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!
A poem. And a blog post. On the same day you say?!?! Good grief, I spoil you....
But really – it’s time to get the blogging ball rolling people. Hopefully you’re here because you enjoy poetry or want to get into it. Maybe you’re here to see if I crash and burn at this blogging malarkey. Let’s not hold our breath though. Or you might have read my first poem post (if you haven’t, READ IT NOW and say you like it before I cry manly tears) and wondered where my inspiration comes from. So I thought I’d share with you the five collections that inspire me to write poetry and why I think they’re all bloody brilliant. I’ll also add a link to buy them from Amazon (you’re welcome).
The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry - edited by Brian Pattern
This is the first poetry collection that I remember reading. I got it out of my primary school library (it was just a small classroom with ALL the books in it) and did not give it back for ages. Once my mum realised how overdue its return was, she bought it for me.
I vividly remember reading poems like ‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michael Rosen, ‘Talking Turkeys’ by Benjamin Zephaniah and ‘Sky in the Pie’ by Roger McGough and thinking they were nuggets of sheer hilarity. This book opened up a whole world of rhyme to me and I believe that this collection led me to love poetry as much as I do now.
The Mersey Sound – Henri, Pattern and McGough
This collection brought poetry back into my life. Reading through it, you can see why it brought these three poets the godlike status they have now. Most importantly, they inspired me to write again. Thanks fellas.
It is one of the most accessible collections I have and would recommend it to anyone who is starting to get into poetry. The language is simple and direct, so don’t worry - you won’t be left wondering what the bejesus is going on. As a whole you get a great blend of humour, heartbreak and melancholy from this collection. A damn fine little bedtime read too.
Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt – John Cooper Clarke
Give this to anyone who says that they hate poetry – they’ll change their mind swiftly afterwards. What you see is what you get in this collection. No pissing about, shedloads of wit and a delivery so unique you’d be reading it in Cooper Clarke's Salford twang forever more. I guarantee you’ll be able to recite a poem from this book without knowing it.
I love how brash this collection is and its bullish delivery – each poem makes its presence known by beating itself into your head until you damn well remember it.
I should also warn you that the themes are not for little ones. There are poems here that contain lots of lovely swear words....and the occasional graphic cartoon of boobs (I didn’t buy it for this reason - I swear). Highly recommend that you don’t recite any from this book to you parents at the next family Sunday lunch. She’ll take the gravy from you and will never give it back...
Poems of the Underground – edited by Benson, Chernaik and Herbert
Its cover design is a hipster’s dream – it’s gorgeous. This book would look great on the coffee table in your Shoreditch pad and help make you look ‘edgy’ to all of the Tinder dates you bring back - you player.
But if you are a commuter in London, you have definitely read a poem from this collection, whilst packed like a sardine in a can, on the sweatbox known as the Central line. It bet it was next to that sodding vitamins advert where David Gandy watches you like Big Brother. One thing I am sure about is that it made your morning reading it.
There’s plenty more like that in this collection, all short, sweet and easy to digest. Like the chocolate sprinkles you got on your mid-morning mocha. Which is why I like it.
Hold Your Own – Kate Tempest
This is probably my most recent purchase and I regret not getting it sooner. Tempest is one hell of a wordsmith and she's surely the one of the best British poets we have had in the last ten years.
Her sense of rhythm and facility of rhyme seem effortless – you’d think this collection was scribbled out in mere minutes. Some poems from ‘Hold Your Own’ just stick with you, like the local sweet shop’s treacle. I first heard ‘Ballad of a Hero’ (check it out here – it’s ace) around six months back and I’ve loved Tempest's ever since. If I write anything like as good as hers, I’d be shouting it through a megaphone over the Sunday church bells. But then again, that'll make me burn in hell....worth it though.
So, have a read of some of these and afterwards, tell me....
But seriously, tell me. Do you agree? What poetry collections inspire you to write? Or just inspire you in life? Let me know with a cheeky comment and feel free to share this blog. Before Maximus Decimus Meridius gets angry. 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.