It's no secret that we're big fans of poetry on this blog. We write it, we read it, we buy it. Each of us has an appreciation for different genres and styles, but we all agree that poetry is pretty bloody fantastic. This week, we're sharing our personal favourite poems with you. From a peaceful, wintery moment to a lovers' risqué getaway, read on to find out what each of us chose and why...
I came to poetry quite late; I didn’t really read poetry for pleasure until I was in my thirties, mainly because up to then I was far too impatient to sit down and give a poem the time it needed to mean something to me.
Life moved on, and I slowed down, and now poetry has become one of the greatest comforts of my life. No matter what the mood; no matter what the season; no matter what the need, there is a poem out there that will act as a mirror, or as a friendly shoulder.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost isn’t a complicated poem, but it beguiles me. It’s one I find I turn to when the year rolls around to November, and the stress of Christmas and the year-end starts to take its toll. The decision of the speaker to find time to stop and take in the beauty of his natural surroundings; just to revel in the quiet and cold, and take a breath, serves as a reminder of how essential it is to do just that when the pressures of life get too much.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Frost’s depiction of the “lovely, dark and deep” woods is evocative in its simplicity, and immediately propels me to the snow-muffled evenings of winter, when the world seems to be the same as it has ever been, and one’s presence in it feels like a gift. I find the soft, repetitive rhythm meditative, almost hypnotic.
The real emotional punch, though, can be found in the final three lines:
“but I have promises to keep
and miles to go before I sleep
and miles to go before I sleep”
The repetition of the final lines speaks to me of the relentlessness of modern life; the obligations and duties we can all feel burdened by at one time or another – particularly towards Christmas. Frost’s poem serves as a reminder to stop, breathe, and appreciate the beauty of life – perhaps by reading some poetry?
I'm a bit of a poetry philistine. I like narrative poetry, such as you might find in a Roald Dahl or Tolkien book and I like poetry which is unpretentious in nature, emotive but in largely straightforward language. I like poetry that strikes a personal chord with me. And that’s the operative word: ‘Like’. I don’t appreciate poetry, I like it. Or I don’t.
Some of my favourite poetry has been written by my colleagues here. Nic and Harrison are very talented with dialect, regional flavour and childhood memories, and I've loved Stacy's 39 since the first time I heard it. I also enjoy the short poetry of Blake Auden, which is brief, plainly written and resonant.
Probably my favourite poem is by another Auden - W. H. Auden. It’s not a niche choice but I’ve always loved how Auden’s words can bring an echo of bittersweet grief to the surface.
By W.H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Funeral Blues is very well known, having been made famous by John Hannah’s raw, evocative performance in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but the fact that it’s so instantly recognisable hasn’t diluted the power of Auden’s work; if anything, this poem presents an incredible feeling of collective empathy. Though it encapsulates the loneliness, isolation and silence of loss, you can’t help but feel that your grief is understood. When you read this poem, you feel as though you stand in solidarity with every other person who has been touched by loss. That’s a beautiful power.
It was almost impossible to choose a poem for this. I'm a big lover of poetry and I always have been, so narrowing my favourites down to just one was a struggle. Ultimately, I settled on In Paris With You by James Fenton because it's one that has always stuck in my brain.
I first read this at GCSE, when I was supposed to be studying the war section of a poetry anthology. Being an ultra poetry nerd, I inhaled the entire anthology and found this in the romance section. I kept returning to the page it was on, to re-read it over and over when I should have been reading war poetry. I love the musicality of the stanzas, the ambiguity of the characters / narrators intentions and the way Fenton communicates that Paris can make anything romantic, even crumbly, sleazy hotel rooms.
In Paris With You
By James Fenton
Don't talk to me of love. I've had an earful
And I get tearful when I've downed a drink or two.
I'm one of your talking wounded.
I'm a hostage. I'm maroonded.
But I'm in Paris with you.
Yes I'm angry at the way I've been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess I've been through.
I admit I'm on the rebound
And I don't care where are we bound.
I'm in Paris with you.
Any time I talk about this poem with someone else who has read it, there always ends up being a debate about whether he was in love and wouldn't admit it, or using the woman for nefarious gratification. It's a great point of conversation and I really enjoy seeing what other people think his intentions were. Personally, I think he was in denial of his feelings!
In Paris With You is a wonderfully written, fun poem. It isn't overly serious, it's just a glimpse at the relationship between two lovers. If you haven't read it yet, you should!
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Cover image by Nick Fewings via Unsplash