National Poetry Day – favourite poets

It’s National Poetry Day today and unfortunately I will not have the time to go to either the Poetry Library or the Poetry Cafe. But I wanted to do a quick poll to see who your favourite poets are – if you like poetry at all…

I have far too many favourites, old and new, but my way into poetry is very conventional indeed.

I loved learning poems by heart and reciting them and my first such ‘show’ was Hilaire Belloc’s ‘Matilda told such frightful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes’. Then I went through the obligatory Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and ee cummings (‘anyone lived in a pretty how town…’). I can still recite many of those childhood favourites from memory. And, for some reason, I still remember huge chunks of ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by Tennyson.

Then I discovered the French and German poets (initially somewhat reluctantly, at school): Paul Eluard ‘J’écris ton nom. Liberté.’, Hälfte des Lebens by Hölderlin, Schiller, which led to adolescent exploration and obsession (with Rimbaud and Baudelaire and other bad boys…). In Romania we had to analyse in minute detail the poems of Eminescu, which perhaps led to my feeling I had overdosed on him, especially his epic historical poems, but when I fell in love I could not get enough of the romantic and melodious enchantment of Blaga, Labiș, Nichita Stănescu.

And then I was hooked. But it was the fun children’s poetry which paved the way to John Donne, T. S. Eliot, Rilke, Paul Celan, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Marina Tsvetaeva, Louise Labé  and so many more.

I still love reading poetry out loud for the sheer delight of the sound of it, the way it feels in my mouth. I love listening to it, even when I don’t understand the language. It paints pictures in my head.

Sadly, I have lost my ability to instantly remember any poem I hear a couple of times…

So tell me how you discovered poetry? Did you have to learn poems by heart and recite them at school? Did you have to over-analyse them at school, which destroyed any feeling you might have had for them?

#NationalPoetryDay Let’s Celebrate!

This is shaping up to be a lovely week full of my favourite things: World Ballet Day, World Teachers’ Day and now National Poetry Day here in the UK. Here are a few favourite fragments of poems to celebrate.

About dancing:

I cannot dance upon my Toes—
No Man instructed me—
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,

That had I Ballet knowledge—
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe— (Emily Dickinson)

About teaching:

…such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn. (Howard Nemerov)

Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful to those teachers who shaped me into what I am today (caveat: all mistakes my own, etc. etc.)

From LifeintheItalianHills.com
From LifeintheItalianHills.com

About poetry – well, I can’t stop thinking about this poem today, by Robert Bly:
Oh, on an early morning I think I shall live forever!
I am wrapped in my joyful flesh,
As the grass is wrapped in its clouds of green.

Rising from a bed, where I dreamt
Of long rides past castles and hot coals,
The sun lies happily on my knees;
I have suffered and survived the night,
Bathed in dark water, like any blade of grass.

The strong leaves of the box-elder tree,
Plunging in the wind, call us to disappear
Into the wilds of the universe,
Where we shall sit at the foot of a plant,
And live forever, like dust.

Finally, I leave you with this amazing line from Mahmoud Darwish:

You are reluctant to emerge from the metaphor in case you fall into the well of loneliness.