“If you like words and you like music, you probably like poetry”

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. 

Image of a forest in an interview by Brian McGee

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.

>>Another blog: St Patrick (diplomat, snake chaser) – and the gifts of language from Ireland

>>>>>

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)

A tiger in a blog about poetry

“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.*

National Poetry Day

8 comments on ““If you like words and you like music, you probably like poetry”

    • Brian McGee on

      Thanks a lot for your comment, Shona, and for contributing to this blog. Yes, so many poems and poets to discover. No bad thing!

      Reply
  1. Ross John Michael Larsen on

    Really great and relaxing read, especially amid all the stuff on LinkedIn about ETFs (exchange traded funds) and cryptocurrencies. I chose not to submit my own because I fear it would throw into sharp relief my lack of knowledge of who actually wrote what. But I’ve always been a close lyric listener and probably picked up most of my favorite lines from album covers. No embarrassment in that though.

    Now from his pocket quickly flashes
    The crayon on the wall it slashes
    Deep upon the advertising
    A single-worded poem
    Comprised of four letters

    Paul Simon, 1968

    Reply
    • Brian McGee on

      Very kind of you to say that about the blog, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Yes, poetry aplenty in song lyrics, no doubt about that. Lyricists are most talented and creative writers…

      Reply
  2. Edward Nightingale on

    How satisfying – that I know almost all of the, admittedly famous, poems mentioned!

    I too love Fitzgerald’s ‘translation’ of Omar Khayyam; almost every line has a punch, a sympathetic one, though I would have picked the line before (or after) the one chosen above:
    “I sometimes think that never grows so red
    The Rose, as where some ancient Caesar bled”
    — from a gardening point of view, it is a certainty.

    It is interesting that that contributor associates this with her granny, and the sea, while another picks Masefield’s ‘Sea-fever’, which I heartily endorse. Indeed, it is regrettable that Masefield has fallen from favour these last years.

    If I were to hope that anyone would read, and enjoy, one poem, it would be Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’. Only recently did I come across Richard Burton reciting this, so I would hope also that it was first read, then listened to. Having known it since childhood, I still got much that was new hearing it.

    I have gone on rather long, but as you mentioned fun, and silliness, perhaps also this by Hilaire Belloc, ‘On a General Election’:

    “The accursed power which stands on privilege
    (And goes with Women and Champagne and Bridge)
    Broke – And Democracy resumed her reign
    (Which goes with Bridge and Women and Champagne.)”

    Reply
    • Brian McGee on

      Thanks very much for this detailed comment and the recommendations of other poems. It’s kind of you to go to all that time and trouble. Glad to hear that you enjoyed the blog!

      Reply
  3. Mclean on

    What a marvelous read this blog is indeed. Apart from the classics already cited here, l always have at hand a book I bought on Portibello Road in 1978: ‘The Collected Poems of Sarah Churchill,’ first published by Leslie Frewin of London in 1966 with a second and third edition in 1969 and 1974. Truly a poem for every mood and occasion.

    The first and second verse of Sarah Churchill’s poem entitled ‘The Weary Heart’:

    I could be happy, if my heart could rest
    As lightly as my head, upon your breast;
    I could be happy, if my heart could say
    This is my journey’s end; here will I stay
    I could be happy, if indeed I knew
    Whatever stormy path, the last, was you;
    This would be happiness if this were so,
    And all of heaven, that I’d ask to know.

    For this is the dream all humans dream
    There is no heart so base
    That does not in the darkness grope
    Towards this fevered and elusive hope.
    The smile upon this face
    These eyes that shine so bright,
    No love so poor it does not dream
    ´Tis not a mirage of the night,
    It is at last the harbour’s beam.

    Happy birthday Brian, keep enthralling us!

    Reply
    • Brian McGee on

      What a lovely, detailed comment. Many thanks Alison, it’s very kind of you to go to so much trouble. Sounds like quite a book — a boon companion, isn’t that the term?

      Reply

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.