A coach, an HR business owner, a children’s author and a communications specialist walk into a bar (OK, this blog). They get chatting about poetry with a marketing consultant and an advertising creative. Here are a few of their favourite poems.
And what if poetry puts you off, brings you out in hives? These kind contributors (hearty thanks from me) share a few ideas, too, that may just change your mind… No pressure, just a door pushed ajar ahead of the UK’s National Poetry Day, on 7 October this year. #NationalPoetryDay
Shona Chambers (marketing consultant)
“My favourite poetry? The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Edward Fitzgerald.
I once heard a reading, ‘The moving finger writes, & having writ, moves on’ and had to find out the rest of the poem.
My favourite line is, ‘I came like water, and like wind I go’. it speaks to my minimalist side.
I remember discussing it with my grandmother, so I think of her. Her father was a sea captain and she travelled the world before she was three. She was curious about everything, and passed that on to me.
Poetry isn’t all thees and thous, modern poets are accessible to all.”
And this reviving Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean–
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!
Hilary Fraser Watchman (executive coach)
“I especially like poems that are satisfying to speak aloud. Sometimes by Sheena Pugh is one of those.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
I keep an anthology called The Rattle Bag (edited by the poets Seamus Heaney & Ted Hughes) by my bedside; it has a poem for whatever mood I’m in. The anthology was my mum’s and she marked her favourite poems with clean tissues.
David Whyte is a wonderful poet whose work I often suggest to my clients. He uses metaphors such as pilgrims and references to nature that are recognisable, not abstract or woo-woo and he taps into the deeper thoughts and feelings that we all have but can’t easily name.
He says what I think or feel but in a way I couldn’t have said so well myself. And fundamentally, he creates perspectives on life that are uplifting despite the difficulties and sorrows we encounter.
You can enjoy a poem without understanding it what it’s about. Feel your way in over time, enjoying a poem’s atmosphere, words and images.”
Simon Haslehurst (Amp London)
Simon reminds us that poetry is often fun, can be silly, and is something to enjoy. Sure, many poems are a source of comfort or consolation, and can help us get through the dark night of the soul. Or how about a limerick, those light-hearted poems we may still savour well into adulthood, by Edward Lear?
There was an old man on the Border,
Who lived in the utmost disorder;
He danced with the cat, and made tea in his hat,
Which vexed all the folks on the Border.
We’re likely to encounter the perfectly formed limerick (…) [with] our parents making up limericks on car journeys — Michael Rosen, The Guardian, Nov 2015
>>A previous blog: Father’s Day: four things my dad taught me – by doing them
Fintan O’Toole (The HR Department South London)
“I am second generation member of the Irish diaspora with slender but romantic ties to Erin [a literary name for Ireland].
I have never been, but planned to immediately prior to Covid, to walk the Sligo Way to The Lake Isle of Innisfree, having learned the poem as a child and been inspired by Yeats ever since.
Close your eyes and say quietly and softly, ‘I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore’ (verse 3). Now read the poem!”
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Andrew Marshall (Atlantic Council)
“I am fond of many poets – primarily classic or twentieth century British and American. I am especially fond of Philip Larkin and TS Eliot, because of their mastery of the English language, their style (allusive, literary) and having studied them many years ago.
Four Quartets by Eliot or Whitsun Weddings by Larkin would be on my desert island. I read poetry once a month or so, usually older stuff and am currently rereading Eliot.
We read An Arundel Tomb by Larkin at my wedding; despite Larkin’s sometimes cynical façade he is an old softie really.”
Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,
“If you like words and you like music, you probably like poetry.”
Allison Parkinson (writer & children’s author)
“I have three favourite poems: The Tyger by William Blake, Sea-Fever by John Masefield and What if you fly? by Erin Hanson. I feel they each represent a different part of me.
I’ve loved The Tyger since I was a child. Tigers fascinate me and the words feel magical – like an incantation.
Although a Londoner, I was born in Jersey and Sea-Fever perfectly evokes my intensifying longing for the sea. And as a parent, the beautiful simplicity of What if you fly? is, for me, a powerful message of hope and encouragement to my daughters.”
There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
“Just go with your gut and you’ll be drawn to words that will feel magical to you.”
(Sources: Poetry Foundation; poets.org (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam); goodreads.com (What if you fly?) Image credits: Jr Korpa on Unsplash; Valiphotos, Prawny, andibreit on Pixabay; Brian McGee on Instagram [artist unknown])
*What’s your own favourite poem, poet or poetry book?
Or perhaps something here has caught your eye or ear?
Please add a comment below, I’ll be sure to reply.*