phoenician markets,
    and purchase fine merchandise,
    mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    visit many Egyptian cities,
    to learn and learn from scholars.

    Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
    To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
    But do not hurry the voyage at all.
    It is better to let it last for many years;
    and to anchor at the island when you are old,
    rich with all you have gained on the way,
    not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

    Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
    Without her you would have never set out on the road.
    She has nothing more to give you.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
    Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
    you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

    K. Kavafis

  3. I really like Peter Dixon's 'Oh Bring Back Higher Standards' as it so reminds me of my time at a very stuffy grammar school.

    Oh bring back higher standards –
    the pencil and the cane –
    if we want education then we must have some pain.
    Oh, bring us back all the gone days
    Yes, bring back all the past . . .
    let’s put them all in rows again – so we can see who’s last.

    Let’s label all the good ones
    (the ones like you and me)
    and make them into prefects – like prefects used to be.
    We’ll put them on the honours board
    . . . as honours used to be,
    and write their names in burnished script -
    for all the world to see.
    We’ll have them back in uniform,
    We’ll have them doff their caps,
    And learn what manners really are
    . . . for decent kind of chaps!
    . . . So let’s label all the good ones,
    we’ll call them ‘A’s and ‘B’s-
    and we’ll parcel up the useless ones,
    and call them ‘C’s and ‘D’s.
    . . . We’ll even have an ‘E’ lot!
    . . . an ‘F’ or ‘G’ maybe!!
    . . . so they can know they’re useless,
    . . . and not as good as me.

    For we’ve got to have the stupid –
    And we’ve got to have the poor
    if we don’t have them . . .
    well . . . what are prefects for?

  4. Hi guys. Thanks for stopping by!

    @Yanpol: I love Cafavy and toyed with idea of sharing one of his instead of Joyce. Excellent choice!

    @Tilly: That's a wonderful one and enjoyed reading your post on the event. x

    @CAsdok: Go on... x


Thanks for taking the time to comment!