The poetry party guest list: week 3

Well, this was a trickier week.  There was quite a lot of other stuff going on and I struggled to keep up even with one poem a day.  So I’m going to come clean and admit that there was some catch-up to do by the end of the week.  But I got there in the end.

Shall we call this week “cherchez la femme”? – it just about sums it up.

Day one:

I decided make life easier for myself and revisiting an old favourite, which also happens to be by a woman – Mother doesn’t want a dog – Judith Viorst (1931).  If you don’t know it, do have a look here.  We all just loved the twist at the end, which seemed from both sides (children and adults) pretty accurate.

This was new to me when we bought this book of animal poems, probably not long after it was published in1989.  Both boys loved it, and so did we.  Poems as bedtime stories were a regular event.  I’m sure we still have the book, but packed away at the moment.  If you find it in a bookshop, snap it up – it’s pure treasure.

Animals Animals
compiled by Laura Whipple, 1989
A generously illustrated collection of poems by a variety of authors, describing the peculiarities and charms of pets as well as both wild and domestic animals. Eric Carle is noted for his depiction of animals and this colorful anthology contains some of his finest works.

Day two:

Last post – Carol Ann Duffy – I chose this poem because Carol Ann Duffy is a woman, because she is our first female Poet Laureate, because her poems are always worth reading, and because I have a frequent (though not personal) connection with Harry Patch, who was born locally on the outskirts of Bath.  There’s a statue of him on the Two Tunnels Greenway, I walk past it several times a week.  And one of our favourite local walks takes us through the churchyard in Monkton Combe and past his grave.  I always take a moment to remember him and all the others on the way.

I saw some interviews with him on TV as a very old man (well into his hundreds).  He seemed so humane, determined not to glorify the war in any way, and a man of great honour and dignity.

We hope to visit Verdun in a few weeks time, on our way somewhere else.  We’ve passed through that part of France many times, but never before had the time to stop.

You can hear the poem here, read by Samantha Morton.

Day three:

I thought I’d try The Penguin Book of French Verse 4: The Twentieth Century (first published 1959)*.  I should have learnt my lesson about collections from the 1950s and 1960s.

France has a lot of women.  Not many women poets though apparently (selon Anthony Hartley, the anthologist, anyway) – there’s only one woman here  (Catherine Pozzi), hiding among the 32 men chosen.   And he introduces her thus:

[She]……managed to achieve an economy of sensual passion rare in women poets.  She is not as well known as she deserves, since her poems – published in 1935 – are difficult to find.

I wonder where he thought all the other female 20C French poets were hiding?  surely there must have been one or two worth mentioning?

Anyway, out of the two of her poems included here, I chose to read Scopolamine.  Can’t say it did much for me, though the last three lines felt sadly apt:

Je suis sauve je suis perdu

Je me cherche dans l’inconnu

Un nom libre de la memoire

(NB I don’t know how to put in French accents over letters, so please excuse the lack of them!)

Day four:

Oh dear, this was a long and busy day.  I’m claiming the early day when I read two poems by William Blake in my defence.

Day five:

Bagpipe music – Louis Macneice.  I chose this when I came across it in The Rattle Bag and recalled having heard it read on Poetry Please.  I liked the rhythms of it, which of course is much of the point about this poem.  I particularly enjoyed hearing Louis Macneice himself reading it here, though he almost lost me before he started when he disparagingly spoke of the ‘bad feminine rhymes’ in it.

Not a woman, but a poem and a poet new to me.

Day six:

Remember – Christina Rossetti.  I enjoyed reading this poem, which I kind of knew but have never before read.  I wonder, how is it that we (I?) have absorbed so many poems or phrases from poems, while never having knowingly read them?  I suppose it reflects what I was saying at the start of this project about realising how much poetry there is in my life and all around me. (You can find the poem here if you like).

Anyway, this was a good day – a woman poet, someone new to me, and a new poem as well.  Like landing on a treble points square in scrabble.

Day seven:

Not waving but drowning – Stevie Smith.  I’ve always found this poem interesting, and when during two separate but both quite long periods I experienced work-related stress, I recall quoting those very famous lines from time to time, hoping that someone would notice that I too was ‘not waving but drowning’.

I was surprised to learn that Stevie Smith grew up and lived in the North London suburb of Palmers Green.  Surprised because I lived there for aged 7 until 13, and it always seemed such a prosaic place, not somewhere I might expect to meet a poet.  But there she was, perhaps even a close neighbour (she died in 1971, several years after I moved on).

So there we have it: six poems (plus one borrowed from week 1), six poets – and five of them women.  It was interesting, enjoyable, but hard work finding them.

Onwards to the final week, Week 4.

* oddly, I can’t find a credit for the cover design.  Maybe another by Stephen Russ?  I love it!









About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
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