After two years of the Saturday Poem, I feel that a Top Ten Tuesday in their honour is in order. After thirteen years of compulsory education and then a further five years at university, I still had middling feelings about poetry but I have had so much fun searching for poems every week that I have actually become a fan! So I decided to think about the poems that I have loved best of all – not easy to pick but a great opportunity to look back over the challenge. I think that the Saturday Poem has plenty more room left to run.
Being my very first Saturday poem, it is not surprising that it is one of my favourites. I studied it for GCSE and it is superb, skewering brilliantly the breakdowns in communication between men and women as well as the fairytale genre itself.
This is my first ever favourite poem. Having been born in Canberra, I am something of a hobby Australian but my mother and I did observe Australia Day on occasion and Banjo Paterson was an early childhood discovery. As well as “The Man From Snowy River”, “Clancy of the Overflow” and “The Man Who Was Away”, we read this and I even memorised it for a Brownie challenge. It’s a ‘story poem’ which were always the ones that I liked best as a child. Another highlight for me was Lord Lovelace for similar reasons.
I saw John Savident recite this at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and it was truly hilarious. Reading it again post-literature degree, it was even better – or perhaps worse – having suffered through a vast amount of Victorian poetry, The Tay Bridge Disaster represents the very worst of it. My reservations about poetry as a teenager and young adult were that it was overly emotional and too florid – McGonagall is definitely both as well as having an incredible tin ear for rhythm.
This poem is one of those which you read over to yourself on a bad day, read over on a good day or indeed any day – words to remember, repeat, revisit – there is a defiance and a power to them and a determination to survive and overcome and to thrive. No matter what, we rise.
I carry your heart are words of beauty and wonder – e e cummings achieves so much with the apparent simplicity of his work. I love though that this is not necessarily about romantic love – it was read in the film In Her Shoes as a message between two sisters – it expresses so beautifully how we carry those we love with us.
(c) Gill Fox
This is a stunning piece of verse – “What I do is me: that is why I came”, a rallying call, a trumpeting of our mission on this earth. Beautifully crafted words which seem to catch the humming – the melody – of the universe.
This is one of those poems which is just such a delight to recite aloud. Both hilarious and also strangely poignant, this dramatises an imagined monologue by the Loch Ness Monster upon surfacing and discovering that all its childhood companions are gone. As an ex-teacher and childhood show-off, I do enjoy a good performance poem – other highlights have included Dotty Lou, Matilda and Don’t Put Mustard In The Custard.
This poem made me like Carol Ann Duffy – I wasn’t much of a fan previously. It’s an inspired inversion of the Kray Brothers mythology but with a feminist spin. I sometimes worry that I get too caught up with poems that are humourous but this one has such a sharp-tongued agenda. It’s superb.
Again, I love this one for all it says about the foolishness of ever trying to understand poetry in the first place. In attempting to ‘study’ English, all too often we kill that which we claim to love. Of course, as a celebrated poet, Fanthorpe has herself become part of the problem, as I once heard her note in an interview, since students are now obliged to read and pick apart her work too.
Another poem to read to oneself to remember ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. The word Invictus has been used to name the new games for injured servicemen and it is easy to see why. The words inspire us to drag ourselves from the darkest of circumstances and retake control of our lives.
This is a seduction poem and my favourite one of them all. I first read it aged sixteen and it inspired very confusing feelings. To find a man who is willing to write in sonnet structure in order to gain one’s affections – it’s quite something. I love those lines ‘For lady you deserve this fate, and nor would I love you at a lower rate.’ Earlier this year though, I read a response to it which cast a whole different light on it and now I just love them both. Another one that provokes a similar response is Lord Byron’s She Walks In Beauty.
Perhaps the Wild Card of the pick, it is another story poem inspired by an airport announcement. As a spin-off to a book, this is a very clever piece of verse. My mother found it by chance and copied it down and then she wrote me a copy so in publishing a copy here, it feels like I am spreading the word further. I love being able to share the poems we love.
Again, I worry about this seeming like an overly humourous selection but I think that actually it’s because of just how clever the verse really is. I love it when the fleeting moments of life are captured and immortalised via poetry but here they come to represent something far larger. In the words of the poet, hail.
This one gets a mention for family reasons as I describe in the introduction.
My favourite poem, from my probable favourite poet. Again, a poem to inspire courage – Charlotte Brontë spread the rumour that her sister Emily wrote this on the day of her death but this has been widely scotched as a theory. Nonetheless, these are words to hold on to, to remember that we are made of stronger stuff than we believe. This is a poem that I have been guilty of repeating to myself when walking home late at night, brave words creating brave actions.