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Poems you have enjoyed

Guest Chris Sweeney

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Of course there are a whole lot of rather less serious poems - this one is dedicated to you historians......

"My teacher wasn't half as nice as yours seems to be.

His name was Mister Unsworth and he taught us history.

And when you didn't know a date he'd get you by the ear

And start to twist while you sat there quite paralysed with fear.

He'd twist and twist and twist your ear and twist it more and more.

Until at last the ear came off and landed on the floor.

Our class was full of one-eared boys. I'm certain there were eight.

Who'd had them twisted off because they didn't know a date.

So let us now praise teachers who today are all so fine

And yours in particular is totally divine."

Thanks to Roald Dahl for that one :lol:

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What poems have you enjoyed; albeit nursery rhymes or classics, and why?  (I bet most of us remember at least one from our childhood!)


Christine asked me to post this poem here. This is my first post to the forum, and it seems appropriate. I found the poem while browsing for the meaning of the word secheresse. It was a musical instruction on my son's piece of Bach piano music: egal et secheresse. I guessed "equal and dry" none too helpfully. Anyway, here's the poem; it's rather beautiful:

Stillness. Beauty.

How can such

Noble grace

Bring such

Lonely endings?

Bestowed the honour

Of the world in

A watchglass

Shapeless arms

Steal a cry and

I weep.

Abandoning myself to

The will of the tide

I find my soul screaming

For secheresse

And my throat grows hoarse

As always.

Nothing left but

Ghastly wails.

Mimicked by

The waves

I stare at the

Motionless surface

So grey

A reflection of pain

Greets my streaming eyes

Is that what I've become?

Throw back my head

Laugh painful sobs

In joy.

Abandoning myself to the will

Of the tide

I find myself screaming

For secheresse

And my throat grows hoarse as always

As always.

You can find the original at: http://www.angelfire.com/de3/stopaskingwhy/stillnes.htm; I cannot find the poet's name.


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I love poetry - a great poem CAN change your life! I'm a big Frost fan, and use his poem "Design" whenever I teach the impact of Darwinism on human thought. In my copy of "Complete Poems.." it is on the facing page from "On a Bird Singing in its Sleep" - which I also use.

I just got a book entitled "10 Poems that can change your life". Although I don't "like" all the poems in the book, they're all worth a read. I especially found Pablo Neruda's poem "Shoes" wonderful.

I also have a video of Bill Moyers series on poetry - "Fooling with Words". I'll take a look at it when the dust settles around here - maybe New Years! There's a tremendous poem read on that tape which always brings me to tears, by a poet whose name I can't recall. His lover is dying (I suppose of AIDS...the poet is gay) and wants a dog. Maybe some of you know it...

"I Saw the Number '5' in Gold" is another great one. And by the way, "Love that Dog" is one great book about the power of art (in this case, poetry) to heal.

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Replace "Clifton" with "Dartford" in this one and you'll get my drift :lol:


I’m here at Clifton, grinding at the mill

My feet for thrice nine barren years have trod;

But there are rocks and waves at Scarlett still,

And gorse runs riot in Glen Chass—thank God!

Alert, I seek exactitude of rule,

I step, and square my shoulders with the squad;

But there are blaeberries on old Barrule,

And Langness has its heather still—thank God!

There is no silence here : the truculent quack

Insists with acrid shriek my ears to prod,

And, if I stop them, fumes ; but there’s no lack

Of silence still on Carraghyn—thank God!

Pragmatic fibs surround my soul, and bate it

With measured phrase, that asks the assenting nod;

I rise, and say the bitter thing, and hate it—

But Wordsworth’s castle’s still at Peel—thank God!

O broken life ! O wretched bits of being,

Unrhythrnic, patched, the even and the odd!

But Bradda still has lichens worth the seeing,

Thank God, Thank God!

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Well, an admission from the outset: I'm a history teacher and have been deeply influenced by some of the poetry of the First World War. Having visited the battlefields of the Great War on many occasions, they never fail to leave an indelible mark on me.

No doubt a few of you will be familiar with the story of Lieutenant Noel Hodgson of the 1st Devonshire Regiment who at the age of 23 wrote his last poem before attacking at Mametz on the Somme. Hodgson predicted his own death at the hands of a German machine gun situated in a nearby cemetery. He is buried alongside many of his fallen comrades at The Devonshire Cemetery at Mansel Copse, including his superior, Captain Duncan Martin. Martin was 30 years old when he led his men into battle, but he too feared the destructive capacity of that same German machine gun. He even made a plasticine model of the area and showed it to his superiors prior to the attack in an attempt to get them to call off the offensive. I've been to that cemetery and listened to Hodgson's poem, 'Before Action', being read out by one of my colleagues, as we stood beside his grave. This episode really brought home to me that the soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict were real people and made me feel very humble indeed.

BEFORE ACTION by Noel Hodgson

By all the glories of the day

And the cool evening's benison,

By the last sunset touch that lay

Upon the hills when day was done,

By beauty lavishly outpoured

And blessings carelessly received,

By all the days that I have lived

Make me a soldier, Lord.

By all of all man's hopes and fears,

And all the wonders poets sing,

The laughter of unclouded years,

And every sad and lovely thing;

By the romantic ages stored

With high endeavour that was his

By all his mad catastrophes

Make me a man, O Lord.

I, that on my familiar hill

Saw with uncomprehending eyes

A hundred of They sunsets spill

Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,

Ere the sun swings his noonday sword

Must say good-bye to all of this;--

By all delights that I shall miss,

Help me to die, O Lord.

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Chris Sweeney makes the point that many secondary school pupils "actively dislike" poetry. Many adults ( particularly those men who regard poetry as a "cissy" activity) have an antipathy to poetry. This may have something to do with the perception that poetry is "difficult", or as Chris puts it, less "accessible" than prose. It could also be associated with a reluctance to deal with personal feelings or emotions - many people feel awkward and embarrassed when a person shares their innermost feelings with them. As a teenager, I shared this antipathy towards poetry, but ironically it was a poem that attacked the whole notion of poetry that made me think again. This poem was "Poetry" by William Wantling ( 1932-1974 ). William Wantling was a Korean War veteran who became dependant on drugs after being given morphine to treat severe burns received in combat. As a result of his heroin addiction, Wantling served 5 years in San Quentin prison. The following poem, therefore, comes as much from his personal experience as a prison inmate as his creativity as a poet. (If you are upset by foul language and swearing, read no further - I do not want to offend anyone, but I feel the power of the poem would be weakened if it was censored ).


I've got to be honest. I can
make good word music and rhyme

at the right times and fit words
together to give people pleasure

and even sometimes take their
breath away - but it always

somehow turns out kind of phoney.
Consonance and assonance and inner

rhyme won't make up for the fact
that I can't figure out how to get

down on paper the real or the true
which we call life. Like the other

day. The otherday I was walking
on the lower exercise yard here

at San Quentin and this cat called
Turk came up to a friend of mine

and said Ernie, I hear you're
shooting on my kid. And Ernie

told him So what punk? and Turk
pulled out his stuff and shanked

Ernie in the gut only Ernie had a
metal tray in his shirt. Turk's

shank bounced right off him and
Ernie pulled his stuff out and of

course Turk didn't have a tray and
caught it dead in the chest, a bad

one, and the blood that came to his
lips was a bright pink, lung blood,

and he just laid down in the grass
and said xxxx. Sheeit.
. And he laughed a long
time, softly, until he died. Now

what could consonance or assonance or
even rhyme do to something like that ?

William Wantling

If you would like to read a short account of Wantling's life and his poetry see the site at

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Guest Chris Sweeney

Can we have this thread as a sticky or something? I would like it to be an on-going thing for the life of this Board (or a year or two, at least).

Positive male role models for poetry are in such short supply that I feel privileged to read the contributions here from men - and a special thanx to Steve, Chris, John, Andy and David. [and yes, Graham - are not the Irish something? As my Eire-hubby will stand testimony!)

I hope folk keep posting them. (Thanks to the sisterhood too as represented by Angie , eh?)

Here is an unusual poem that completely lowers the tone - but maybe a sense of humour matters also, even among serious professional- or don't you agree?:

The Lollipop-lady’s Dirge

Does anyone think of me, here in the snow,

Doing my duty so brave and so true,

Minding the traffic and trying to feel noble

While my feet turn to ice and my nose goes blue?

I ask no reward (except wages, of course),

For I have to admit, though I don’t think I should,

That it isn’t as if I was dragged here by force.

But I would like you sometimes to think of me,

And though I’d much rather a hot cup of tea,

I’ll be glad to make do with your sympathy.

It puzzles me sometimes to know why I do it:

The mothers keep asking, and what can I say?

Do I plead I’m insane or deprived - or what -

For standing out here on such a cold day?

The children are sweet (and the money’s quite nice,

though it doesn’t explain why I do it, at all).

I meet lots of people (I know that’s quite pleasant);

I shout at the lorries which helps me keep warm -

but it doesn’t explain why each day I quite happily

Drag myself out here to stand in the storm.

I’ve been a bank-clerk, a shop girl, a cleaner,

A wonderful mother, a fairly good wife.

I’ve got good prospects: I’m bright and I’m willing

So I can look forward towards a good life.

I’m not lacking in courage, the world is my oyster,

And if you don’t mind, I think I’m quite nice.

But I can’t understand it - it’s driving me dotty

For there’s something I really would like to know:

Can you teachers tell me from inside your warm rooms

Why on earth it’s ME standing out in the snow!

Christine Sweeney: Lollipop-lady extraordinaire from September 1981-Jan 1983 – daydreaming of my ambition to become a teacher instead! (And then I did.)

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Her's another of the Australian Les Murray's that might appeal to the boys (or the boys in the men!+

The Harleys

Blats booted to blatant

dubbing the avenue dire

with rubbings of Sveinn Forkbeard

leading a black squall of Harleys

with Moe Snow-Whitebeard and

Possum Brushbeard and their ladies

and, sphincter-lipped, gunning,

massed in leather muscle on a run,

on a roll, Santas from Hell

like a whole shoal leaning

wide wristed, their tautness stable

in fluency, fast streetscape dwindling,

all riding astride, on the outside

of sleek grunt vehicles, woman-clung,

forty years on from Marlon.


Conscious and Verbal, 1999

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  • 3 years later...

If I had to choose only one poem, it would be one of Robert Frost's and most probably I'd say, The Road Not Taken. It is the poem that has the most influence on me. I also like Coleridge, Tennyson, Hardy, Plath, H.D. and Wordsworth's poems.

And...of course, the wonderful Annabell Lee by Poe.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

two roads diverged in a wood, and I --

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

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Gacela of the Dark Death

by Federico García Lorca

I want to sleep the dream of the apples,

to withdraw from the tumult of cemetries.

I want to sleep the dream of that child

who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

I don't want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood,

that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water.

I don't want to learn of the tortures of the grass,

nor of the moon with a serpent's mouth

that labors before dawn.

I want to sleep awhile,

awhile, a minute, a century;

but all must know that I have not died;

that there is a stable of gold in my lips;

that I am the small friend of the West wing;

that I am the intense shadows of my tears.

Cover me at dawn with a veil,

because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me,

and wet with hard water my shoes

so that the pincers of the scorpion slide.

For I want to sleep the dream of the apples,

to learn a lament that will cleanse me to earth;

for I want to live with that dark child

who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

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JFK had Robert Frost read a poem at his inaguration, a tradition that I don't believe has been kept by subsequent presidents.

Frost was pretty old at the time, and I don't think you could understand him, as it was really cold, freezing weather and he was an old man, but the idea of having a poet laurient has been lost in the midest. (I just made that word up).

America's great poets begin earlier, but Walt Whitman really put poets on the map, and was one of the first poets I can imagine who actually made a living off of his work, without having to teach. Leaves of Grass set the tone for generations of poets to come, forgoing the rhime and creating a new beat and setting the iAmerican improvisional spirit loose upon the world.

Whitman, who happens to be from my hometown of Camden, New Jersey, was later superseeded by Alan Ginsberg, whose Howl! actually made mainstream media for being banned, a sure measure of greatness.

Personally, I was struck by WBY's The Second Coming, and later got wrapped up in a malstroms that you must survive to really understand the poem.

I thought Yeats the Ultimate Perfect Genius who understood everything, and after taking an Irish literature course at University of Dayton (Ohio), under Prof. O'Donnell, I ventured to Yeat's grave in Sligo, under Ben Bulben, in the old church yard, where his stone reads: Cast a cold eye on life on death, horseman pass by.

I had earlier been to Trinity College, Dublin, where I went to the library to view the Book of Kells, where they turn one page a day, and some of Yeat's original hand written work.

Shocked, and dismayed I was, of seeing crossed out words and entire lines, and editing marks that made me realize that Yeats, the Irish genius, was not perfect.

I later got a hoot out of Woody Allen's New Yorker column called The Irish Genius, which mimics Yeats very well.

Besides Prof. O'Donnell, the only other person I knew who made a living writing poetry was Pete Dunn, at Stockton College (NJ), who recently won a Pulitizer (Good show Peter).

Then there's this Haiku poet from Camden, whose name escapes me at the moment, but whose burried near Whitman's tomb (at Harleigh),

a podium

facing the lake,

his epitat.

I would say that two of the greatest poets writing in the English language and living today are Bob Dylan (heir to Whitman and Ginsberg), and Bruce Springsteen.

While JFK took a shine to Two Roads Robert Frost, I shudder to think of who Bush would chose to be poet laurient, an oppointed position, if he had been inclined to do so.


Edited by William Kelly
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The glory I betrayed is dormant now

Frozen in the muscle & sinew & bone

Of some John Doe no family will ever be able

To claim back from his pauper’s grave

The glory I betrayed is like the graffiti

On the wall being scrubbed away by new-age

Chemical agents & there will be no trace left

Though the grime behind the stain shall remain

The glory I betrayed was the glory

Of the chase

of wine & women

Not Marx & Lenin

The glory I betrayed is beyond my means;

Hoisted on a mast & bound

For the lands of Lost Property

& Complaints

The glory I betrayed is a flesh-wound

Self-inflicted in child’s play

To a backdrop

Of smoky jazz

The glory I betrayed was not sanctioned

By Country Club members quaffing bonded Scotch

It was dirty/beautiful schoolyard talk;

Attempts to interpret the Dream Seas secrets

As they were illuminated briefly by lightning

The glory I betrayed was in forgetting about

Peter pan & Magic, but there was no

Choice the inner-voice cries,

For the defence never rests

The glory I betrayed in violent overthrow

Of all systems of denial

As specified in the Official Handbook

Of backsliders

But despite all this…

Despite all this, I am not beyond consolation.

You see comrades, I know the revolution is coming…

As it always was… as it always will be

Joe Darcy

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James Douglas, in JFK and the Unspeakable, says that he began correspondence with Trapist monk Thomas Merton after reading a poem by Merton in Maryknoll Magazine.

Both James Jesus Angleton and Eugene McCarthy were poets, and JFK particularly liked "Rendezvous, by American Alan Seeger, a Harvard man who joined the French Foreign Legion and was killed in France during WWI.

Douglas writes, JFK "...recited 'Rendezvous' to Jacqueline in 1953 their first night home in Hyannis after their honeymoon. She memorized the poem, and recited it back to him over the years. In the fall of 1963, Jackie taught the words of the poem to their five-year-old daughter, Caroline. It was Caroline who then gave 'Rendezvous' its most haunting rendition."

"On the morning of October 5, 1963, President Kennedy was meeting with his National Security Council in the White House Rose Garden. Caroline suddenly appeared at her father's side. She said she wanted to tell him something. He tried to divert her attention while the meeting continued. Carolin persisted. The president smiled and turned his full attention to his daughter. He told her to go ahead. While the members of the National Security Council sat and watched, Caroline looked into her father's eyes and said:

I have a rendezvous with Death

At some disputed barricade,

When Spring comes back with rustling shade

And apple-blossoms fill the air -

I have a rendezvous with Death

When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand

And lead me into his dark land

And close my eyes and quench my breath -

It may be I shall pass him still.

I have a rendezvous with Death

On some scarred slope of battered hill,

When Spring comes round again this year

And the first meadow flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep

Pillowed in silk and scented down,

Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,

Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,

Where hushed awakenings are dear...

But I've a rendezvous with Death

At midnight in some flaming town,

When Spring trips north again this year,

And I to my pledged word am true,

I shall not fail that rendezvous.

"After Caroline said the poem's final word, 'redndezvous,' Kennedy's national security advisors sat in stunned silence. One of them, describing the scene three decades later, said the bond beteen father and daughter was such that 'it was as if there was 'an inner music' he was trying to teach her."

(p. 224-225)

It's more like what she was trying to teach him - BK

Edited by William Kelly
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  • 8 months later...

The Rhodora

On being asked, whence is the flower.

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,

I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,

Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,

To please the desert and the sluggish brook.

The purple petals fallen in the pool

Made the black water with their beauty gay;

Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,

And court the flower that cheapens his array.

Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why

This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,

Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,

Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;

Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!

I never thought to ask; I never knew;

But in my simple ignorance suppose

The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.

R.W. Emerson

Edited by Cigdem Göle
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John Lennon had 2 books of poetry published. In one of them he had a poem called "Our Dad."

It wasn't long before old Dad

got cumbersome, a drag.

He seemed to get the message

and began to pack his bag...

...What luck, we'll have a party

inviting all our friend.

We've only one but she's a laugh,

she let's us all attend.


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