Tuesday, 28 December 2010

"I don't get it"

This is the response of some of my friends to the idea of poetry. I can't imagine life without poetry; so many of life's 'little situations' bring a poetry quote to mind. I think this probably dates back to my childhood days when my father had a quote for almost any situation. He was a great poetry reader and at the slightest excuse would read whole poems aloud. And, as a poetry lover, I am not altogether sure what is not to get.

We all know that if we write poetry ourselves it has to live up to the maxim that 'less is more', otherwise a) it doesn't work and b) what is the point of it? One might as well write prose.

Robert Frost, who wrote so many wise words, talks of poetry as 'the rhythm of dramatic speech on a grid of meter'- and this calls to my mind its affinity with music in the way in which it can move the emotions.

Santa has brought me a lovely little book called, "A Poet's Guide to Britain" in which the compiler, Owen Sheers, has brought together poems about various aspects of the countryside, poems which paint pictures of cities, villages, islands, mountains, forests etc. These poems all have one thing in common - they paint a word picture of a place. Even if that place disappears then the picture remains in perpetuity and we can conjure up our own image.

One of the poets featured in the book is U A Fanthorpe. Do you know her poetry? If not I do urge you to go on the internet and read some of it. I had never heard of her until I was introduced to her work by W at our Poetry Group (thanks W!).

Ursula Askham Fanthorpe did her English degree at Oxford and then taught for a time at Cheltenham Ladies' College before doing secretarial work and finally going freelance. In 1994 she was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford and so had come full circle, so to speak. Her partner of 44 years, Rosie Bailey and Ursula wrote some poetry together. She died aged 79 in a hospice in Gloucestershire and has left behind her a wonderfull legacy of poetry and some wise words.

Because that is the other thing that poetry does. Because it has to be brief, concise and to the point, a good poet can convey a wealth of meaning in two or three words (the emperor's new clothes springs to mind, or damned with faint praise)

In this lovely little book from Santa there is a poem by Fanthorpe in the Section on Coast and Sea. The poem is called 'Sunderland Point and Ribchester' and tells the story of two graves - one in each of the places - both old graves, and both - she suggests - places for children to visit. Well-worth reading and containing a few lines which really made me think and which say so much in so few words. I leave you today with this little bit of the poem:-

Children are the most authentic
Pilgrims, having farthest to go, and knowing
Least the way.


Heather said...

I have never heard of that poet Pat but can appreciate the snippet of her work which you posted. Writing does not come naturally to me and poetry is even harder. I can't write it to order but sometimes words seem to assemble themselves if the subject is right. I have never read much poetry - perhaps I should start and try to educate myself. 'It's never too late to learn'!

steven said...

weaver i admire poets who can say so much with so little. i admire poets who can sustain an idea through a piece of writing, presnting it, unpacking it, commenting on it, and then ending with a twist. thanks for introducing this poet who is new to me. steven

Eryl said...

I read a little UA Fanthorpe in the Guardian Review after she died, and meant to read more but haven't yet got round to it. So thank you for reminding me.

I guess poetry, like any art, has to stir something in the reader, and the reader has to recognise that they have been stirred and be happy to discover why/what/how slowly. Lots of poetry leaves me cold because it just doesn't speak my language, there's no resonance. Other poetry engenders a strong emotional response, bypassing reason, to make me feel part of the conversation it is part of. I have had (am still having) long and fruitful dialogues with many poems. But some people seem to think poems are puzzles that they have to work out and so they feel put on the spot by them, never a nice feeling.

izzy said...

Poetry is such an adventure! some we connect with and some not-so-much,
as you say.I was given a nice intro to it in 3rd grade, with a teacher who
read aloud and had us memorize Frost
and other pieces out of "The Singing
World".She added other favorites
with handouts, some were even Psalms...

annell4 said...

Oh so lovely! Truthfully, I'm not sure I always get it, but I read it, I write it, and I love it!

George said...

A lovely post, Pat. Without poetry, my life would not have been the same. Poetry has sustained me in my darkest moments and kept me centered at all times.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

To me, real poetry speaks to that inarticulate part of the soul. It is personal and oh, so meaningful. Life would be colourless without it.

Wishing you, Tess and The Farmer a lovely Christmas week! I do hope you are feeling better!

Reader Wil said...

I learn a lot from you and poetry! Thank you! Thanks for your visit and comment! my visitors have arrived and they are such nice people. They are from Poland and two couples. Three of them are students.

Dartford Warbler said...

Like you, Weaver, my head is constantly full of poetry. I seem to read some every day, although it is often the well loved and familiar. I need to explore the contemporary poets more.

I have read some of UA Fanthorpe`s work. I remember reading somewhere that she could not seem to write while she was teaching poetry in school. I can sympathise with that.

Granny Sue said...

I'm late to wish you Merry Christmas, so I will be early and wish you Happy New Year, Pat. As usual, a thought-provoking, reflective post. I am so glad to have found you this past year. It has been a true pleasure to read your thoughts.

The Weaver of Grass said...

We poetry lovers must stick together - thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

She's one of my favourites. A quiet authoritative voice, witty and wise, amongst the stylists and poseurs for so long. A premature passing.

Jeannette StG said...

The less words, the better (my own comfort!). That's why I love poetry, even somewhat addictive although it must resonate, like Eryl said. In the Netherlands poets are very esteemed. I had a whole course in poetry in high school. Maybe the questions came to you are from bloggers who did not grow up with it?

Wishing you all the best for the New Year, Weaver!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year
I enjoy reading your posts ,its like each word is felt within ,very amazing feeling


Dave King said...

Lovely post Weaver. I have that book and I can say Amen to all your comments on it and on Fanthorpe.