Thursday 19 March 2009

Poetry Please

My book group always has discussion points separate to the discussion of the book in question (favourite hero in literature; books which evoke place; most overrated books - those sort of things) and yesterday we had the simple topic 'favourite poetry'.

And I always hit a bit of an obstacle.

There are some poems I love - a while ago I compiled a favourite eight for my friend Barbara, which I'll share sometime if I can remember - but, aside from a small selection, poetry usually leaves me cold. Perhaps because I read quite fast, and have to really slow myself down for poetry? Pe
rhaps because I nearly went mad trying to read The Faerie Queene? I don't know. But I'd be happy to hear about your favourite poetry, and maybe put me back on the straight and narrow.

But I will also take a leaf out of Becca's book, and give a poem of the day - this battles out with some AA Milne, Psalm 51 and a sonnet or two of Shakespeare's, for my favourite poem. So atmospheric, so chilling.
(the image from this link, was a flickr image intended for the poem)


by: Walter de la Mare

      'IS there anybody there?' said the Traveller,
      Knocking on the moonlit door;
      And his horse in the silence champ'd the grasses
      Of the forest's ferny floor:
      And a bird flew up out of the turret,
      Above the Traveller's head:
      And he smote upon the door again a second time;
      'Is there anybody there?' he said.
      But no one descended to the Traveller;
      No head from the leaf-fringed sill
      Lean'd over and look'd into his grey eyes,
      Where he stood perplex'd and still.
      But only a host of phantom listeners
      That dwelt in the lone house then
      Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
      To that voice from the world of men:
      Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
      That goes down to the empty hall,
      Hearkening in an air stirr'd and shaken
      By the lonely Traveller's call.
      And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
      Their stillness answering his cry,
      While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
      'Neath the starr'd and leafy sky;
      For he suddenly smote on the door, even
      Louder, and lifted his head:--
      'Tell them I came, and no one answer'd,
      That I kept my word,' he said.
      Never the least stir made the listeners,
      Though every word he spake
      Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
      From the one man left awake:
      Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
      And the sound of iron on stone,
      And how the silence surged softly backward,
      When the plunging hoofs were gone.


  1. my favourite poem - so clever. Look at how the sibilent Silence Surged Softly backward in the last but one line and the contrast of the hard P of plunging - love it.

  2. My favourite Wyatt poem, and one of my favourite poems ever:

    'Whoso list to hunt? I know where is an hind,
    But as for me, alas ! I may no more,
    The vain travail hath wearied me so sore ;
    I am of them that furthest come behind.
    Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
    Draw from the deer ; but as she fleeth afore
    Fainting I follow ; I leave off therefore,
    Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
    Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt
    As well as I, may spend his time in vain !
    And graven with diamonds in letters plain,
    There is written her fair neck round about ;
    'Noli me tangere ; for Cæsar's I am,
    And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.'


  3. I'm going to follow your example and post a poem tommorrow. Make sure you read it! We'll convert you to reading poetry yet.

  4. I'm very fond of some of the fragments of Sappho's poetry and weep at what was lost and destroyed. I suspect these would take you about a millisecond to read at your normal pace!

  5. My comment turned into a blog entry!

  6. White, Straight Male in a “Feminist’s” World
    John Maszka

    Once again, she ignores me—calling on everyone else, just not me.
    She waits for someone else to speak…Anyone at all; as long as they’re female or gay or a different color than me. Even when she acknowledges me, she tells me to wait and then never allows me to speak.
    I don’t know why I even try.
    I’m invisible and yet still, she targets me with isolation.
    She’s obviously very angry,
    Her passive-aggression gives her away.
    “Did you have your hand up?” She asks the others but never me.
    “Do you have something to add?” Words I’ll never hear.
    Not here anyway.
    My opinion is not welcome.
    My offense has nothing to do with what I’ve done, and everything to do with what I am.
    I’m a white male—
    And heterosexual too!
    I might as well be a leper!
    Ostracized by the “feminist” who claims to champion the unempowered;
    but she uses her position of power to oppress and silence.
    Her thin veil of hypocrisy, yellow like her teeth, barely conceals her cowardice.
    Are you the “son of a Swan?”
    or the abandoned offspring of a harpy?
    The goddess Diana resents your name.
    You preach about ethics, but look what you do.
    You’re not a feminist, you’re a liar—and the worst kind…
    Pretending to be a victim as you wipe the blood from your lips.

  7. I am not a big fan of poems and I dont know why! It's an odd one. I think it is something I should try and change!

    Oh and you'll be pleased to know I got both the Alice books in one edition from a charity shop... from 1920! I wonder how many people have read it before me????

  8. NOSTALGIA, by Billy Collins

    Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
    You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
    and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
    the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
    Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
    and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow."
    Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

    Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
    marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
    of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
    Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
    while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
    We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
    These days language seems transparent a badly broken code.

    The 1790's will never come again. Childhood was big.
    People would take walks to the very tops of hills
    and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
    Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
    We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
    It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

    I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
    Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
    And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
    time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
    or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
    recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
    berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

    Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
    I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
    and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
    flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
    and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

    As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
    letting my memory rush over them like water
    rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
    I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
    where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
    a dance whose name we can only guess.

  9. Try Robert Herrick !

  10. I recently rediscovered Robert Service and Songs of the Sourdough. His biographer wrote, "words were his lifelong passion ... they danced their best on the wide white stage of the Canadian North"


I've now moved to, and all my old posts are over there too - do come and say hello :)

I probably won't see your comment here, I'm afraid, but all my archive posts can also be found at