Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
The first time I realised people attached significance to poetry, other than it being something that just (usually) rhymed, was when at about 13 years old, I read (and then re-read a million times because I became slightly obsessed) M. E. Kerr’s I Stay Near You. Her first protagonist, the ugly-duckling-turned-swan Mildred Cone, falls in love with a poem she studies in class, a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Even now, all these years later, I can still remember my feverish attempts to find this poem in the pre-Google era.
Since then, I have read and loved many, many other poems. Usually they’re ones that I’ve explored in classes with students. I generally turn to novels when I have time to read, but there’s nothing quite like a brilliantly-constructed poetic piece to make you see something anew or to make you an emotional mess. I’m glad we have a ‘special’ day for poetry – it reminds me to step back and re-read some of the poems I have loved.
Because it’s National Poetry Day, I have indulged myself by listing just a few of my all-time favourites (in no particular order):
John Keats – On First Reading Chapman’s Homer
Lord Byron – She Walks in Beauty
Carol Ann Duffy – In Mrs Tilscher’s Class; Last Post
Lawrence Ferlinghetti – A Coney Island of the Mind
Adam Foulds – The Broken Word
Christopher Reid – A Scattering
Emily Dickinson – Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Wilfred Owen – Futility
Allan Ginsberg – Howl
Sylvia Plath – You’re
I’d love to know what other readers have enjoyed – please let me know what else I should read!