Love poems you wish you had written 2015 – #1 John Donne

JohnDonneLast year I followed the example of the fabulous David J Bauman over at The Dad Poet and posted some of my favourite love poetry. I had a great time rediscovering some old favourites and finding new work that moved me; poetry that really had the power to distil emotions and make me cry out (internally anyway!) ‘Yes!!’

So this year, I thought I would do something similar, but with poems nominated by friends on social media. I have always maintained that those who say ‘I don’t like/get poetry’ just haven’t found the right poet for them, so I do hope something on this blog inspires you to take a closer look, for Valentine’s Day on the 14th, and onwards.

The first poem of the week was nominated by Lorna Fergusson, over at Fictionfire, and seconded by Emma Darwin. It was published nearly 400 years ago, but it still has the power to send (pleasurable) shivers down the spine…..

The Good-Morrow
By John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

This is a wonderful evocation of the sensual and spiritual aspects of the love between two people, and as the film Fifty Shades of Grey hits the screen, I posit the idea that Donne is sexier by far than anything E L James came up with. The lines For love, all love of other sights controls/And makes one little room an everywhere is so quietly passionate that the intensity of the emotion expressed can escape you. Makes me go all warm inside and conjures up an illicit weekend away – 48 hours and never leaving the room…….

I thought I would also offer a reading of the poems I post on here, if possible, and on YouTube I found my favourite actor, the lovely Kenneth Branagh, reading it. Do let me know what you think, and if you have favourite love poems of your own.

Enjoy 🙂

Sneaking in another love poem – ‘Love at First Sight’

magnetic-poetry-300x238For some reason WordPress has published my series of posts ‘Love songs you wish you had written’ in a funny order – Billy Collins at #4 went up before #2 and #3. So, that having happened, I thought – sneak an extra one in. Readers are confused anyway!

I have so enjoyed choosing poetry for this theme and for St Valentine’s Day. There are many great love poems, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the series ‘Tell Me the Truth About Love’ introduced by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy on Radio 4 this week. She has been looking at the tradition of love poetry – from first yearnings to final partings. If you haven’t been able to catch it – it is available on iPlayer and the short programmes are perfect to have on in the background as you sit doing something far less interesting on the PC. (I have been doing boring and very uncreative admin all week so far…)

Wislawa Szymborska
Wislawa Szymborska

Earlier this week I had a twitter conversation with someone who had read one of the previous posts. They asked for a poem that spoke of love only being for those ‘lucky enough to find it –  *bitter*’ and ‘with a little bit of hope’. I checked through my poetical archive (well those poems I know and love and mark in anthologies – I am not that grand!) and came across a poem I adore and which I think suits that mood exactly.  Valentine’s Day is not universally popular; it is over-commercialised and for some people – those not fully convinced that a single life is for them, or those for whom love is synonymous with pain, hurt and betrayal – it must be hard work. All those red and white cards covered with soppy verses in the shops must make them quite nauseous. Many of the gaudy ones have that effect on me – and I have someone in my life who I want to exchange the sentiments with.

Anyway, for everyone wondering where the right person is hiding, here is a poem in translation that I first read in the wonderful anthology ‘Being Alive’…

Love at First Sight

Wislawa Szymborska

They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways —
perhaps they’ve passed each other a million times?

I want to ask them
if they don’t remember —
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember
They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
beforehand.
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

(View with a Grain of Sand, translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Wislawa Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist and translator, She died, aged 89, a year ago this month and was the recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her poetry has inspired films and music  – in her native Poland she was known as the ‘Mozart of Poetry’ and although her fame rests on a relatively small body of work, it is work that includes her experiences of Poland in wartime and Stalinism alongside the essential truths of everyday life. She has been compared to Samuel Beckett and Philip Larkin -but with the possibility of escape from the grim world they depicted. I couldn’t make such a comparison as I know too little about all three poets, but I certainly sense hope in this poem.

This is a poem full of possibilities, full of promise and the line ‘Every beginning/ is only a sequel, after all’ offers every unattached romantic the chance to dream that they have already set their suitcase down next to the person with whom they will share their future…

A little tooth shows us a big, big truth….

Thomas Lux by Dorothy Alexander

This is something of a random, impulsive post; but I just had to share with you a wonderful poem that was introduced at the reading group I attend. We are lucky to have the poet Julia Copus running our group and last night she was able to spend just a few moments on three short verses by American Poet Thomas Lux. However, they made a deep impression.

The poem speaks to me of all those things that I feel are important at the moment; growing up, growing older and learning not to regret anything. Understanding the natural progression of things and learning not to fear them. It reinforces the value of life at the same time as summarising it in one fabulous sentence: ‘You did, you loved, your feet are sore’. And it highlights the importance of noting these things – in poetry, prose, a diary to make sure our precious thoughts aren’t lost.

It is also a call to parents to seize the day: children speed to adulthood and suddenly they are forging their own path.

Continue reading “A little tooth shows us a big, big truth….”

A NoWriggling Merry Christmas!

This is my first ever Christmas as a blogger and five months since I started I am enjoying it as much as ever. Things have changed over that time, my focus might have shifted, but I hope those of you good enough to come over every so often find enough to interest you and encourage you to come back for more. Thank you all so much for your support.

I thought I should put a poem in the middle of this post, as if it were a Christmas card. It is one of my favourites – The Oxen by Thomas Hardy.

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

This poem overcomes for me those cynical doubts that creep up on us as we stand in long supermarket queues buying too much food and drink, or when we see horrors happening in the world that we feel powerless to stop. It is all about clinging on to that hope that this whole ‘dream’ of a magical Christmas is based on something real, and that we should hold on to that as we wake up tomorrow and begin our festivities.

Continue reading “A NoWriggling Merry Christmas!”