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Roy’s Story: ‘Futility’ Monday, 15 March 2010

Posted by edincityoflit in Stories.
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The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has supported Carry a Poem 2010 by asking artists featured in our February concerts to tell us about their favourite poems. These were published in 3,120 concert programmes during the month.

Roy McEwan – SCO Managing Director

The First World War was a personal tragedy for Wilfred Owen but its transformational power on the maturity and depth of his poetry has given us a rich legacy which I have always found moving. Although this is a bleak poem it is also full of humanity and conveys the transience of human life without diminishing its significance. The intense beauty of these two short verses, while bittersweet, express the importance of human existence and aspirations in the wider and terrifying context of the bigger landscape we are part of.

War and the associated sacrifices are more in our minds now than they have been for a long time and Owen’s expression of ‘the pity of War’ in his poetry has universal relevance – if not something to have in one’s pocket, certainly something to carry in one’s head.


Move him into the sun –
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds –
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
– O what made faruous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

by Wilfred Owen

Robbie, David, Ben and Liam’s Stories: War Poetry Monday, 15 February 2010

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Hello, my name is Ben and I am from Queensferry High School. The poem I decided to carry is called Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen. my favourite bit is:

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Only the stuttering rifle’s rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

My name is Liam and I am interested in the poem called “there’s a war on” and it is really interesting to me. My favourite lines are:

waste paper we should have saved, or dropped

and my second favourite is

barricades in the street, feet crashing on broken glass

Robbie thinks “there’s a war on” by Norman Nicholson was really good to read i enjoyed it very much and really interested in your poems !!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

David likes poem Elegy for a 88 gunner by Keith Douglas.

you can’t predict in war it’s a matter of luck, nothing less, nothing more.

Robbie, David, Ben and Liam are pupils at Queensferry High School.

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.

Richard’s stories Tuesday, 22 December 2009

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I like carrying poems by different poets in my head for different moods, including (to simplify greatly): Donne for sex; Tennyson for beautiful lines and melancholy; Housman for more melancholy; Auden for thought; Burns for humour and humanity; T S Eliot for elegant precision; Wilfred Owen for empathy; Betjeman for the sense of belonging to a place; Kipling for daring to be different; Wendy Cope for her barbs of satire… That’s probably enough to be going on with 🙂