Poetry Encounters: life-enriching; life-enhancing experiences


Today, we have another guest post from The Domestic King, the topic of which will probably surprise a few of you, but hopefully one you’ll still find enjoyable.  One of the fondest memories of my childhood, was having The Domestic King read poetry to me before bed.  He has a wonderful speaking voice that brought the nursery rhymes and poetry to life for me.  However, I’m sad to say, poetry hasn’t been a part of my life for sometime, but reading this post has reignited my interest in it.  Over to the Domestic King.

Here’s something a little different that may interest you.  Give yourself some ‘me-time’ to enjoy it.

This year, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4’s long running series celebrates its 70th year, where more than 2890 castaways have been interviewed.  Current presenter is the brilliant Kirsty Young.  So what has this got to do with poetry?  Remarkably, many castaways have chosen a volume of poetry to take with them, together with their eight favourite records!  So why did some of them choose a book of poetry?

Anna Ford, well-known television presenter, chose “Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times”, an anthology collected by Neil Astley.  Her reason, the “… 500 wonderful poems … I think I can learn them by heart to make sure I don’t get Alzheimer’s, and I also think they’ll sustain me emotionally when I’m there.”


Len Goodman, Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars judge requested “An Anthology of English Poetry” because he reads a lot of poetry that’s “… not too highbrow and I could memorise them and start to learn passages which could exercise my brain …”

 

Former Liberal Democrat Leader, Paddy Ashdown, chose a volume of John Donne’s poetry given to him by his wife that he carried as a soldier in the Far East. Donne he says “ … has it all, the wit, the artifice, and particularly the passion about both things profane and sacred.”

Heavyweight champion George Foreman, comedians Rob Brydon and David Walliams, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, actresses Jenny Agutter and Whoppi Goldberg are others who also chose poetry.

These castaways are really saying, “We enjoy reading poetry because it adds something extra and deeper to our lives.”  In other words, they see it as a life enriching, life-enhancing. But this happens only if one encounters poetry on a fairly regular basis.  Yet poetry touches people’s lives too infrequently, if at all. But this needn’t be the case.  Now, in all its many forms, poetry is more available and accessible than ever.  The body of work, traditional and contemporary, is vast.

So what is the magic that turns people on to poetry?  For me it was the influence of a brilliant lecturer and biographer of Dylan Thomas. John Ackerman Jones’ love of poetry was infectious: he encouraged us to listen to the sounds of words, sense the rhythm, hear the music in the lines, he helped us visualise the imagery and discussed the feelings that words, images and rhythm conjure up.  He performed poetry well and encouraged us to read poems aloud to ourselves, and to read them many times.  He stressed verse doesn’t have to rhyme, that poetry takes many forms and covers many themes that make up living a life.  He nurtured in me a love of poetry on my terms, with a desire to make my choice of poems my own.

Alas, not everyone has access to such a brilliant teacher!  But high quality experiences are available via the wonders of the Internet and computer technology.  Four outstanding resources spring to mind, the fourth, iF Poetry App for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, is for a future post.

1.  Words That Burn: The Poetry App (only available for the iPad)

Josephine Hart’s Poetry App is free.  Her husband, Lord Maurice Saatchi, said her dream was to create a compendium of the UK’s greatest verse read by the country’s finest actors.  Her death in 2011 denied her that ambition. However, to honour her memory he spent £250K producing The Poetry App featuring 160 classic poems performed by a glittering array of actors, writers and musicians. Celebrities include Charles Dance, Edward Fox, Sinead Cusack, Bob Geldof, Juliet Stevenson and many others.  This app is a fantastic way to encounter classic poetry that allows you to:

  • read poetry from 16 great poets;
  • listen to and watch narrations by more than 30 celebrities;
  • read detailed introductions and essays by Josephine on each poet and their poems; (for her “poetry is the highest form of language”)
  • save favourite poems and record your own narrations;
  • share everything via Email, Twitter and Facebook.

Josephine’s knowledge of her subject combined with the class acts of the performers and the richness of the poetry, will surely hook you!

2.  Poetry Archive

The Archive is a rich source of fine poetry.  According to its website, the Archive exists “to make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience.”  Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate, and recording producer Richard Carrington established it.  Their vision was to build a resource available to anyone who wished to read and listen to poetry, a growing repository of poems, recorded and read by poets themselves.  Although many poets from the past have ‘no voice’ in this archive, miraculously, several who are no longer with us are represented.  You maybe surprised to hear readings by poets long departed including Betjeman, Kipling, Plath and Edith Sitwell, to name a few.  Contemporary poets feature prominently and will continue to do so.  The Archive aims to bring the fullest possible range of English language poetry to the widest possible audience.  The website is free and easy to navigate.  You can search by poet, poem, theme, poetic form; create a personal archive of favourite poems and poets, and consult a glossary of poetic terms. There’s an attractively presented Children’s Archive that will appeal to a younger audience.  But great for parents too.

Imagine the thrill of hearing Roald Dahl narrate “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf”, or Betjeman “A Subaltern’s Love Song”, Wendy Cope “The Christmas Life”, Gillian Clarke (National Poet of Wales) “The Piano”, or Benjamin Zephaniah “Library Ology”. So, something for everyone!

3.  Poetry Foundation and Poetry Foundation App (free from iTunes and Google Play)

This constitutes two free resources.  The Poetry Foundation “… exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and… place it before the largest possible audience.”  It’s a clear, easily navigable site. Search by poet, poem, listen to recordings and watch videos.

Anyone who has a tablet computer or smart phone can download the app and take poems and poets with you wherever you go!  Open the app and hit ‘Spin’. Wow!  Two rows of Themes spin in opposite directions stopping to display poems reflecting say, “Passion and Family”, or “Joy and Love”.  Very clever.

So, there you have it, ‘Poetry Encounters’ made easy and exciting.  Enjoy exploring poetry!  I’ll end, self-indulgently, with my favourite poem:

Daydream

One-day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,

And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,

And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,

Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,

Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,

And work will be simple and swift as a seagull flying,

And play will be casual and quiet as a seagull settling,

And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder, or care, or notice,

And people will smile without reason, even in the winter, even in the rain.

A S J Tessimond

Thank you Domestic King for this really interesting and enjoyable post.  I hope it’s helped ignite (or reignite?) your desire to read poetry.  Was poetry a part of your childhood?  Do you enjoy reading poetry, or is it just not for you?  Look out for a post in the coming weeks about the importance of poetry in the lives of children.

With much love

The Domestic Princess

xoxo

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Comments

  1. Love it Pappa Bob!!

  2. Domestic Prince says:

    Great article. Been a while since I’ve read or even thought about poetry – perhaps we can start a resurgence!

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