Learning a poem by heart is difficult. Hell, I can’t even recite my own poetry without looking at it, never mind somebody else’s!
But if you manage to learn one and are able to recite it, you’ll get that warm sense of achievement and will treasure its words for the rest of your days. And most importantly, you can recite it to your mates to sound intelligent and cultured.
In this 3 blog series, I’ll go through 20 poems that you should definitely know of and maybe, try learning a few by heart. So let’s crack on...
If – Rudyard Kipling
You mum and dad will probably know ‘If’ as well as they know their own disturbing habits and fetishes. This is because their mum and dad indoctrinated it into them, as did their mum and dad and so forth.
But there is good reason to it. It’s certainly an inspirational one about maturity, not taking any shtick and being your own person. Read it when you are feeling down and you’ll want to jump up, grab life by the balls and go with it.
Sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Here’s one for you romantics out there. This is one of my mum’s favourite poems and one she can recite half of – which is pretty good for her....
If you’re struggling to think of some big romantic build up to a proposal – just learn this and recite it to your partner. If they don’t recognise you’re onto a winner. If they do recognise it, run.
Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night – Dylan Thomas
Yes, yes –it’s in Interstellar. That space film starring that damn handsome Texan and leaves you doubting your own existence. It’s the one Michael Caine croaks out very...slowly...to his...daughter (you read that bit in his voice, didn’t you?).
It’s an epic poem about fortitude, bravery and giving it 1000%. Try and quote it in your work’s softball team talk -it might take your players from swing-and-missers to master blasters.
Poor Puggy-Wug – Winston Churchill
Yep - old Winston dabbled into a bit of poetry when his schedule wasn’t so hectic. Now there’s something new you learnt today.
It’s a short and sweet poem about cuddly, little pugs. What’s not to like about that? It’s a good one to know and drop into dinner conversation and probably have your guests applauding the knowledge you have inside that massive brain of yours. Or not.
Invictus – W.E. Henley
No no, it’s not about Morgan Freeman nailing that Nelson Mandela impression. It’s an epic four-stanza poem for all the underdogs.
Like a lot of Henley’s poems it’s about perseverance and courage. It’s last line is often quoted a lot: “I am the master of my fate; / I am the captain of my soul”. So if that softball team of yours still can’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo, then try this one. If still no luck, then you should probably start having team practice. Or go home.
Jerusalem – William Blake
Yes it was actually a poem first. NOT an original chart topping football anthem by Fat Les. Originally written in the early 19th century, it was put to music a hundred years later by Sir Hurbert Parry.
It is seen as one of the nation’s most renowned anthems, often sung at the closing of the annual Labour Party conference and at the close of meetings of the Women’s Institute. I did not learn that last one from the film Calendar Girls.... honest.
The Owl and the Pussycat – Edward Lear
Go back in time a sec. It’s pre-school and it’s just coming up to naptime (can we pass a law to have this at some point after lunchtime everyday please Theresa?). Your lovely teacher wants to read you a rhyme before you board that train to Snoozetown. Its simple rhyme and bouncy rhythm cradle you to a comforting slumber. Can’t remember what the poem was though?
It was this one. It’s most definitely this one. If it wasn’t, then your teacher was not lovely. She was a wretched woman indeed.
So there’s the first seven. What do you think? Have I missed out a glaringly obvious poem so far? Drop a comment below or tweet me @wordsbadlywoven. Do give it a share as well. Cheerio!
So you're here
Great stuff. Feel free to have a gander at my poetry and blog entries to the left. If you want to know why on God's green earth this page is here, click on the 'About' tab up top.