This month, there is a change to our poetry format – we’ve got not one poem for you, but ten!
In these surreal and changing times, where we are all adapting to a new reality, whether that’s to self isolation, working on the frontline of our vital services, or home schooling children, for millions around the world it means drastic change to our daily lives. Our usual patterns of connection are curtailed and digital communication has intensified.
In the midst of news reports, text messages, and YouTube PE sessions, one recent digital connection that didn’t contribute to feelings of overwhelm was the Poem Exchange. Having said that, when it first arrived in my inbox I actually missed it. Then when I received it from someone else and did notice it, I thought – I don’t know if I have time for this. Then I looked at it again and thought – I’ll make some time.
In the email it says “It [the poem to exchange] should be a favourite text/verse/meditation that has affected you in difficult times. Or not. Don’t agonize over it. If you’d like to send a poem in your own language and provide a translation, please do so!”
So I sent my poem off, and then some days later my inbox started filling, with a wonderful range of words, from the farcical to the obscure to the beautiful. The following are a selection that I received, some are from friends, some from strangers, and I hope you enjoy them.
And if you feel inspired to, please send us a poem that you have enjoyed recently, that you have taken comfort from, or as a way to reflect a message you would like to send out at this time. It could be that you were part of the Poem Exchange or not. Please send them to email@example.com
A Shropshire Lad 2: Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
By A. E. Housman
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
From Gwynnedd in Australia
By John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
From Kirstie in Oxford
By Robin Robertson
The brimstone is back
in the woken hills of Vallombrosa,
passing the word
from speedwell to violet
wood anemone to celandine.
I could walk to you now
with Spring just ahead of me,
north over flat ground
at two miles an hour,
the sap moving with me,
under the rising
grass of the field
like a dragged magnet,
the lights of the flowers
coming on in waves
as I walked with the budburst
and the flushing of trees.
If I start now,
I could bring you the Spring
for your birthday.
From David in Hebden Bridge
Love and Friendship
By Emily Bronte
Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree—
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He still may leave thy garland green.
From Antonia in Nottingham
By Siegfried Sassoon
“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
“He’s a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
From Norma in London, who says “Here is one of my favourite poems – gloomy and says a lot about leaders!”
A Portable Paradise
By Roger Robinson
And if I speak of Paradise,
then I’m speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can’t steal it, she’d say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief,
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room – be it hotel,
hostel or hovel – find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep.
From David Scott
Poem about losing my glasses
By John Hegley
The place is familiar
my face is bare
I’ve mislaid my glasses
I’ve looked in my glasses case
but they’re not there
and I need my glasses
to find my glasses
but I’ll be alright
I’ve got a spare pair
From Pete Kennedy
By Adrian Henri
Warm your feet at the sunset
Before we go to bed
Read your book by the light of Orion
With Sirius guarding your head
Then reach out and switch off the planets
We’ll watch them go out one by one
You kiss me and tell me you love me
By the light of the last setting sun
We’ll both be up early tomorrow
A new universe has begun
From Fiona in Glasgow, who wrote “I’ve loved this poem since I was 14 and still do”.
The Song of Wandering Aengus
By William Butler Yeats
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
From Annie and Sarah
Ditty by Mr. Bill
IN THESE DIFFICULT TIMES PLEASE KEEP A SMILE
FOR IT MAY LAST FOR QUITE AWHILE
THINK OF OTHERS AS YOUR MOTHER
PLEASE LOOK AFTER THEM WITHOUT MUCH BOTHER
FROM CHILDHOOD DAYS I WRITE THIS DITTY
I HOPE YOU THINK IT’S SILLY
Dan Dan the dirty wee man
He washed his face in a frying pan
He combed his hair
By the leg of the chair
Dan Dan the dirty wee man
IN THESE TROUBLED TIMES WE HAVE TO LAUGH
PLEASE STAY ON A CARING AND HAPPY PATH
FINALLY I SAY TO YOU
OCH AYE THE NOO!
ALWAYS ALWAYS BE TICKETYBOO !!!
From Bill Trotter in Samye Ling, Eskdalemuir.