Poetry Appreciation Archive
As it was near to the anniversary of the Peterloo massacre and it is part of our history we read The Masque of Anarchy by Percy Shelley. We were all surprised how few of us had studied this at school when it had happened so close to where we live. The Massacre occurred during a period of immense political tension and mass protests. Fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, and hunger was rife with the disastrous corn laws making bread unaffordable to most of the people.
On the 16th of August 1819 the huge open area around what's now St Peter's Square, Manchester, played host to an outrage against over 60,000 peaceful pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters; an event which became known as The Peterloo Massacre. An estimated 18 people, including four women and a child, died from sabre cuts and trampling. Nearly 700 men, women and children received extremely serious injuries. They had come in peace, many dressed in their Sunday best.
Local magistrates watching from a window panicked at the sight of the assembly, and read the riot act, (in)effectively ordering what little of the crowd could hear them to disperse. With an astonishing 600 Hussars, several hundred infantrymen; an artillery unit with two six-pounder guns, 400 men of the Cheshire cavalry and 400 special constables waited in reserve, the local Yeomanry were given the task of arresting the speakers.
The poet Shelley was living in Italy at the time but heard about Peterloo. His horror at the atrocity prompted him to write the poem. It pulls no punches and names those who he holds responsible.
I met Murder on the way--
He had a mask like Castlereagh--
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:
All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.
Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Eldon, an ermined gown;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.
And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.
The poem seems to offer nothing but death and despair until Hope tentatively makes her entrance. She seems to be overwhelmed and strangely without hope until her heart cries out aloud:
`Men of England, heirs of Glory,
Heroes of unwritten story,
Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
Hopes of her, and one another;
`Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you --
Ye are many -- they are few.
The words ‘Ye are many – they are few’ are the closing lines of the poem and can be seen as a clarion call to ordinary suffering people that they do have power in numbers and can turn the tide against their oppressors.
`And these words shall then become
Like Oppression's thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
Heard again -- again -- again--
`Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number--
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you--
Ye are many -- they are few.
One of our group, John, is a historian and he gave us some context. Peterloo happened not long after the French Revolution and it was feared that revolution was contagious and that England was at risk. He likened it to the fear of communism in the 60’s.
The poem was not published until 1832, ten years after Shelley’s death and 13 years after the atrocity because the Government passed new legislation limiting free speech and the right to gather for peaceful demonstration.
Historians acknowledge that Peterloo was hugely influential in ordinary people winning the right to vote, led to the rise of the Chartist Movement from which grew the Trade Unions, and also resulted in the establishment of the Manchester Guardian newspaper.
According to Nick Mansfield, director of the People’s History Museum in Manchester, "Peterloo is a critical event not only because of the number of people killed and injured, but because ultimately it changed public opinion to influence the extension of the right to vote and give us the democracy we enjoy today. It was critical to our freedoms."
Amongst other poems we concentrated on those about the holocaust. We looked first at Nelly Sachs who was a Jewish woman living in Berlin but not actively practising the Jewish religion. She seems to have been made aware of her Jewishness only when persecution started. She is generally assumed to have had a nervous breakdown following a traumatically unhappy love affair with an older, divorced man who was not a Jew. The man in question is considered to have been a man of honour who was involved in the anti-nazi resistance movement. Their paths crossed again, almost 30 years later (1937 or 38), during the Nazi regime, when she was interrogated by the Gestapo. The man – whom she refers to in her poems as her “bridegroom” – was also arrested at the same time and tortured to death during interrogation. Nelly was most likely witness to at least part of his interrogation This had traumatic results: her “lips were sealed” during interrogation and after being released she was unable to speak for some time.
Her works unequivocally show the inadequacy of language when trying to describe the holocaust or what happened to individuals when caught up in this nightmare; their utter helplessness in the face of such orchestrated cruelty. How can you express the unspeakable and the unthinkable? There is no language to articulate this. We have to understand a concept before we can externalise it in language and the holocaust is incomprehensible. Nelly turns therefore to metaphor. This is frequently symbolised in her poems by her references to words and letters of the alphabet, and to fish, mute or caught on the angler’s hook.
The poems we looked at had been translated and this is interesting in that there is always “slippage” between one language and another. In “Vergebens verbrennen die Briefe” - (In vain burn the letters) the poem ends:
And the Word was
And the Word
O my love
the Word was –
There is no word with which the poem can end.
In “Job” there is also the inability to verbalise events or experiences.
Your eyes are sunk deep into your skull
Like cave-dwelling doves in the night
Brought out blind by the huntsman,
Your voice is silenced
From asking too many whys,
To the worms and the fishes your voice has gone.
Job, you have wept through all the watches of the night
We then turned to arguably the most famous of the holocaust poets – Paul Celan - and looked in detail at his best known work – “Todesfuge” which translates to “Death Fugue”. Again, Celan is trying to express the unspeakable. He chooses the form of a linguistic fugue which, in the musical equivalent, relies on repetition.
‘The Black milk of daybreak’ is repeated at the beginning of each verse.
Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
It's important to know that the Nazi guards at some of the death camps really did make prisoners play music before executions. Auschwitz in particular – one of the very worst camps – was notorious for this practice. The music was sometimes referred to as the "Death Tango." In fact, the original title of the poem was "Death Tango," but when Celan translated it from Romanian to German he changed the title to "Todesfuge”.
He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you
others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his
eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play
on for the dance.
We are lucky in that we have several German speakers in our group because we read two English translations of Celan’s Psalm, together with the original German version. Bron was able to give slightly different versions of the German words. All words can have different meanings and nuances and this is the same in any language. On encountering an ambiguous word the translator has to choose one “meaning”. This then sets the tone for the poem in translation, in effect it becomes a new poem.
It is never easy to read about the holocaust but it is essential that we do so that we never forget.
As our meeting was held very shortly after the centennial commemoration of the founding of the RAF, we started by looking at poems concerned with flight. Perhaps the most famous of these (which was read out at the ceremony) is High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Junior. I reproduce this short poem here in its entirety:
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."
High Flight, a remarkable evocation of the joy of flight, was written by 19-year-old American John Gillespie Magee, a wartime Spitfire pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was killed in 1941 when his plane collided in mid-air over Lincolnshire. His poem, written on the back of an envelope, was sent home to his parents weeks before the crash, and gained fame when it was picked up by the American media after his death.
His poem reiterates over and over again that he has “slipped the … bonds of earth” with his proclamation “sunward I’ve climbed” and repeated expressions of height, including the words “clouds, soared, high, hov’ring, topped, and lifting”. The poem bears testament to his sheer joy in flight, expressed most eloquently by lines 2 and 3-4 where he has “danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings” and “joined the tumbling mirth/of sun-split clouds…”.
Shortly before writing the poem Magee’s spitfire suffered oxygen failure and he wrote in his logbook of experiencing symptoms of hypoxia – oxygen starvation – before he safely descended to a height where he could breathe safely. Hypoxia can produce sensations of elation, often provoking spontaneous laughter and out-of-body-experiences. This may explain why he felt he could put out his hand and touch the face of God.
It’s often the case that a very popular poem is pilloried, or should it be said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? The USA’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority wrote a response to High Flight. It takes the form of a very clever and funny warning for pilots. It is worth looking up both poems to compare them, but I will give you the first couple of stanzas:
Pilots must ensure that all surly bonds have been slipped entirely before aircraft taxi or flight is attempted.
During periods of severe sky dancing, crew and passengers must keep seatbelts fastened. Crew should wear shoulder belts as provided.
Sunward climbs must not exceed the maximum permitted aircraft ceiling.
Passenger aircraft are prohibited from joining the tumbling mirth.
We also read Gary Claud Stoker’s poem I’d do it Again which also expresses the exuberance of flight:
Flight is freedom in its purest form,
To dance with the clouds which follow a storm;
To roll and glide, to wheel and spin,
To feel the joy that swells within;
To leave the earth with its troubles and fly,
And know the warmth of a clear spring sky
However, Stoker also articulates the dangers of flight but asserts that they will not stop him flying, nor mar his joy in flying.
Should my end come while I am in flight,
Whether brightest day or darkest night;
Spare me your pity and shrug off the pain,
Secure in the knowledge that I'd do it again.
The last of our poems about flight was an unattributed ode where the Captain gives a few in-flight words:
I am the Captain, wise and all-knowing
Disagree, don’t let it be showing.
Follow my orders without hesitation
Or we’ll divert to a new destination.
With this we came back to earth.
Our meeting on 14th June was lively as ever. One of the poets whose work we read was Robert Service; who proved to be an entertaining writer. One short poem was the following:
My Father Christmas passed away
When I was barely seven.
At twenty-one, alack-a-day,
I lost my hope of heaven.
Yet not in either lies the curse:
The hell of it’s because
I don’t know which loss hurt the worse –
My God or Santa Claus.
It’s not possible to engage with poets whose surname begins with “S” and not include Carl Sandburg. He was such a towering figure in the literary world that at his death in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed that "Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America." He won three Pulitzer Prizes, two of them for poetry. It’s worth printing the whole of one of his poems and fitting that it is about words; how they galvanise and inspire us in the best and the worst of times. Each nation has its own call to arms.
I was a boy when I heard three red words
a thousand Frenchmen died in the streets
for: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity--I asked
why men die for words.
I was older; men with mustaches, sideburns,
lilacs, told me the high golden words are:
Mother, Home, and Heaven--other older men with
face decorations said: God, Duty, Immortality
--they sang these threes slow from deep lungs.
Years ticked off their say-so on the great clocks
of doom and damnation, soup, and nuts: meteors flashed
their say-so: and out of great Russia came three
dusky syllables workmen took guns and went out to die
for: Bread, Peace, Land.
And I met a marine of the U.S.A., a leatherneck with a girl on his knee
for a memory in ports circling the earth and he said: Tell me how to say
three things and I always get by--gimme a plate of ham and eggs--how
much--and--do you love me, kid?
We also read verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, including “Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone”. I am sure most if not all are familiar with the refrain “over the sea to Skye”. He also wrote his own Epitaph in the poem entitled “Requiem”.
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
The whole of this poem is inscribed on his tombstone at The Stevenson Family Estate Mount Vaea, Upolu, Samoa.
On 10 May we began our session with looking at some drawings and poems written by children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. This was prompted by a programme I saw on TV where Simon Sharma told the story of a Jewish woman who had been transported there as part of the “Final Solution”. She was an artist and, instead of packing clothes and other essentials, she took paints and paper. Most of the adults in the camp were transported to extermination camps but she remained for a time and taught the children to express their-selves in artworks. Some of these pictures survive at the camp and say who had survived and who had not. Very few had. Of the 150,000 children who passed through the camp, only 100 came back. Some of their artwork can be seen at Theresienstadt Art.
The following poem was written by Eva Pickova who was 12 years old:
Today the ghetto knows a different fear,
Close in its grip, Death wields an icy scythe.
An evil sickness spread a terror in its wake,
The victims of its shadow weep and writhe.
Today a father’s heartbeat tells his fright
And mothers bend their heads into their hands.
Now children choke and die with typhus here,
A bitter tax is taken from their bans.
My heart still beats inside my breast
While friends depart for other worlds.
Perhaps its better – who can say? –
Than watching this, to die today?
No, no my God, we want to live!
Not to watch our number melt away.
We want to have a better world, We want to work – we must not die.
And Franta Bass (age unknown) writes the following:
A little garden
Fragrant and full of roses.
The path is narrow
And a little boy walks along it.
A little boy, a sweet boy,
Like that growing blossom.
When the blossom comes to bloom,
The little boy will be no more.
After this sad start we went on to read the first batch of poems written by poets whose surnames start with “S”, among them On the Day of Nixon’s Funeral by Ira Sadoff. The poem ends with
… After all, they say he was a Scrappy man,
Wily and sage, who served as Lucifer, scapegoat, scoundrel,
A receptacle for acrimony and rage – one human being
Whose life I have no reverence for, which is why I’m singing now.
We are fortunate to have a historian amongst our number – John – and he gave us lots of information on Nixon, some we knew and some we didn’t. It was really interesting.
As ever in our group there was lots of chat as the poems introduced subjects we were interested in or passionate about.
We met in April and detoured from our poetic journey according to the alphabet. Instead we read two poems on Manchester; the first being “And the bees still buzz” by Ryan Williams which was written in response to the bomb at the Manchester Arena. It illustrates the indomitable spirit of Mancunians and finishes with the words:
So, come at us again, and again if you must.
Time after time we'll rise from the dust.
You'll never prevail - not against us...
This is Manchester, our MANCHESTER
And the bees still buzz!
The second poem on the city that we read was “This is the Place” by Tony Walsh giving an account of all the great people who have lived here and the ground-breaking moments in our history, both tragic and triumphant.
Because this is a place that has been through some hard times
Oppressions, recessions, depressions and dark times
But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit
Northern grit, northern wit in Greater Manchester’s lyrics
And there’s hard times again in these streets of our city
But we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity
Because this a place where we stand strong together
With a smile on our face, Mancunians Forever.
These two poems sparked a great deal of debate about the appalling conditions endured by the people who had flooded into Manchester in the early days of the industrial revolution and the terrible price those people paid as well as slavery and advances in science, technology, and music.
Mancunians in union delivered it all
Such as housing and libraries, and health, education
And unions and co-ops, the first railway station
So we’re sorry! Bear with us! We invented commuters!
But we hope you forgive us – we invented computers!
At our meeting on 10 May we will be meeting the “S” poets. Can’t wait.
As it had been the hundredth anniversary of women being given the right to vote in February and we had not marked it that month, we read some poems about suffragettes, both here and in the United States. Some were humorous, such as J Ilted's Why not marry a Suffragette?
It is not recommendable
To marry a suffragette.
Her tongue is not dependable;
She’s quite too self-defendable:
It is not recommendable;
And yet – and yet -
and others very serious such as Gail Foster’s Shall I vote or not?
Shall I vote or not?
She died for you, have you forgot
Who fought for you so you can say
Shall I vote or not today?
To be perfectly frank, we got through very few poems because, as ever, there was much discussion and reminiscence. One of our number suggested that we should be called the Poetry Appreciation Debating Society. Something to think about...
As our last meeting was close to Valentine’s day we started with some poems suitable for the occasion, including Rondel by Charles, Duke of Orleans, which is credited by some as being the very first Valentine’s poem. Members of the group brought along their favourites, including William Blake’s Love Seeketh Not, Christopher Reid’s Dear Diary, Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to his Love, Shakespeare’s Sonnets No. 25 Let those who are in favour with their stars and No. 18 Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? As an antidote we read Carol Ann Duffy’s poem Valentine. The opening lines are:
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
Like the careful undressing of love.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Not your everyday Valentine’s poem you have to agree but it does tell of love, just in a very different albeit truthful way.
We also read Duffy’s illustrated poem The Christmas Truce in book form. I borrowed this from Leigh Library. It’s very short but well worth reading.
Amongst others whose work we read was the enigmatic John Ruskin. He was an accomplished artist, prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He inspired and championed the Pre-Raphaelite artists. He is probably best remembered for two things: his Stones of Venice where he wrote about and illustrated a city in decay - and his famously unconsummated marriage to Effie Gray. He started writing poetry at a very young age, certainly by the age of 7.
Roland Robinson’s The Sermon of the Birds tells of the poet coming across a gathering of crows singing in a jungle gulley. Their cries drew the attention of the other birds who all add their voices to what Robinson called their “sermon”.
Of all the splendid excitement of the birds
I heard one feller was singing about them all.
It was the lyre-bird, the mimic of all the scrub,
And they held this beautiful sermon for half an hour……
And I went back and told my people of what I had seen,
And the sermon of praise I heard in the mountain range.
Often the lives lived by poets is as interesting as the poems they write. Though born in Ireland, Robinson was raised in Australia from the age of 9. After a very short education he worked at a variety of jobs: a roustabout in the bush, boundary-rider, railway fettler, fencer, dam-builder, gardener and – most surprising of all particularly for a male Australian at that time – a ballet dancer.
As ever in our lively group there was much discussion and debate. Transgender figured highly in February. Who knows what will be on the table in March?
We met on 11 January. I had previously prepared a handout for the November session which I was unable to attend due to holidays but on reflection realised that the poets on that sheet were a particularly gloomy lot and not ideal for our first session in a new year.
We therefore had a new sheet of "R" poets who were less pessimistic. The first poem on the sheet was by phil roberts. He does not capitalise his first or last name, nor does he give any of his poems titles. However, his words are very thought-provoking:
Sometimes God heals us
from the affliction,
but more often
He heals us
We also read Chocolate Cake by Michel Rosen. This quite rightly features in the Nation's top 100 poems. It's a humorous tale of a young boy's love of chocolate cake and how he found his mum’s chocolate cake in the cupboard. Meaning only to have a small slice he ends up eating the lot. It's funny.
We looked at three poems prompted by Pastor Niemoller's poem "First they came" about oppression by one group against another and how if no-one speaks out then inevitably you may be the one annihilated. These were two poems with the title "Trump Came For" by Gideon Lichfield and Emily Rosario and "The Price of Silence" by Leeda Mehran. They are all worth reading for their salutary message.
Joyce also read a poem by John Scott (1730-1783) entitled "I hate the drum". This is an anti-war poem and gave pause for thought.
We met on 12 October and were still engaged with poets whose surnames began with "R". This group do seem to be prolific both in number and volume of poetry although many of them seem to be writing about death. Cheery stuff!
Last month we had read a poem by Lizette Woodworth Reese called 'Telling the Bees'. According to Wikipedia "The telling of the bees is a traditional English custom, in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper's lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household."
However, it does seem to be customary in other societies as well. I had found other poems with the same title so we read these as well. As ever, there was much lively discussion which is what I most enjoy about the group.
The next meeting is on 9 November. I won’t be there but will prepare sheets and the group will be self-led. Those present in October all agreed to this.
I will be back for the meeting on December 14th when, hopefully, those who write their own poetry will bring some of that along. Also, if we all bring our favourite verses it will be a treat to listen to these.
We met on 13 July where we discussed more poets whose surnames begin with "R". Kathleen brought along a poem entitled "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson about a man who appears to have everything – looks, riches, etc – but one night he inexplicably put a bullet to his head. We truly never know what burdens others carry. Margaret read a poem entitled "Dear Felix" by Jackie Kay about a teenager who sadly took his own life after being bullied at school. Not the cheeriest of starts but provoking much discussion about the prevalence of bullying, social media and the difficulties young people face today.
The "R" poets present us with a rich array of varying themes and emotions. There were poems on the Serbo/Croat conflict by Susan Rich, the holocaust by Tadeusz Rozewicz, the weather, lights on broadway and the custom of telling the bees of a family death. However, we were all surprised by the modernity of the language in Sir Walter Raleigh's poem "My Last Will". This was not a poem about the portioning out of goods and monies but rather him expressing his will that his wife enjoy her life after he had gone.
Take the good that life can give
From the time you have to live.
Sir Walter Raleigh was a fascinating and charismatic man who was also a skilled (and often humorous) poet. We read several more of his, including "Song of Myself". The opening lines are familiar to all of us, but I bet very few would attribute them to Raleigh:
I was a Poet!
But I did not know it,
Neither did my Mother,
Nor my Sister nor my Brother.
The rich were not aware of it;
The poor took no care of it.
The Reverend Mr. Drewitt
Never knew it.
The High did not suspect it;
The Low could not suspect it.
Said it was obviously untrue.
Said I was off my head …..
The poem continues but you can look it up if you are interested and also Raleigh's fascinating story. He did not lay down his cloak over a puddle for Queen Elizabeth, neither did he introduce tobacco or the potato to England. He's certainly worth googling.
We met on 8 June to consider poetry by those whose surnames began with "Q" or "R". There were a surprising number of "Q" poets, including Francis Quarles, Wilder Dwight Quint and Nizar Qabbani who wrote the succinct but moving "My Lover Asks Me":
My lover asks me:
"What is the difference between me and the sky?"
The difference, my love,
Is that when you laugh,
I forget about the sky.
Kathleen brought along "The Naming of Parts" by Henry Reed which is a parody of British Army training during the Second World War and shows how woefully equipped the troops were as parts of the weapons issued to them are missing. Michael treated us to a very moving sung rendition of "Waltzing Matilda".
We met on 13 April to consider poets whose surnames begin with the letter "P".
One major figure in this group is the American poet Sylvia Plath. Her poetry is often disturbing in content and also frequently difficult to understand. I used the website Shmoop which is primarily aimed at teenagers. It renders problematic language/content into words which will appeal to them whilst dealing with difficult concepts. If ever there was a time to use Shmoop, it is in unravelling Plath's poetry as it literally goes through a poem line by line. I printed out info from their website and distributed this at our meeting. For those who missed this session these will be available on Thursday 11th. Plath's poems (and her difficult life and death) generated a lot of discussion.
We also then looked at other poets in this category including Marge Piercy, Dorothy Parker, Ezra Pound, Alexander Pope, Edgar Allen Poe and others. As we did not finish the poems I had prepared we will be revisiting the "P" poets. One I particularly like is by Plato:
Thou gazest on the stars, my star!
Ah! would that I might be
Myself those skies with myriad eyes,
That I might gaze on thee.
When we met in March there were 11 of us – more than ever before – heady stuff!
We were reading poets whose surname began with "O". We therefore looked at the life and poems of Wilfred Owen initially. Owen was killed one week before the end of the first world war, in fact his mother received the telegram telling her of this fact as the bells were ringing to celebrate the armistice. His work tells of the brutality and cruelty of war and the inhuman conditions men had to suffer.
There were a surprising number of "O" poets – not all of them Irish either! Amongst them were Sharon Olds, Frank O'Hara, Thomas Oldham and Mary Oliver.
We also had a first – Michael, a new addition to the group, sang several pieces. Life is ever surprising, and all the better for that.
We met on 5 January to read poems by those whose surnames begin with "N". These included the well-known "The Highwayman" which many of us had studied in our youth. Also some humorous poems by Kenn Nesbit and Ogden Nash, amongst them the succinct
As ever, there was much discussion and chatter (some of it even about the poems!!).
We met on 8 December.
As this was the last meeting before Christmas we were all in a more relaxed mood, helped no doubt by scones, jam and cream!
Rather than progressing to the "N" poets as scheduled we looked at some of the "M" poets whose works we had not read.
Also, Pat read her favourite poem "Ode to Autumn" by Keats. If you are not familiar with this poem then you will almost certainly have heard the famous opening first line:
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness...
We met on 10th November and our theme was poets whose surnames began with "M". We were pleased to welcome Hilary and Chris as new members to the group.
Whilst searching for poets in this category I came across Ethel Allen Murphy who wrote verses to accompany paintings by renaissance masters. I found the relevant pictures and printed them on the handout next to the poems and it was a very useful exercise because the images gave added pathos and meaning to the poems.
Instead of talking further about the works we read, instead I'll mention some we didn't get around to looking at. The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem In Flanders Fields.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars 2 centuries ago transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers. In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as World War One raged through Europe. Once the conflict was over the poppy was one of the only plants to flourish on the otherwise barren battlefields.
The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by the fallen and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in World War One and then in later conflicts. It was adopted by The Royal British Legion as the symbol for their Poppy Appeal, in aid of those serving in the British Armed Forces.
Another work we didn't read was Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. Though you may not be familiar with the title, I am sure that most will know the first line:
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle,
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
The shepherd however retains a degree of pragmatism and common sense in that he qualifies his ardent invitation,
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
On two separate occasions at the end of the poem he uses the word "if". Only if his love is moved by his promised delights should she take up his invitation. Sense indeed!
At our last meeting we welcomed Bronwen to our group where we were reading poems by those whose surname began with "L". There are surprising things to be learnt whilst researching poets. For instance, the famous words on the plinth of the Statue of Liberty come from a poem called The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. She wrote the poem and donated it for auction conducted by "The Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty". These words are:
... Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
I also learnt that a "fabulist" is one who writes fables. As well as the very famous Aesop there was also Jean de La Fontaine writing in France in the 17th century. He was a prolific and famous poet; one of the most widely read French poets of his time.
This group of poets contained Edward Lear and his nonsense limericks, D H Lawrence, Henry Livingston Jnr (who wrote "The Night Before Christmas"), Philip Larkin and Primo Levi.
Perhaps the most surprising poet from this group is Abraham Lincoln. His short poem entitled Abraham Lincoln reads as follows:
his hand and pen
he will be good but
God knows when.
We met on 11 August to discuss poets whose surnames began with "K". However before moving on to the poets we welcomed Gary as a new member and then took time to remember Tony Ashcroft who had been a key member of our little group since the very beginning. As he had access to the local Library's archives he very often introduced us to material with which none of us were familiar. His contributions were invaluable and he is very much missed.
This group of poets contained Rudyard Kipling who wrote the nation's favourite poem "If". We read this and then talked about the sad loss of his only son in the first world war. After the war Kipling joined the Imperial War Graves Commission, the group responsible for the garden-like British war graves that can be found to this day dotted along the former Western Front and all the other locations around the world where troops of the British Empire lie buried. It was his initiative to have a plain stone of remembrance in all war cemeteries which contained 1,000 or more burials to commemorate all faiths of the fallen. He chose the phrase "Their Name Liveth For Evermore". He suggested the phrase "Known unto God" for the gravestones of unidentified servicemen and chose the inscription "The Glorious Dead" on the Cenotaph in London. Because we are so familiar with all these words it is easy to forget the time and effort he must have spent to come up with such apt phrases.
Kathleen facilitated the last poetry appreciation meeting in my stead as I was unable to attend and I thank her for this. On the agenda were poets whose surname began with "J" and it was surprising how many there were and the range of subjects, from the humorous to the tragic. As well as several of the prepared poems, Sue read The Song of the Lower Classes by Ernest Jones and Kathleen read Friendship and One Flesh by Elizabeth Jennings. Joyce fortunately read several humorous poems to counter the somewhat sad nature of many of the poems read.
We met on 9 June and were up to the letter "I" in our alphabetical journey through poets. As there are so few surnames beginning with this letter, we broadened the brief to include those whose first names began with I, or poems whose first letter was I. In the end thought there were a surprising number of poets in the "I" category. Luckily Richard Harris Barham, a prolific writer of verse, fell into this category as he wrote under the pseudonym of Thomas Ingoldsby. The name John William Ivemey may not be familiar to you, but you will all recognise the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice which he wrote.
Kathleen read Wildflowers and Hothouse Plants by Henrik Ibsen, The Bagel by David Ignatow and I am by Gertrude Stein. Marion read Ian Crichton Smith's The Departing Island and Farewell.
We did stray into J and K as well. Tony brought along William Keefe's O Be Joyful in the Lord whose opening line of "All people that on earth do dwell" will be familiar to most of us. Tony and Joyce both introduced us to the poetic work of Clive James. I had not known that he wrote poetry and was not alone in this misconception. Tony read his Winter Plums and Joyce read the humorous The book of my enemy has been remaindered. Joyce also read the wonderful "Warning" by Jenny Joseph which tells of a woman proposing rebellion against social conventions.
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.
We met on 12 May to continue reading works by poets whose surnames began with H, having previously discussed Thomas Hardy, A E Housman and Ted Hughes.
Sue read Housman’s "Into my heart an air that kills..." about a lost land of “blue remembered hills” which the speaker recognises and mourns the fact that he can never return. Kathleen read Tony Harrison’s “Long Distance II” about his father’s grief over the death of his wife, Harrison’s mother and his inability to let her go.
Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.
Marian shared Adrian Henri’s “Tonight at Noon” where the poet subverts time, space and emotions by illustrating the world as confusing and topsy turvy. We only understand in the last few lines that this is because his loved one does not love him back.
In forgotten graveyards everywhere
the dead will quietly bury the living and
You will tell me you love me
Tonight at noon
The “H” poets gave us the whole gamut of emotions. They were in turn inventive, funny, caustic, patriotic and condemnatory. Perhaps the most useful advice to come from this group is from Robert Herrick – written in the 17th century but still so relevant.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
A humorous note to finish from Oliver Herford, an American writer, artist and illustrator:
CHILDREN, behold the Chimpanzee:
He sits on the ancestral tree
From which we sprang in ages gone.
I'm glad we sprang: had we held on,
We might, for aught that I can say,
Be horrid Chimpanzees to-day.
Incidentally, it’s also Herford who said "A woman's mind is cleaner than a man's: she changes it more often."
We met on Thursday 10 March and were pleased to welcome Pauline to the group. We looked at the work of poets whose surname began with “H”. This proved to be too large a task for one session as there are some real “heavyweight” poets in this category. Unusually therefore we concentrated on the works of just a few; Thomas Hardy, A E Housman and Seamus Heaney (aka “famous Seamus”). All three were passionate about the land and times that spawned them; a passion which informed their work. This is like the concept of terroir where a foodstuff– most notably grapes for wine - is grown in a specific habitat and the environmental factors and land impart a unique quality or “character” to the crop. All three poets were sensitive to the changing of the seasons and their effects on birds, wildlife and harvest.
All lived through turbulent times and wrote of the conflicts they, their families, neighbours and countrymen endured. Hardy was very interested in war, particularly the Napoleonic Wars, visiting the site of the battle of Waterloo and conducting interviews with elderly soldiers who had fought in the campaigns. He expressed this in metre. Houseman too wrote of war, battling the opposing themes of patriotism and the plight soldiers killed in conflict. Heaney lived through Ireland’s “troubles” and trod a fine line between interweaving commentary on these within a historical context and a wider human experience.
I had also taken a CD of Ted Hughes reading his own work but we only listened to two poems as it was strange not to have the printed words in front of us. I will therefore bring some of his poems to the next session.
I asked if anyone had brought works by other poets as well as they had not expected the different format. As ever, the group did not disappoint and most had brought along poems to read, including those by Philip Hobsbaun, Nat Pensby and Thomas Hardy. Tony read the sad – and true – tale of 13 year old Casabianca who went down with his ship as he awaited orders from his father to leave, not knowing that he lay dead below deck. Most of you will be familiar with the opening lines:
The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone round him o’er the dead.
You may also be familiar with the alternative version:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Selling peas a penny a peck.
Did he wash his dirty neck?
No, did he ‘eck!
As I am unavailable for the scheduled meeting in April, our next meeting will be on Thursday 12 May when, as mentioned earlier, we will be reading works by poets whose surnames begin with H.
We met on 11 February to read poems written by poets whose surname began with “G”. I have to say that, on trawling through myriads of poems by this group, I have never come across such a grisly and gloomy group as they predominantly dealt with death and war. That’s not however to dismiss them or say that their words were not impressive or persuasive.
We started with Hanford Lennox Gordon’s Gettysburg: Charge of the First Minnesota which is a first-hand account of the battle with all its noise, confusion, frenzy, bravery and, ultimately, sadness for the fallen. It’s patriotic, moving and, most of all, real. It puts the reader firmly on the battlefield in the heart of the action.
Pat had brought along an anthology of poetry by Tyldesley writers and read Irena Gillette on Spring. We were amazed that someone who was not writing in her native tongue should be so articulate in ours. Sue read The Magpies by Denis Glover, which tells of a farming couple from young man and wife through to old age, senility and death during the Great Depression in New Zealand. Their tragedy and changing fortunes are set against the humorous and unchanging call of “Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle” by the ever present magpies.
Tony read, amonst others, Pastures of Plenty by Woody Guthrie. It is similar in that it deals with man versus nature, telling the story of itinerant workers in the US, moving from state to state from the “Dust Bowl” to “Green pastures of plenty”.
We did find some humorous poems, amongst them My Father’s false Teeth by Richard Garcia and Too Many Daves by Theodore Geisel (aka Dr Seuss).
Harry Graham’s short Tender-heartedness is worth a read:
Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy.
We met on Thursday 14 January to look at the work of poets whose surname began with the letter “F”. As with all the previous poets in this meander through the alphabet there were a large number of poets from different ethnic backgrounds writing on a whole range of human emotions, from the humorous to the tragic.
Pat brought along a wonderful poem by Catherine Maria Fanshawe (1765–1834) entitled “Riddle on the letter H”. Look it up on google, it’s worth it. Pat read it to us without telling us the title and none of us could solve the riddle. The poet exhibits really clever use of words, not just in spelling out the riddle, but doing so in rhyming couplets. So much so that, according to Wikipedia, the poem is often attributed to Byron. We all agreed that poets have a completely different and gifted relationship with language to the rest of us.
When searching for poets in this category I was amazed to find that Benjamin Franklin wrote poetry. Who knew? He entitled those that I found with the number of days in the month he wrote the poem. For example:
XI Mon. January  hath xxxi days.
By Benjamin Franklin
Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion,
Instead of Truth they use Equivocation,
And eke it out with mental Reservation,
Which to good Men is an Abomination.
Our Smith of late most wonderfully swore,
That whilst he breathed he would drink no more;
But since, I know his Meaning, for I think
He meant he would not breath whilst he did drink.
At previous meetings some of our members who are lucky enough to know poets personally have read their works aloud, but in November we had a first. Marion had actually composed her own poem which she read for us. It was amazing, witty and considered. Thanks so much for taking the time and energy to not only write this but to share it with the group.
As with the previous sessions on our alphabetical odyssey of poets, I thought we would struggle to come up with enough material from those whose surnames began with “E”. Not so. Those discussed included Euripides (485 – 406BC), David Essex (yes, the singer), Ebenezer Elliot, Gavin Ewart and Ralph Waldo Emerson. We read two poems in translation by Günter Eich and Hans Magnus Enzensberger respectively, poems of place, those which were humorous and those which were sad.
Probably the two most famous poets in this category were T S Eliot (including his famous “Cat” poems) and Marriott Edgar. You may think the latter is not known to you but most will have heard his odes delivered in the form of monologues by Stanley Holloway. Arguably the most famous of these is “Albert and the Lion” about a young lad being eaten by a lion at Blackpool Zoo.
Kathleen shared this succinct and aptly-named poem by George Ellis which sums up the months of the year in terms of climate:
The Twelve Months
SNOWY, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.
It was lovely to welcome several new members to the Poetry Appreciation group on Thursday 8 October and my thanks go to those who arranged the U3A open day which led to this. We therefore had a group of 10 – heady stuff!
We looked at poets whose surname began with “D” and, as were not constrained by any particular theme, the poems ranged from the humorous to the sad and the many shades in between. We read Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy”. Dunbar was born in 1872 and the first line of his third verse is “I know why the caged bird sings…” which inspired Maya Angelou’s famous poem taking these words as the title of one on her most famous and inspiring poems. William Henry Davies' poem “Leisure” contains words with which we are probably all familiar
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
We all agreed with the message conveyed in this poem that sometimes we need to just step out of our busy lives and take time to appreciate what is around us.
Kathleen read Michael Drayton’s oddly entitled poem Idea 61: Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part. Though written in the 16th century we all agreed that it had a surprisingly modern tone.
We were all amazed by the sheer number of poets whose surnames began with “D” and the rich variety of their poems. Our journey took us from Dante through to Carol Ann Duffy, our current poet laureate. Amongst others we looked at works by Roald Dahl, Charles Dodson (aka Lewis Carroll), John Dryden, Bill Dodds, Charles Dickens and Angus Dunn. As with popular voting shows currently on TV, they are in no particular order!
JULY: we were a very small group this time, just three of us! However, we still had an interesting session looking at works by poets whose surname began with “C”. Marion and Tony brought along poems by, amongst others, Margaret Cavendish, G K Chesterton, Leonard Cohen, Charley Causley and Noel Coward.
Unusually, after a break for a quick cuppa, we took longer to look at the life and work of Paul Celan, concentrating in particular on his Death Fugue. Celan is a towering figure in holocaust literature and one of the very few who use poetry to try to articulate their experiences. His parents died in a concentration camp and Paul was taken to a forced labour camp where there were no gas chambers. These therefore are not featured in Death Fugue. He is forced to try to express what is literally unspeakable. His language in the poem is therefore purposefully evasive. He cannot give meaning to what is senseless and meaningless.
JUNE: Continuing on our alphabetical odyssey of poets, we reached the letter “B”. Once again a member of our small group personally knew a poet. Tony is fortunate to be friends with Christine Brousfield, a Bradford born poet who not only composes poetry, but is interested in how it relates to music and also in poetry as therapy. We therefore began by listening to some of her poetry. I must therefore thank Tony for not only bringing this poet to our notice but also for bringing the equipment to allow us to listen to her work.
Amongst others, we read poems by John Betjamen, Hilaire Belloc, Wendell Berry, Elizabeth Bishop, William Blake, Anne Bradstreet, Anne Bronte, Robert (Robbie) Burns and Lord Byron. As well as enjoying the poetry, we also sometimes briefly discuss the lives of the poets; so we now know that Lord Byron had a club foot, Bertolt Brecht wrote “Mack the Knife” and Hilaire Belloc was once the member of Parliament for Salford South. Who knew? As always, much discussion took place – some of it even about poetry!
On 14th May we began our alphabetical journey through poets starting, obviously, with those beginning with the letter “A”. There were a surprising number in this category. We looked at works ranging from the humorous (Pam Ayres) to the shocking (Margaret Atwood), from the all-known (W, H Auden, Maya Angelou) to those we were just meeting for the first time, amongst them Antonella Anedda and Peter Appleton.
Barbara is fortunate to know a real-life poet, Simon Armitage, and she brought along a couple of his poems: “It Ain'T What You Do, It's What It Does To You” and “I am very bothered”.
As always, our session was probably 40% poetry-related and 60% anecdotal and chatty.
At our last meeting on 2 April we focussed on works by Poets Laureate from any era and any country. First, a potted history of the term Poet Laureate. “Laureate” comes from the word “laurel”, a tree which was sacred to Apollo and used in ancient Greece to form a crown or wreath of honour for poets and heroes. In the middle ages, the title of Poet Laureate was awarded in some English and European Universities on graduation with a degree in rhetoric, equivalent to the modern day Doctorate of Poetry. In England, Charles 1 essentially created the position as we now know it for Ben Johnson in 1617, although there had been poets associated with the crown before this time, most notably Geoffrey Chaucer (awarded pension and amount of wine by Edward III) and Edmund Spenser (awarded a pension by Queen Elizabeth 1). Our current title-holder is Carol Ann Duffy.
We read works by, amongst others, William Wordsworth, Cecil Day-Lewis, Ted Hughes, John Masefield and John Betjeman. All of these had been English Poets Laureate. Jo introduced us to some of the poems of her friend Andrew Rudd who served as the Poet Laureate of Cheshire. We were all amazed at how someone with such a gift for poetry and language was not more well known. We also had not been aware that Cheshire had its very own Poet Laureate.
Similarly, Scotland has the Edinburgh Makar, a post currently held by Liz Lochhead. Ireland has up to seven Saois at a time (meaning wise one). Arguably the most famous of these was Seamus Heaney. Fiercely patriotic, on being included in The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry without his consent, he wrote:
Be advised my passport’s green
No glass of ours was ever raised
to toast the Queen.
We then looked further afield to the USA and read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” where he famously takes the “road less travelled”, and “The Names” by Billy Collins – commissioned by remember the victims of September 11 (911). We finished by reading works by the current Poets Laureate of Jamaica and S Africa. So we had a geographic and historic taste or poetry, crossing boundaries of time and place.
Our depleted group met on 12 March to discuss poems about Spring. I was surprised when searching for poems that there were noticeably fewer about Spring than there were about Autumn when we tackled that season. However we managed to come up with a range of poets, including – amongst others - Laurie Lee, R S Thomas, Philip Larkin, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Thomas Carew, D H Lawrence and John Clare.
There was a dialect poem by Robert Burns, O were my love yon Lilac fair, read incredibly badly by myself (all the more disappointing because my father was a Scot and I could hear the lovely lilting voices of my Scottish relatives in my head but was not able to replicate them).
No poetry session about Spring would be complete with William Wordsworth, our one time Poet Laureate. As well as I wondered lonely as a Cloud, we read his Lines Written in Early Spring. Whilst compiling poems for this session I was very surprised to learn that America also has Poets Laureate, although I was somewhat gratified to find that I was not alone in the assumption that the position was unique to the UK. We therefore read a poem by A Cold Spring by Elizabeth Bishop, USA Poet Laureate from 1949 – 1950, and Today by Billy Collins, the USA Poet Laureate from 2001 – 2003.
We were very pleased to welcome Kathleen into our small but friendly group in February and, with Valentine’s day in mind, what other poems could we choose but those dealing with love?
We looked at some of the famous ones, Oh my Love’s like a red, red rose by Robert Burns, How do I love thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, several of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Funeral Blues by W H Auden. If you don’t recognise Funeral Blues from the title then you will undoubtedly recognise the first line – especially if you watched the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. It goes “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone”.
Though some or all of these are familiar to probably all of us, they lose none of their emotive power by being revisited. It’s a bit like calling in on old friends, you’re always sure of a welcome.
Marion brought along a poem by our current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy entitled Valentine. She does not use the usual symbols of love and so the opening lines are surprising.
Not a red rose or a satin heart,
I give you an onion.
Amongst others, we looked work by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Edmund Spenser, Hugo Williams, Maria Lovell, Oscar Wilde and German-born Eric Fried.
We met in January to discuss our favourite poems and why we liked them. A broad range of poets were featured, including (amongst others) Blake, Shakespeare, Hardy, Donne, Houseman, Kipling and Manley-Hopkins. Several of us had brought along the same poems, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day and Kipling’s If. We liked our chosen poems because of the language used, the images they invoked or just that they meant something to us. We even loved poems that we found difficult or hard to understand.
Our meeting on 11th December was light-hearted as we read humorous poems on a wide range of topics, including chocolate cake and explosions. Pam Ayres and a few dialect poems also featured. A very fitting end to the year which has included poems on war, autumn and harvest, the beat poets, loss and bereavement, poems by people of colour, and a session focussed on Yeats and Masefield.
We met on 9 October and were pleased to welcome Joanne (Joe) into our small but friendly group. Our topic was "autumn" and we read poems by a wide range of poets, some well-known and loved favourites like John Betjeman, Seamus Heaney, John Clare, John Keats and William Wordsworth to lesser known poets such as Shanice A Rodriguez. Mary even found one by Elizabeth Mason who was new to all of us. The copyright of her poem Autumn Harvest is held by Knutsford Methodist Church.
Our group is friendly and welcoming. We read poems on a given topic each month. We don't go into great in-depth analysis of the poems, just discuss how we respond to then and how they make us feel. This in turn leads to anecdotal stories on many topics.
We met on 11 September to read poems written by people of colour. These included poems about slavery, about dislocation and also some Arabian poems. It was interesting to see how people from different cultures with different experiences express themselves.
We met on 10 July to look at poetry expressing loss and bereavement. We read some of the more famous poems read at funerals, such as the ones starting "Stop all the clocks". "Death is nothing at all", " Do not stand at my grave and weep" and "Our revels now are ended". We also then read some less famous ones through which people had found comfort in times of grief.We met on 12 June to discuss poetry by Masefield and Yeats, chosen because they were both born in June.
Masefield had initially wanted to spend his life at sea but experienced seasickness and also came to realised the hopelessness of a sailor’s life at that time and that his vocation was to write. However, he never forgot the wonders he had seen or his fascination with the sea. These surfaced in Cargoes and Sea Fever in particular.
Yeats was born in Dublin and became deeply involved with politics. He writes in many different styles from the country ballad feel of Moll Magee to his more pessimistic and challenging poems.
We met on 10 April to look at poetry from different wars and were pleased to welcome Mary to our small group. Mary brought along a poem by Barbara Freisch about an alleged incident by a woman in the American Civil War. This prompted an interesting discussion about the poet who was not known by the rest of us.
Amongst other poems, Tony read out "Dancers" by Edith Sitwell; a thought-provoking piece. Barbara supplied songs which ordinary soldiers sang in the trenches to give voice to their feelings. Another poem discussed was From Normandy by Curtis D Bennett.
Although we are currently discussing war poetry and the subject matter is by definition sombre, the group is lively and everyone contributes. Why not come along and join us?
We were pleased to welcome Marion to the group this week and we looked mainly at poetry from the first world war. We had all brought poems and so had quite a number to look at.
Barbara supplied For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, together with a critique of the poem which we were surprised to see was largely negative. This poem contains the famous stanza:
They shall not g