POETRY PLEASE

This post is another about favourite poems, Jan Cunningham shares some of her favourites and a fond memory.

Pam Ayres
Pam Ayres website Pam Ayres (picture credit Pam Ayres Website)

 

My go to Poet (ess? who knows these days) is Pam Ayres.

When the black dog visits, when I wished I’d never got up that day, when everything goes wrong, when I keep dropping things to the point I’m screaming —-sitting down and reading a few of her poems soon has me  smiling, then giggling, often  laughing out loud and I’m cured—- for now.

Her poems are down to earth, about the every day, the small things in life, she is observant, witty and poignant. I cannot choose just a single poem, so I’ve picked two which I think demonstrates her range:

 

CASHED AT THE CASH POINT

 

My Grannie was coshed at the cash point

She had only just entered her pin

When out came the dosh

And down came the cosh!

But Gran, not a gal to give in …

 

Turned round and kneed her attacker,

Saying,” Buster, you’re  making me nervous!”

The machine on the wall,

Having witnessed it all,

Said: “Thank you for using our service”.

 

7Am Procession

Poor  old babies, row on row,

In the day care joint they go,

Strangers tend them, fill their tummies,

Tuck them in instead of mummies.

 

There is one particular poem, whilst not being a favourite, haunted  me for years because of the childhood memory it evoked and because I could only remember the first four lines. This poem my Dad would recite to me when he was shaving. I would curl up in his big armchair with wooden arms and he would have his shaving mug on the mantle piece above the black lead stove and looking in the half moon mirror would lather his face and begin reciting:

 

The Sands of Dee

By Charles Kingsley

O Mary, go and call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home

and call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee

The western wind was wild and dark with foam,

And all alone went she.

 

The western tide crept up along the sand,

And o’er and o’er the sand

And round and round the sand,

As far as eye could see,

The rolling mist came down and hid the land:

And never home came she.

 

‘O is it weed, or fish, or floating hair –

A tress of golden hair

A drowned maiden’s hair

Above the nets at sea?

Was never salmon yet that shone so fair

Among the stakes of  Dee.

 

They row’d her in across the rolling foam,

The cruel crawling foam,

The cruel hungry foam,

To her grave beside the sea,

But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home,

Across the sands of Dee,

 

I sat mesmerised.

 

Jan Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourite Poems

A month or so back members of the Wordsmiths shared their favourite poems with the group. As an occasional feature we will publish their individual pieces, this one is by Val Chapman.

Not so much a song but more a poem

There wasn’t one particular poem that I could claim to be a favourite, so I decided to do a bit of research and still couldn’t come up with one that I enjoyed above all others.

It was when I was singing along to myself, as I do, that it occurred to me that songs were, for the most part, poems, set to music.

As I am one of those boring people who like their poetry to rhyme, otherwise it’s prose, this naturally opened up a lot more availability, which I am not altogether sure was a good thing, as I am hopeless at making decisions.

 

However, these two struck a chord (if you pardon the pun) for different reasons.

 

“It would never have worked,” I like as it seems to be taking the reader down one path, then veering off down another unexpected one, and finally, down yet another.

 

“Love song,” I can barely get through without a lump in my throat. I am sure this resonates with so many of our, though perhaps more so, the previous generations when feelings were often hard to express.

— Just a quick note,   I don’t know whether it is just a northern expression, but the words “I was tight” indicates a somewhat over-enjoyment of an alcoholic nature! —–

This one in particular came as a bit of a surprise, as they were both written by the same very talented writer, known more for her humour, and this poem is an unexpected offering from her I think.

 

They were written in 1978 (love song)

1987 (It would never have worked)

By the wonderful Victoria Wood.

Victoria Wood.jpg

Victoria Wood (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

 

IT WOULD NEVER HAVE WORKED

 

It’s over,

We missed the bus,

Nice idea, but not for us,

We didn’t click, let’s make it quick and say goodbye,

Don’t hold my hand,

And don’t demand a reason why.

No loving looks, no fond regards,

Tonight was always on the cards.

 

I wanted champagne and roses,  ’cause that’s the way I am,

You gave me vimto,

Tinned carrots,

And spam.

 

I wanted love to come and knock our blocks off,

But even Venus takes her cards and clocks off.

Your idea of foreplay was to take your socks off.

Things would never have worked

 

Rapport is a thing you just can’t manufacture,

You had your pin up girl, I couldn’t match her,

I didn’t want to, it was Margaret Thatcher.

Things would never have worked.

 

I wanted moonlight, romance and all that silly tosh,

You wanted gerbils,

A whippet,

A wash.

 

I wanted love songs but you wouldn’t write them,

My earlobe nibbled, but you wouldn’t  bite them,

You’d only fart and then attempt to light them,

Things would never have worked.

 

We’re not compatible,  let’s not get blue here,

At least we see each other’s point of view dear,

I like big, hunky men and so do you dear,

Things would never have worked.

 

LOVE SONG

 

Made your breakfast this morning,

Like any old day,

Then I remembered and I threw it away

 

I found an old photo,

In a kitchen drawer.

You by the seaside,  during the war.

You were laughing at something,

With the wind in your hair,

You were ever so slim then, and your hair was still fair.

 

And I wanted to kiss you,

But you always laughed,

And I wanted to tell you,

But I felt daft.

 

Still, we got married,

I was tight,

We both got embarrassed, played rummy all night

 

I remember the baby, and it’s sticky out ears,

But I can’t single out things,

Over the years.

 

On Woman’s surgical, sat by your bed,

I knew that I loved you,

But I never said.

 

I brought you Black Magic,

And they said you’d died,

I had a cup of tea there,

Came home and cried.

 

Got to go back to the hospital to collect your things,

Your nightie, your glasses, your wedding ring

 

Made your breakfast this morning,

Like any old day,

Then I remembered  and I threw it away.

 

Thank you Val, I find that every time I read Love Song I get something in my eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourite poems

hunts cyclists 1
Before it all started “Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.”

As an excercise our U3A writing  group members each wrote a short piece about their favourite poems and included the poem or poems in the piece. Over the following months we will be publishing the contributions on this blog.

The first piece in this series is by Val Fish, it seems a strange time of the year to use this example but we are approaching spring, a time of renewal, new growth and the hope for better things. We can only have spring after winter the sun can only rise after it has gone down.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Inspiration for ‘For The Fallen’

Laurence Binyon composed his best known poem while sitting on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the dramatic scenery of the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath. However, there is also a small plaque on the East Cliff north of Portreath, further south on the same north Cornwall coast, which also claims to be the place where the poem was written.

The poem was written in mid September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force had suffered casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army at the Battle of Mons on 23 August, its rearguard action during the retreat from Mons in late August and the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, and its participation with the French Army in holding up the Imperial German Army at the First Battle of the Marne between 5 and 9 September 1914.

Laurence said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for ceremonies of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and women.

Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist in the military forces, but he went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

 

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

 

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.

 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

 

Laurence Binyon 1869 – 1943

For the Fallen
For the Fallen we will remember them.

Postscript

I was privileged to perform on the stage at The Broadway Peterborough in 2014, in the ‘Sing for Life’ ladies’ choir, to raise funds for a new wing at Sue Ryder’s Thorpe Hall Hospice.

On the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, we sang an adaptation of ‘For The Fallen’ by Rowland Lee.

In the final few bars, we were as stunned as the audience as poppies came falling from above onto the stage. It was a moment I’ll always treasure.

 

Valerie Fish

The love of words.

Reflections in water of reeds and a duck
Reflections

This post is by Tessa a wonderful poet and a member of our Whittlesey Wordsmiths writing group, look out for her work it is outstanding.

I love words. I love how they sound most of all. I was born too soon for children’s stories on tapes but when my daughter came along we would sit in bed with an ear piece each and listen to books read mostly by actors. I love the timbre of the words. How different they sound depending on who is reading them.  Some stories I prefer to have read by the author, some not. I love how single phrases said by different people can have a different inference. “I need you now”; can sound demanding, romantic or just plain whiney depending on who is saying it.

Most of all I love words that rhyme. Poems are my favourite thing. Writing them sometimes seems trivial because the words come easily. But then I can get stuck on a single word and change several lines and make new rhymes.

The spoken word only becomes harsh to me when spoken not in an accent but irreverently. English is glorious when spoken well. I hate slang, I hate don’t, didn’t, whatever. I hate “did yourself know that” Who are these people who think it is fine to change the English language.

My grandmother always said you could tell the quality of a person by the shoes on their feet and the words in their head. My grandmother knew a thing or two.

Tessa Thomson