September 2013 - July 2014

Poetry for Pleasure 

Whatever the format - the strength of the group is in the poetry and behind the poetry are the people who choose it.

This has been a year of famine and plenty, with some memorable meetings and sometimes none at all.

September was dedicated to our theme of food and drink. We read the poems, savouring them on the tongue as one would eat a meal, starting with A Toast by George Santayana and ending with a sophisticated and obscure paean to coffee from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. In between we tasted Ken Nesbitt’s childhood protest Our Mother threw the Pie away then sampled D H Lawrence’s Figs (sensuous and wordy with opinions divided about the man and his ideas). From figs to Haggis with Robert Burns and we still found room for Kathryn Simmonds Leftovers. Oh! and not forgetting that simple savour to most meals, NaCL Sodium Chloride by Kate McGarrigle. The Gormet’s Love Song by P G Wodehouse concluded the evening and we went home full.

Our October meeting on the theme of animals produced some childhood favourites: another D H Lawrence poem Snake and George Meredith’s The Lark Ascending with Vaughan William’s music to accompany. During the evening we enjoyed: The Pike Edmund Blunden, Lizzie’s Lion Dennis Lee, The Last Word of a Bluebird as told to a child Robert Frost, Lines and Squares A A Milne, The Law of the Jungle Rudyard Kipling and the cheekily political and no-prisoners-taken 22 Reasons for the Bedroom Tax by Carol Ann Duffy.

For November we could not resist a second evening of ballads which never fail to delight and inspire. The simplest can be the best – sometimes with never a spare word and sometimes with heart beating repetition. Whatever you get it always seems to strike the right tone and the moods evoked are unforgettable. The mix we came up with was wonderfully strange and varied; we intend to return to ballads next season, but with a narrower theme. We heard: The Ballad of Reading Gaol Oscar Wilde, She Moved through the Fair Anon, The Ballad of Matty Groves Anon, O Where are you going? W H Auden, The Fields of Gold Sting, Insomnia Pam Ayes, Maude Claire Christina Rossetti, Where have all the Flowers gone? Pete Seeger, La Belle dame sans Merci John Keats, The Lambton Worm C H Leumane, Tam Lin and The Cutty Wren Anon.

With our December choice - poems for children, most of us found ourselves greeting old schoolroom favourites, written in the Edwardian period but still going strong when we were in primary school. Modernism may have made them sound old fashioned within a decade or so, but we recognised their power over our imaginations as children and we still love them. We enjoyed Forgiven and Vespers by A A Milne, The Smuggler’s Song Rudyard Kipling, From a Railway Carriage and The Lamplighter Robert Louis Stevenson, Altar Smoke Rosalie Grayer, The Listeners Walter de la Mare, and from 1961 Dr Seuss’ What was I Scared of?

We swapped the reminiscence and warm heartedness of our Christmas meeting for the edgier territory of Town Life, our theme for January. Here we found all the conflicted feelings of urban existence: satire, snobbery, alienation, protest, wonder and despair. Poems featured were: A Vision Simon Armitage, Business Girls and Slough John Betjeman, Bond Street Norman Nicholson, London William Blake, Acquainted with the Night Robert Frost, Upon Westminster Bridge William Wordsworth, Preludes T S Eliot.

In April we read John Keats’ narrative poems: Isabella and The Pot of Basil and The Eve of St Agnes. In May we had our second Shakespeare evening looking at the role of fools and jesters in the plays. Touchstone (As You Like It), Caliban (The Tempest) and Fool (King Lear) all got a chance to tell some melancholy, usually misfiring jokes.

In June we paid tribute to Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney who died last year. We read and discussed poems from his collected works ranging from 1966 (Death of a Naturalist) to 2006 (District and Circle). We enjoyed as a privilege: Blackberry Picking, Scaffolding, The Skunk, Otter, The Underground, The Railway Children, Sloe Gin and Stern.

Poems in translation II in July brought our season to a close. The world and the past come to your door with a topic like this and we ranged widely: Deor Anon (Anglo Saxon), Brief Song Luqingzi (Chinese), My Words are tied in one Yokuts Indians and Prayer to the Goddess Apache nation, Some Poems of Solitary Delight Tachibana Akemi (Japanese), The Swan Charles Baudelaire (French).

After a lean period during the winter and early spring of 2015 we ended the year at nearly full strength which was hugely satisfying.

With the addition of two new members for the coming season we look forward to a good year ahead.