It seems a little superfluous for me to post about World Poetry Day since it is occurring during my epically long Lenten Poetry challenge.
To mark the day, inspired by the Poetry Book Society sharing this poem by John Osborne about sharing Simon Armitage’s poetry at work, I’m going to share, here, a handful of poems about poets. I also promise to read any recommendations you make, here or on twitter, of your favourite poems or poets. Don’t be shy!
First, a poem by Seamus Heaney from District and Circle, in memory of Ted Hughes.
’And what was it like,’ I asked him,
’When he looked at you,’
He said, ‘it was like standing on a quay
Watching the prow of the Queen Mary
Come towards you, very slowly.’
Now it seems
I’m standing on a pierhead watching him
All the while watching me as he rows out
And a wooden end-stopped stern
Labours and shimmers and dips,
Making no real headway.
Next, from Sinead Morrissey’s The State of the Prisons, on gathered collections:
Reading the Greats
Is it for their failures that I love them?
Ignoring the regulation of Selected Poems,
with everything in that should be in –
all belted & buttoned & shining –
I opt instead for omnivorous Completes.
For their froth. Their spite. For avoidable mistakes:
Larkin on Empire, say, or Plath on Aunts.
The thrill of when they dip, trip up, run out
of things to write about before they start,
is the consolation of watching
a seascape suddenly drained and stinking
of flies & fishheads & bladderwrack.
And the tide impossibly distant. And no way back.
Yes, I love them for that.
Finally, one on Emily Dickinson by Wendy Cope, from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis:
Liked to use dashes
Instead of full stops.
Nowadays, faced with such
Critics and editors
Send for the cops.
Edited to add a transcript of the poem that inspired me to share these, in case it disappears from the linked page!
A Poem for Simon Armitage
Simon, I work at Anglia windows
and no-one there has heard of you.
You weren’t on the GCSE syllabus
when we were at school.
That’s why I’ve been hiding bits of your poems
around the office
like treasure hunt clues.
Now people find you in filing cabinets
your couplets scribbled in the margins
of company reports
symbolism on spreadsheets
half-rhymes in ring-binders.
I quote lines of your best poems
when I’m replying to group emails
it makes it much less tedious.
I’ve seen the girl I sit next to smiling
appreciating your similes
I set a new one as her screensaver
every time she goes to the toilet.
I’ve even been outside.
I chalked entire stanzas across the car park
I hope this does not infringe on copyright.
I hacked into the Anglia Intranet:
people from the Technical Department
now find samples of your new collection
where installation procedures used to be.
Alan Medlicott is going to be furious.
And I know the people I work with
won’t race to Waterstones
to buy the complete works of Simon Armitage
but it might give someone something to think about
when they’re at home at night
making tomorrow’s sandwiches.
Taken from What if Men Burst in Wearing Balaclavas? by John Osbourne, published by Nasty Little Press.