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What are your favourite poems?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by TES_Rosaline, Sep 13, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Primary teachers shared their favourite poems on Twitter this week under the popular hashtag #Primaryrocks. If you haven’t seen the ones which made the list, have a look:


    Did your favourite make it? Share your favourite poems below and and which ones have been popular with your pupils, and why?
  2. maggie m

    maggie m Lead commenter

    Sea fever and a Smugglers song, I love the rhythm of both and the story they tell.. I had to learn these ( and several others )when I was a first former. I must have done a good job in learning them as I can still recite them 46 years later
  3. Over_the_hill

    Over_the_hill Star commenter

    I’m rather partial to a limerick.
  4. BigFrankEM

    BigFrankEM Established commenter


    Telling lies to the young is wrong.
    Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
    Telling them that God’s in his heaven
    and all’s well with the world is wrong.
    The young know what you mean. The young are people.
    Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted
    and let them see not only what will be
    but see with clarity these present times
    Say obstacles exist they must encounter,
    sorrow happens, hardship happens.
    The hell with it. Who never knew
    the price of happiness will not be happy.
    Forgive no error you recognise,
    it will repeat itself, increase,
    and afterwards our pupils
    will not forgive in us what we forgave.

    –Yevgeny Yevtushenko.


    Questions from a worker who reads

    Who built Thebes of the seven gates ?
    In the books you will read the names of kings.
    Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?

    And Babylon, many times demolished,
    Who raised it up so many times ?

    In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
    Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

    Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
    Who erected them ?

    Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
    Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?

    Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
    The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

    The young Alexander conquered India.
    Was he alone ?

    Caesar defeated the Gauls.
    Did he not even have a cook with him ?

    Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
    Was he the only one to weep ?

    Frederick the Second won the Seven Years War.
    Who else won it ?

    Every page a victory.
    Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

    Every 10 years a great man.
    Who paid the bill ?

    So many reports.

    So many questions.

    Bertolt Brecht (1935)


    Both translations from the original language. If only I had Russian or German.

    Speaking of which, Kurt Weil, who was the composer for the lyrics of Brecht in Pirate Jenny etc (?) himself wrote song lyrics.

    In German, French and English successively I believe.

    What talent.

    "September song"...... Sung by Walter Huston !
  5. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Into my heart an air that kills
    From yon far country blows;
    What are those blue remembered hills,
    What spires, what farms are those?

    That is the land of lost content,
    I see it shining plain,
    The happy highways where I went
    And cannot come again.

    A E Housman.
  6. lilachardy

    lilachardy Star commenter

    If you make jelly in a teapot
    And try to flop it out
    It takes about a fortnight
    To get it out the spout.
  7. cassandramark2

    cassandramark2 Lead commenter

    Very difficult to choose a favourite poem as I have had so many throughout my life.

    However, after the sudden (totally unexpected) death of my ‘little’ brother, John - who was actually a 30 year-old 6’ 3” rugby player - this one means more to me than any other:

    We Are Seven
    A simple Child,
    That lightly draws its breath,
    And feels its life in every limb,
    What should it know of death?

    I met a little cottage Girl:
    She was eight years old, she said;
    Her hair was thick with many a curl
    That clustered round her head.

    She had a rustic, woodland air,
    And she was wildly clad:
    Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
    —Her beauty made me glad.

    “Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
    How many may you be?”
    “How many? Seven in all,” she said,
    And wondering looked at me.

    “And where are they? I pray you tell.”
    She answered, “Seven are we;
    And two of us at Conway dwell,
    And two are gone to sea.

    “Two of us in the church-yard lie,
    My sister and my brother;
    And, in the church-yard cottage, I
    Dwell near them with my mother.”

    “You say that two at Conway dwell,
    And two are gone to sea,
    Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
    Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

    Then did the little Maid reply,
    “Seven boys and girls are we;
    Two of us in the church-yard lie,
    Beneath the church-yard tree.”

    “You run about, my little Maid,
    Your limbs they are alive;
    If two are in the church-yard laid,
    Then ye are only five.”

    “Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
    The little Maid replied,
    “Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
    And they are side by side.

    “My stockings there I often knit,
    My kerchief there I hem;
    And there upon the ground I sit,
    And sing a song to them.

    “And often after sun-set, Sir,
    When it is light and fair,
    I take my little porringer,
    And eat my supper there.

    “The first that died was sister Jane;
    In bed she moaning lay,
    Till God released her of her pain;
    And then she went away.

    “So in the church-yard she was laid;
    And, when the grass was dry,
    Together round her grave we played,
    My brother John and I.

    “And when the ground was white with snow,
    And I could run and slide,
    My brother John was forced to go,
    And he lies by her side.”

    “How many are you, then,” said I,
    “If they two are in heaven?”
    Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
    “O Master! we are seven.”

    “But they are dead; those two are dead!
    Their spirits are in heaven!”
    ’Twas throwing words away; for still
    The little Maid would have her will,
    And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

    William Wordsworth
  8. George_Randle

    George_Randle Established commenter

    Beautiful. It always makes me think of the play Blue Remembered Hills, and then of Jo Shapcott's wonderful tribute to its author, A Letter to Dennis...

    nomad likes this.
  9. Nanook_rubs_it

    Nanook_rubs_it Star commenter

    Let me die a young man's death

    not a clean and inbetween

    the sheets holywater death

    not a famous-last-words

    peaceful out of breath death

    When I'm 73

    and in constant good tumour

    may I be mown down at dawn

    by a bright red sports car

    on my way home

    from an allnight party

    Or when I'm 91

    with silver hair

    and sitting in a barber's chair

    may rival gangsters

    with hamfisted tommyguns burst in

    and give me a short back and insides

    Or when I'm 104

    and banned from the Cavern

    may my mistress

    catching me in bed with her daughter

    and fearing for her son

    cut me up into little pieces

    and throw away every piece but one

    Let me die a youngman's death

    not a free from sin tiptoe in

    candle wax and waning death

    not a curtains drawn by angels borne

    'what a nice way to go' death

    Roger McGough
  10. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    A Haiku:

    To express oneself
    in seventeen syllables
    is very diffic
  11. Dragonlady30

    Dragonlady30 Star commenter

    When I was teaching I loved working on 'The Listeners'. It is like the middle part of a story and so we would work on what went before and what came after.

    For myself, the list of favourites is just too long!!
    SundaeTrifle and BertieBassett2 like this.
  12. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Haikus are easy
    But sometimes they don't make sense
  13. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Spell to bring lost creatures home

    Home, home
    Wild birds home!
    Lark to the grass,
    Wren to the hedge,
    Rooks to the tree-tops,
    Swallow to the eaves,
    Eagle to its crag
    And raven to its stone,
    All birds home!
    Home, home,
    Strayed ones home,
    Rabbit to burrow
    Fox to earth,
    Mouse to the wainscot,
    Rat to the barn,
    Cattle to the byre,

    Dog to the hearth,
    All beasts home!
    Home, home,
    Wanderers home,
    Cormorant to rock
    Gulls from the storm,
    Boat to the harbour
    Safe sail home!
    Children home,
    At evening home,
    Boys and girls
    From the roads come home,
    Out of the rain
    Sons come home,
    From the gathering dusk,
    Young ones home!

    Home, home,
    All souls home,
    Dead to the graveyard,
    Living to the lamplight,
    Old to the fireside,
    Girls from the twilight,
    Babe to the breast
    And heart to its haven,
    Lost ones home!

    Kathleen Raine
  14. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    Invitation by Ray Webber

    come on in and sit down
    have a cigarette
    a drink
    what would you like to talk about?
    being stabbed through the heart
    stabbed in the back
    being swindled
    bored with routine
    confused and exasperated by bureaucracy
    dissatisfied disillusioned
    disgusted with yourself
    i'll listen if it helps
    but beyond that
    i can't do anything for you
    i can't change the world
    i can't change human nature
    if I had that sort of power
    i'd go raving mad
    anyone can go
    slightly round the bend
    you've only got to look at me
    but the madness that comes from power
    does not sit in a squalid room
    revising last week's poems
    and tearing up poems
    from the week before that -
    'the lunatic, the lover and the poet'
    okay it has a good ring
    but even the great bard
    got things wrong sometimes
    none of us are perfect
    and those who counsel perfection
    are mad lunatics of the first order
    the lunatics you have to watch out for
    they often sit behind big desks
    tortured by the conviction
    that they're surrounded
    by treacherous scoundrels
    disguised as woolly-headed poets
    dreamy lovers
    and disaffected nonentities
    you know all the rest
    how heads roll and
    spirits are broken
    next time
    if you come around again
    we may talk about Gurus
    fundamentalist preachers
    and the new politics of correctness
    flourishing in so-called democracies

    Webber was known as the 'Bristol Burroughs' and never had any of his poetry published until he was 93. His influences ranged from Eliot to the Beat poets.

    More details here:

    George_Randle likes this.
  15. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    From Vintage Humour: The Islamic Wine Poetry of Abu Nuwas (translated by Alex Rowell)

    I Miss Al-Hira*

    By God, I dearly miss
    Al-Hira and its wine
    And the ‘oud strings’ sound at dawn
    As the church bells chime,
    And I miss the taverns at
    The sacrifice time**
    And spending, on drink and
    Beardless youths, my every dime
    By God, were you to hear
    The Poems I’ve devised
    Their splendour would leave you in
    Despair till your demise

    *formerly a famous centre for Nestorian Christianity in Iraq

    Take Revenge on Ramadan

    Take revenge on Ramadan
    With the fine wines aged in clay
    And spend Shawwal in revelry
    As the songstress plays
    May you be, without exception
    Drunk at least twice a day
    Shawwal has been most generous
    Our thanks must be conveyed
    It brought festivity and song
    And kept the fast’s shackles at bay
    The months I find most agreeable
    Are, from Ramadan furthest away

    Maybe copies of these poems should be distributed to those anti-LGBT school protesters in Birmingham, along with a reminder that almost without exception the classic works of Arabic poetry and prose, from Abu Nuwas to the Thousand and One Nights, treated gay people and their sexuality with respect and admiration, that homosexual love imagery was the standard currency of Islamic mystical writings, and that many of the authors of gay erotic poetry in Moorish Spain were also teachers of the Qur'an, religious leaders, or judges.
    George_Randle likes this.
  16. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    My favourite poetry anthology is the Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikibu as translated by Jane Hirshfield.

    The poets were both aristocratic women and members of the medieval Japanese Heian court. The extensive literature that survives from this period reminds me a bit of the TV series Made in Chelsea, as a good deal of it focuses on their sometimes polyamorous romantic relationships.

    The poems are of the waka genre (slightly more expansive than Haiku), and follows a syllabic pattern of 5-7-5, 7-7.

    Here's an example:

    In this world
    love has no color--
    yet how deeply
    my body
    is stained by yours.

    I like the physicality of this poem and the implied exchange of bodily fluids, while those familiar with Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy might even detect an allusion to the interpenetration of nirvana and samsara.

    A few more:

    I thought to pick
    the flower of forgetting
    for myself,
    but I found it
    already growing in his heart.

    Is this love reality
    or a dream?
    I cannot know,
    when both reality and dreams
    exist without truly existing.

    Watching the moon
    at dawn,
    solitary, mid-sky,
    I knew myself completely,
    no part left out.
  17. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter


    This isn't my favourite poem (I haven't even read it) but I keep thinking about having a crack at it because of the highly unusual conditions under which it was composed.

    From the Wikipedia:

    'The Changing Light at Sandover is a 560-page epic poem by James Merrill (1926–1995). Sometimes described as a postmodern apocalyptic epic, the poem was published in three volumes from 1976 to 1980, and as one volume "with a new coda" in 1982.

    Already established in the 1970s among the finest lyric poets of his generation , Merrill made a surprising detour by incorporating extensive occult messages into his work. With his partner David Jackson, Merrill spent more than 20 years transcribing purportedly supernatural communications during seances using a ouija board.

    Sandover received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983.

    In live readings, Merrill was able to impersonate the narrating voices of (deceased) poet W.H. Auden and late friends Maya Deren and Maria Misotaki He also claimed to give voice to otherworldly spirits including a first-century Jew named Ephraim, and Mirabell (a ouija board guide).'
  18. sadscientist

    sadscientist Senior commenter

    When you smack a ketchup bottle,
    A bit’ll come, and then a lot’ll.
  19. katiejane1

    katiejane1 New commenter

    True hearts have eyes and ears,
    No tongues to speak.
    They hear and see and sigh,
    And then they break.
  20. artboyusa

    artboyusa Star commenter

    Apollinaire, Blaise Cendrars, Rimbaud, Eliot, Ginsberg, Mayakovsky and Ashberry are all in my Top Ten but if I had to pick one poem by one poet it would be:

    ... keeping vigil
    shining and meditating

    before coming to a halt
    at some terminus that sanctifies it

    All Thought emits a Throw of the Dice

    from A Throw of the Dice (Stephane Mallarme 1897)
    Full text here
    NoseyMatronType likes this.

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