Poetry Resources

These are some of the poems we’ve read in our groups. We haven’t always read all of the poems, sometimes because of a word here or there which is no longer said in current English (e.g. ‘shoon’) or because of time constraints (e.g. ‘Chocolate Cake’).

‘Bowl Spoon Table’ by Jan Kemp

That grey bowl you painted
with its rim shadowed
& that spoon with its shadow
on that wooden table

& in its shadow the filled softer-grey hypotenuse
from the floor up to it —

how big everything was
so much bigger
than us doing the looking

& how full of nothing
but                   spaces
round the painted shapes

‘Glance’ by Jan Kemp

By the time we are old
we shall know one another
with a glance

as the gods would
had they cared
for friendship.

‘On the Beach at Fontana’ by James Joyce

Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.

From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.

Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love!

‘Like a Beacon’ by Grace Nichols

In London
every now and then
I get this craving
for my mother’s food
I leave art galleries
in search of plantains
saltfish/sweet potatoes

I need this link

I need this touch of home
swinging my bag
like a beacon
against the cold.

‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

‘When you are old’ by W.B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


‘He wishes for the cloths of heaven’ W.B.Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

‘Please Mrs Butler’ Allan Ahlberg

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps copying my work, Miss.
What shall I do?

Go and sit in the hall, dear.
Go and sit in the sink.
Take your books on the roof, my lamb.
Do whatever you think.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps taking my rubber, Miss.
What shall I do?

Keep it in your hand, dear.
Hide it up your vest.

Swallow it if you like, my love.
Do what you think is best.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps calling me rude names, miss.
What shall I do?

Lock yourself in the cupboard, dear.
Run away to sea.
Do whatever you can, my flower.
But 
DON’T ASK ME!

‘Silver’ by Walter De La Mare

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws and a silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

‘Signal’ by Mimi Khalvati

You’d think that in all this open space,
nothing but fields for miles around
and some cows and trees, you’d get a signal.

Only behind the goosehouse, the roses,
in one of those patches of grass that make
no sense, too small to cross or lie on,

with a sheltering wall at your back, beanrow
on your left, on a triangle of grass
doing nothing and going nowhere,

can you stand and even then, only
with somebody else behind you, wind
blowing their hair and their own mobile

fisted against the rain, with two
or three others besides to bulwark you
– you a child stripping down on a beach,

they a towel or windbreak – do you stand
a hope in heaven or hell of reaching
somebody out there sometime, somewhere.

The Pattern 

Taken from Being Alive, ed. Neil Astley (Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2004), p. 243

Thirty-six years, to the day, after our wedding
When a cold figure-revealing wind blew against you
And lifted your veil, I find in its fat envelope
The six-shilling Vogue pattern for your bride’s dress,
Complicated instructions for stitching bodice
And skirt, box pleats and hems, tissue-paper outlines,
Semblance of skin which I nervously unfold
And hold up in snow light, for snow has been falling
On this windless day, and I glimpse your wedding dress
And white shoes outside in the transformed garden
Where the clothesline and every twig have been covered.

‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michael Rosen

(edited for practicality/length)

I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.
Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
‘If there’s any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.’

Anyway,
once we had this chocolate cake for tea
and later I went to bed
but while I was in bed
I found myself waking up
licking my lips
and smiling.
I woke up proper.
‘The chocolate cake.’
It was the first thing
1 thought of.

I could almost see it
so I thought,
what if I go downstairs
and have a little nibble, yeah?

It was all dark
everyone was in bed
so it must have been really late
but I got out of bed,
crept out of the door

there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?

Past Mum and Dad’s room,
careful not to tread on bits of broken toys
or bits of Lego
you know what it’s like treading on Lego
with your bare feet,
downstairs
into the kitchen
open the cupboard
and there it is
all shining.

So I take it out of the cupboard
put it on the table
and I see that
there’s a few crumbs lying about on the plate,
So I take a knife
I think I’ll just tidy that up a bit,
cut off the crumbly bits
scoop them all up
and into the mouth

Look at the cake again.
That looks a bit funny now,
one side doesn’t match the other
I’ll just even it up a bit, eh?
before I know
I’ve eaten the lot.
The whole lot.

I look at the plate.
It’s all gone.
Oh no
they’re bound to notice, aren’t they,
a whole chocolate cake doesn’t just disappear
does it?
What shall I do?
I know. I’ll wash the plate up,
and the knife
and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?

In the morning I get up,
downstairs,
have breakfast,
Mum’s saying,
‘Have you got your dinner money?’
and I say,
‘Yes.’
‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’
I stopped breathing.

She’s looking at me just below my mouth.
‘What’s that?’ she says.
‘What’s what?’ I say.
‘What’s that there?’
‘Where?’
‘There,’ she says, pointing at my chin.
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
‘It looks like chocolate,’ she says.
‘It’s not chocolate is it?’
No answer.
‘Is it?’
‘I don’t know.’
She goes to the cupboard
looks in, up, top, middle, bottom,
turns back to me.
‘It’s gone.
It’s gone.
You haven’t eaten it, have you?’

So I told her,
and she said
well what could she say?
‘That’s the last time I give you any cake to take
to school.
Now go. Get out
no wait
not before you’ve washed your dirty sticky face.’
I went upstairs
looked in the mirror
and there it was,
just below my mouth,
a chocolate smudge.
The give-away.
Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s