April is national poetry month in the USA and Canada, and to celebrate, Erotic Horizon has sent a call out to us bloggers to do a post either about our favourite poet, poetry or to write our own.
Now, I'm no poet, although like many creative people, I did produce some really dreadful, heart-wrenching stuff during my teenage years. I'm also not much of a poem lover. Years of an English degree and forcing bored teens to study poetry can pretty much kill anyone's love of the form. However, I can appreciate it when I see it, understand the beauty in condensing emotion into a few tightly packed phrases.
When I saw EH's post, at first thought I wouldn't be able to think of a favourite poem. I have favourite poets, whose books I will occasionally skim but I was sure I wouldn't be able to identify a single poem that stood out for me.
Well, I was wrong, because the more I thought about it, three poems sprang quite easily to mind. The first one is The Passionate Shepherd to His Love which I discovered when I was studying English at university. Written during the Elizabethan period, at first glance it's a very romantic poem, but I think it's also mocking the rural idyll that many city dwellers had for the countryside as well as being a bit naughty for its time as the shepherd isn't asking for marriage, but rather for his love to give up her virginal ways and move in with him.
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of th' purest gold;
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.
The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
Let's move on a few hundred years now, to the 1930s. I studied the literature of the 1930s at uni, and the next poem, The Pylons by Stephen Spender, has stayed with me long after I've forgotten the poems by WH Auden. It seems to sum up the bright hopefulness that many young people had about the onset of technology, especially as Britain began the slow process of electrification. Nowadays it seems quite odd that Spender would have been so excited about electrical pylons that he wrote a poem about it, but at the time these eyesores represented the dawning of a new electrical age and with it, progress.
The Pylons by Stephen Spender
The secret of these hills was stone, and cottages
Of that stone made,
And crumbling roads
That turned on sudden hidden villages.
Now over these small hills, they have built the concrete
That trails black wire;
Pylons, those pillars
Bare like nude giant girls that have no secret.
The valley with its gilt and evening look
And the green chestnut
Of customary root,
Are mocked dry like the parched bed of a brook.
But far above and far as sight endures
Like whips of anger
With lightning's danger
There runs the quick perspective of the future.
This dwarfs our emerald country by its trek
So tall with prophecy:
Dreaming of cities
Where often clouds shall lean their swan-white neck.
Finally, onto Sparrow by Scots poet Norman MacCaig. This was my favourite poem as a young teen. I love sparrows and would spend ages looking out of my bedroom window at them flying and chattering in my back garden at home. There was a scare a few years ago when the sparrow numbers began to dwindle. The horrid magpies were on the increase and they would invade the sparrows' nests and eat the eggs before they hatched. Thankfully sparrows seem to be on the increase again. This poem captures the plain little birds perfectly.
Sparrow by Norman MacCaig
He’s no artist.
dowdy than gaudy.
And his nest – that blackbird, writing
pretty scrolls on the air with the gold nib of his beak
would call it a slum.
To stalk solitary on lawns,
to sing solitary in midnight trees,
to glide solitary over grey atlantics-
not for him: he’d rather
a punch up in a gutter.
He carries what learning he has
lightly – it is, in fact, based only
on the usefulness whose result
is survival. A proletarian bird.
But when winter soft-shoes in
and these other birds -
ballet dancers, musicians, architects-
die in the snow
and freeze to branches,
watch him happily flying
on the O-levels and A-levels
of the air.
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading some of my favourite poems. Why don't you join in too and post some of yours. Link back to EH's blog and we'll all get to see them.