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Poetry Pocketcards – In Detail Still Monday, 22 February 2010

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Here is your second batch of poetry pocketcards:

William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and dramatist, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. In 1923, he was the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Edward Estlin Cummings was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and a photographer. His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky”, all examples of the genre of literary nonsense.

Rudyard Kipling was a British author and poet, born in Bombay in 1865. His children’s books are enduring classics of children’s literature, and his poetry exceptionally popular. In 1907, he was the first English language writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and to date he remains its youngest recipient. He declined both the Poet Laureateship and a knighthood.

James Hogg was born near Ettrick in Scotland in 1770 and is often referred to as ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’. His employer introduced him to Sir Walter Scott, who asked him to help with a publication entitled The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Eventually becoming a well-known literary figure in Edinburgh, he was recruited by William Blackwood for Blackwood’s Magazine, and went on to publish The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner, now his most widely recognised work, and cited as an influential work by many modern Scottish writers.

Edward Lear was an English artist, illustrator, author, and poet, renowned today primarily for his literary nonsense, in poetry and prose, and especially his limericks, a form that he popularised.

Adrian Mitchell was a London-born poet, novelist and playwright. A former journalist, he became a noted figure on the British anti-authoritarian Left and for almost half a century he was the foremost poet of the country’s anti-Bomb movement. He died in 2008, and is survived by his wife, Celia, and five children.

Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire in 1759  and while he contemplated emigration to the West Indies, his collection of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was published by John Wilson of Kilmarnock, and its unexpected success led him to reconsider. Instead, he moved to Edinburgh where he was fêted. During the last years of his life, Burns wrote some of his great poetic masterpieces, including ‘Tam o’Shanter’ and ‘A red, red rose’. He died in aged 37, of heart disease.

Every year, on 25 January, the anniversary of his birth, Scots celebrate Burns Night with a Burns Supper, a traditional celebration consisting of speeches, music and song dedicated to the poet’s life and work.

Thomas Stearns Eliot was an American-born English poet, playwright, and literary critic. His first notable publication, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, is regarded as a masterpiece of the modernist movement. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including The Waste Land, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and Four Quartets. He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Order of Merit in 1948.

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.

Over To You

So, there you have them – our poetry pocketcards.  Which do you like best?

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.

BIOGRAPHY – T. S. ELIOT Wednesday, 6 January 2010

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T. S. Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1888 to a prominent New England family.  After studying at Harvard and Oxford University, Eliot settled in England where he became a schoolmaster, bank clerk, and eventually literary editor for the publishing house Faber & Faber.  In 1927, Eliot became a British citizen and joined the Anglican Church.

Eliot’s poetry, widely praised for its stylistic innovations and complexity, was first publically seen on the publication of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in 1915.  Eliot went on to produce several enormously important poems, such as The Waste Land.  Eliot also wrote plays and literary criticism.  He died in England in London in 1965.

Nada’s story: The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by T S Eliot Wednesday, 25 November 2009

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T S Eliot’s poem entered my life in a bang, as some poems do. The place was Heidelberg, Germany, in a friend’s kitchen. He was making us breakfast and then he started reciting the poem, with no warning, no context, as he was making pancakes’. ‘Let us go then, you and I, /When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table…’. I was simply overwhelmed, besotted, ensorcelled and hooked! It was like hearing Mozart for the first time: there was a profound humanness to the poem, a story about love , all these tables and oysters and seedy hotels in half-deserted streets and then that call again: ‘Let us go then, you and I..’. I’ve been in love with the poem ever since, I carry it my head and recite it every time I’m baking, and of course, when I make pancakes.

Nada Cabani is embarking on a new novel. You can read more about her on her blog.