These are the poems I read this week.
1. April Rise by Laurie Lee – new to me, it’s a lovely evocation of all the promise and richness of nature at this time of year. And wonderful to be able to hear it read by the Laurie Lee himself (see this post for a link to the poetry archive to hear it for yourself).
2. Holy Thursday by William Blake (Songs of Innocence and Experience) – well, it seemed appropriate to the day (though I later discovered the Holy Thursday referred to was not as I thought the one before Easter but instead Ascension Day). In fact this was the opposite of a cheat (what would the word be for that?), because I read the two companion poems, one from Innocence and one from Experience. I had learnt (and it turned out remembered) Experience from studying it at school aged 14 (thank you, Mrs Jones), but I hadn’t before read the version from Innocence. The second was probably the poem that first showed me what a powerful medium poetry can be, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed on revisiting.
3. A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost – another apt poem for the time of year, though blossom on our fruit trees in the Community Orchard is still a little while off. I came across this in a book I bought second hand at the stall (still there) in Bath Covered Market in September 1974, shortly before I went away to university. I don’t recall reading this poem before, but it reminds me of just why I love Robert Frosts poems so much, and also reminds me that many of the passions I have now I already had back then.
4. John Barleycorn – Robert Burns – a complete surprise to me to come across this in The Rattle Bag (a gift many years ago from two very good friends). I’ve known it for years as a folk ballad (particularly versions written and sung by Martin Carthy, of which I have several recordings), but had no idea that it is based on a much older story nor that there is a poem of the same name (and tale) by Robert Burns. Written in 1782.
5. The King’s Breakfast – AA Milne – one of my favourites as read to me by my mum when I was very very young. I have no idea where she would have come across this. Probably not in her own 1930s East End Jewish background (though maybe it did, from the public library her older brother signed her up for aged 3?) . Maybe when she was evacuated to Cornwall? Too late to ask her now. Anyway, I loved it, remembered it well, and read it to my own children when they were very young. I hope that one day they may do the same.
6. The Abortion – Anne Sexton – this was new to me. I came across it in Penguin collection by A. Alvarez published in 1962 as The New Poetry. Anne Sexton was one of only 2 women poets in this group of 28 poets. Rather typical of the time, it seems – most of the books I have from that era seem to overlook women poets. I feel sure they must have been out there somewhere. But then it was six days in before I realised that I hadn’t even begun to think about the women, or to notice their absence.
7. Sables Mouvants – Jacques Prevert – I’ve always loved this poem, the way the rhythm of the words echo the sound of the waves on the beach. An old friend.
So far I’ve mostly stayed close to poets (but not poems) I already know. It’s always a little scary to go up to someone new and make their acquaintance. But I will try harder.