Earlier this week, I was asked by one Get Into Reading group member why I love poetry. I am unable to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. To me, loving poetry is as unforced and natural as breathing. I don’t have to work to enjoy it; although like all readers, I do sometimes struggle to understand it. This effort does not fill me with dread or boredom or irritation, but a sort of exhilaration. It’s hugely rewarding to get to grips with a piece of verse and realise that the poem is an echo of an emotion that you too have experienced. It’s as if the poet is expressing your thought, only with far more eloquence and beauty than you ever could. That’s what I love about poetry, I think. The best poems are intense distillations of feeling. I’ve recently returned from a trip to Russia. Whilst there, I noticed how Russians never dilute their vodka. There’s no cranberry juice, orange juice or even Coke. They relish the vodka for itself. A glass of red wine or pint of Guinness is savoured luxuriously, like a long cosy novel. In fact, I am currently enjoying Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in this manner. Poetry though, hits you powerfully, and sometimes even profoundly; just like vodka.
As a child, I was lucky to have parents who wanted to read aloud to me. Night after night, the myriad worlds of Cinderella, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Hobbit would come to life, dancing in my ears and inside my imagination. We enjoyed poetry too, from classics such as Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clement’s to the gentle rhymes of Each Peach Pear Plum. I particularly loved nonsense poetry, and Spike Milligan, Dr Seuss and A.A. Milne were my heroes. This week’s Poem of the Week by Edward Lear, was one of my favourites and has remained so over the years. Read it to each other, then take it home and read it to your children. I guarantee they’ll enjoy it…and maybe you will too…
The Owl and The Pussy-Cat
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’
Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.