World Poetry Day 2012

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,
     ‘Meeting Eliot?’
                    ‘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:

     Emily Dickinson

     Emily Dickinson
     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.

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