Right, English teacher hat on.
National Poetry Day – what’s it all about then? Well, it’s like nationwide, it’s poetical and it’s just for one day.
But hopefully its legacy is further reaching and more serious than that. I view it as a seriously effective way of getting children of all ages into poetry. Schools across the land will be finding ways of bringing poetry into the classroom, and thousands of children will have a very positive experience as a result.
I have to admit, though, that for a trainee English teacher who is masquerading under the name of Mr. Milton, I don’t have a particularly poetical history (you could read that in many ways), but it is something that I love to dip in and out of.
A few years ago, I even spent a fairly pretentious summer walking around Paris in a long scarf, writing poetry in a little book. I went so far as to keep a diary called Les Memoirs d’un Garcon Anglais. Pretentious or quoi? I have written a few poems since, but more of that later.
For now, here are a few poems that I really like. No particular reason why – I just think they’re grand. So…
First up is Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate. Say no more:
I’m not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he’s a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.
Short though this poem might be, it occupied a half hour bus journey when I read it. It’s funny, of course, but angry too. I felt for poor old Mrs. Icarus. No one asked her about the wisdom of taking to the sky with wings made of feathers and wax. Maybe they should have done.
The night before I’d watched a documentary about the youth leagues that feed NASCAR in America. These ten year olds drive little go karts capable of going at breakneck speeds. They were being pushed to drive faster and faster by their dads. The moms just stood there, biting their nails. I think Mrs. Icarus would have sympathised.
Then onto the next poem, which was introduced to me only today. Love at first sight it was. It is called Litany, by Billy Collins. Again, it raises a laugh but is also a clever parody of the well-trodden poetical practice of comparing an object of desire with, well, another object. Here’s a well-know example (though because he’s well clever, he’s comparing them negatively against other objects):
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
By will.i.am Shakespeare
Here’s Billy Collins reading Litany. Enjoy.
Right, now I’m going to put myself on the line. While doing some work in the library the other day, I kept on staring out the window, looking at the large tree on noble sentry duty outside. And I wrote a poem about it. So, the world premiere and probably the world dernière too…
I see the leaves turning,
Green, orange, red.
Though they don’t stop dead
But waltz in the wind.
One last dance until they come
To their journey’s end.
Retain the joy of life, I pray
So we can dance on our last day.
We’ll turn our heads to face the breeze
And with a smile, a nod, a kiss
Wind our way onto the floor
And dance till we can dance no more.
Happy National Poetry Day everybody.