My poetic heroes

Roger McGough. Brian Patten. T.S. Eliot. Adrian Mitchell. Robert Graves. Rupert Brooke. And did I mention T.S. Eliot?

What was this straight-seeming chap doing shaking the foundations of poetry; re-making it? He looked like a bank manager, for goodness’ sake. (Hey, fellow pedants, check out the discussions on the web about that apostrophe.)

As usual, I don’t know enough about it. I’m probably talking rubbish. Who cares? It’s my right to write rubbish and your right to ignore it.

But, T.S. Eliot….. “I grow old…. I grow old/ I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.” Just read it. Don’t try to ‘understand’ it.



I Have It By Heart

Learning poetry by heart has, it seems to me, often been promoted as A GOOD THING. At the time of writing, I have no firm opinion about whether or not it should feature in my proposals for an alternative education system.

I don’t remember ever being made to learn poetry by heart. I did learn chunks of Browning for quotation in exams. Now whenever I re-read Browning (yes, I really sometimes do) I realise I often learnt it wrong.

Some poetry has just stuck with me because I like it, and because I read it so much I decided I wanted to make sure I had it accurately in my head. Even then, I have to occasionally go back and refresh my memory.

Most recently, I’ve checked up on ‘Sorry ‘Bout That’ by Adrian Mitchell. I was missing  a couple of verses, but I was pretty nearly word perfect. It’s still biting and bitingly relevant, even though it must be 40 or so years old. It has the advantage of having a clear structure; this and rhythm are what make some poetry (and most lyrics) easier to memorise. This none often pops up in my head.

From that era comes ‘Vinegar’ by Roger McGough (why isn’t he Poet Laureate?) which has the advantage of being short. Another short one which just stuck was ‘The Narrow Sea’ by Robert Graves (who would probably have refused the offer of the Laureateship.) I did make the conscious effort to learn ‘Lion Lover’ by Graves; maybe because I’m a Leo.

I also took the time to learn ‘The Second Coming’ by Yeats (because I love it, if love is the right word for such a chilling piece) and ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ (because it was my mother’s favourite poem.)

Oddly enough, we once set Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ for year 6 to learn and it has stuck with me, pleasingly. (Remember, PG? You were  PC then!) I also learnt ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll as a teacher, because I love it and was always misquoting it.

That’s about it. I am pleased to see I keep mentioning pleasure here; whether this is a pleasure that all should have is a question for another time. For me,  this poetry comes back  at odd times; when I’m going to sleep I sometimes run through the repertoire. I’m glad I learnt them.

(I said in my last post that I wanted to learn more from ‘The Tempest’ but I have just remembered that I do know ‘Full Fathom Five’- or is it fadom? I must learn the bit that goes before- “This music crept upon me by the waters……” Actually it should be “This music crept by me…..” There is also a lovely Rupert Brooke sonnet which goes: “O! Death will find me long before I tire/ Of watching you.” One day…)

[I will leave you, dear reader, to work out the pictures. If puzzled, apply for answers! All are copyright free; as far as possible I’ve tried to do this for every blog post. I can’t find any copyright free for McGough or Graves.]

[All the poems are very available; Mc Gough is still very much alive, and Mitchell is still in copyright, so buy the books rather than go online. Poets and their families have to eat.]

Notes one day later: Last night as I was going through the repertoire in my head before falling asleep, I realised I also know ‘My Sad Captains’ by Thom Gunn. The work of Robert Graves is also in copyright, so buy it, don’t get it online. I realised that if you hover your mouse over the pictures, they come up with the names of the poets! Not such a puzzle.


I Have Drunk Beer

img032I have drunk beer…

With my father in the Six Bells at Billingshurst

In golden summer sunlight, cycling home from Guildford, at the Dolphin at Shalford- and it tasted like nectar

Raving with The Man and Alex in storm-swept Dorset pubs

From huge glasses at Christmas in Bruges

All over the place with Tess- pints, of course

On the pavement on a summer’s evening in Bristol- and we were told to go in, because it threatened their licence

By blazing fires in country pubs on winter evenings

In early morning May Day rain in Oxford

In London station bars on crowded Friday evenings

In the Philharmonic in Liverpool, where the toilets are like a palace

On an empty stomach

With a hangover

In beer gardens with my children playing on the grass

In the Tavern at Lords, watching Thompson bowl against the Australians

With barbecue burgers and chips at school fairs

That nobody will ever drink again, because the breweries have closed

In France: cold, fizzy, pression, but still beer

Before walking into Christmas holiday snow with Chriss, never to see him again

At parties, wishing I wasn’t there

Outside a pub in London after rugby, watching Concorde fly over

In the Theatre Royal pub

In places and with people I’ve forgotten

In a tiny bar in Spain, with tapas and bull fighting on the T.V.

In a little holiday home in Belgium, with my blond son finishing the bottle

In pubs that no longer exist.

To be continued

This was inspired by the poem ‘Tea: Where Have You supped and Who With?’ by Annamaria Murphy, published in ‘Poems from Eden’.