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Graham’s Story: ‘Fern Hill’ Tuesday, 9 February 2010

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I have always been a Dylan Thomas fan, and ‘Fern Hill’ stands out for me as poem to keep in mind.

Dylan Thomas was a master of rhythm and turn of phrase, who as a wonderful impressionist,  also catches mood and light, just like the best painters. His passion is always evident.  His voice is sheer music.

I love the evocation of youthful energy, carefree play, a countryside rich in harvest.  We could do with daily doses of happiness in a world that doesn’t have enough.

from Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

The night above the dingle starry,

Time let me hail and climb

Golden in the heydays of his eyes

Julian’s Stories: Thomas, Eliot, Owen Thursday, 4 February 2010

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I have a terrible memory for chunks of text, so can mostly only remember a few lines or snippets that have stayed with me over the years. At secondary school, I remember ‘studying’ “Under Milk Wood”. I was immediately hooked by the music of Dylan’s words,

To begin at the beginning …

starless and bible-black …

the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.

Since then, poetry has become much more important to me, so I find it easier to retain classic lines like

When the evening is spread out against the sky.

Like a patient etherized upon a table

but I still find it impossible to remember whole poems. My solution is to take advantage of digital technology, therefore on my iPhone I permanently carry this lot:

Lovesong of J.A. Prufrock read by T.S. Eliot

Dylan Thomas “Caedmon Collection” (11 CDs)

The Essential Dylan Thomas Richard Burton Reads Dylan Thomas Under Milk Wood (Read by Richard Burton)

Richard Burton Reads John Donne

Richard Burton Reads Thomas Hardy

Night Mail by WH Auden read by John Grierson

Richard Burton Reads Wilfred Owen, from which other favourite lines include,from Owen’s “Arms and the Boy:”

… his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.

Colin’s stories Monday, 25 January 2010

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I carry a lot of poetry in my head – it’s the safest place to have it. If I had it in my wallet, I might be robbed; if it was in my pocket I might forget to take it out, and it could end up in the washing machine (like my hearing aid did recently).

Fragments of much-loved poems somehow stay intact and distinct in my memory. At any given moment I can recall them, and they each bring something special back into focus. Dipping and scooping, I retrieve Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird’, Norman MacCaig’s ‘A Man in Assynt’, William Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’, T S Eliot’s ‘Gerontion’, William Carlos Williams’ ‘Flowers By the Sea’, Dylan Thomas’s ‘Over Sir John’s Hill’, Paul Celan’s ‘Death Fugue’, and many more.

But the one which comes to mind more than most is Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’. It’s a poem I’ve often read in workshops, and it seems to touch other people too. So I love for that reason. But it’s more for the personal relevance the poem has for me. So many times in my elongating life I’ve had to make choices – we all do – and Frost sets out the dilemma beautifully. Faced with two routes in life I’ve often taken “the one less travelled by”, and my life has been made immeasurably richer.

Colin Will is a poet, publisher, teacher and blogger.