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Why I do like poetry
Poetry has been put on this great big pedestal. If you don’t like it or don’t understand it or don’t see the point, then you must be a
philistine.  But that is an asinine way of looking at things – not so different to the view here in Australia that if you don’t worship
sport then there must be something lacking in your makeup.
Having said that though, I was very upset by a school report from a teacher who I admired describing me as a philistine. I was
about 12 at the time and determined tp prove that I was not a philistine. The irony was that this teacher  introduced me to the first
poem I ever learnt by heart – Wilfred Owen’s “Exposure”:

“Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us…                                                                                                                      
Wearied , we keep awake because the night is silent…”

Despite starting on a typical all science A level course in the UK in my teens, I gave up chemistry for English literature which was
not considered a smart move by my teachers. From my point of view it was the best move ever. I had a wonderful English teacher
who gave us the means to explore Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats and the 19th century novelists which we were studying and a lifelong love of literature.  Studying Shakespeare, or, more specifically, listening to the plays enacted was the key to understanding. Line by line off the page it can be hard to understand but,
spoken aloud, the sound and the rhythm make the meaning unmistakeable:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death! …”  Macbeth

For me, poetry is a step back into the pre media past before radio and television when people would sit under the stars and have
their imaginations kindled by gifted storytellers and poets.  Tales are more easily remembered when they have the rhythm of a
regular metre and cadence to build excitement and metaphor to create vivid pictures in the mind:

W.B . Yeats :  “the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”, “He knows death to the bone-“,
“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned…….
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Or this gem from Ted Hughes – “The Thought-Fox”:

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clocks loneliness
And the blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement,that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentradedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

I defy anyone who reads not to be grabbed by that or many others in the same collection (The Hawk in the Rain) such as "The

Jaguar"  ("The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun...") or "The Horses" (" The curlew's tear turned its edge on the silence.")

Listen to Seamus Heaney reciting his own version of "Beowulf" but first turn the lights down, pull a blanket around your shoulders and imagine yourself in an Anglo-Saxon camp in the 8th century in the glowing firelight.

William Wordsworth's words composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey on July 13, 1798 must surely strike a chord with all who
gain pleasure or acknowledge the restorative power of the beauty of nature.

The simple pleasure that the song of a Nightingale, the beauty of a Grecian Urn or the bounty of autumn are recorded by John
Keats in language so exultant and memorable that we cannot be surprised that he was not long of this world.

I love poetry because I can read a whole poem, a wonderful distillation of thought and sense and feeling, in just a few minutes. That
suits me fine because I am so often too busy to give the time and concentration to a novel. If Althea has read whole anthologies and is still nonplussed when it comes to poetry, then she should not worry about it - it is just not for her. We all dislike something - its no big deal. Just stick with the things you do like.
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Latest Post: September 2, 2010 at 1:51 PM
Number of posts: 1
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