Posts Tagged ‘favourite poems’

August favourites #3: Philip Larkin

August 3, 2018

Church Going

One of the last century’s great English poets, whom I’ve long liked, Philip Larkin was not a religious man, and yet he wrote one of the most thoughtful and profound religious poems I know; perhaps it’s precisely because he was a non-believer. Even the title challenges: church going, as in going to church? or as in the church is going, disappearing? Both are possible, maybe intended. The structure: solid, eight-line stanzas and long sentences with frequent enjambment create a sense of thoughtfulness, reflection. Here is a man who is drawn to visit churches, not knowing why; compelled, attracted and inside, realising that such places hold a meaning even for unbelievers like himself, a way of marking birth, partnership and death, events unavoidable whether one has a faith or not. Equally, the age and timelessness of a church reflects on our own transience…

Unfortunately I can’t post the text as there are copyright restrictions, but you can reasonably easily track it down online…

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

 

August favourites #2: War Poem

August 2, 2018

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Wilfred Owen: Disabled

There’s a full-length post and the text of the poem here.

Again, I have met so many war poems – lyrical, angry, satirical, in your face, you name it – and I always come back to this one of Owen’s, which seems to me to encapsulate so much. At nineteen, one is immortal; to be immortal and reduced to the state of Owen’s character is too bitter and cruel to contemplate. In the poem he sums up forever, for me, the utter pointlessness and waste of war, in a world where old and shrivelled men compel younger and fitter ones who haven’t had the chance to enjoy life yet, to be maimed and killed, and sentence their families to years of sadness and irretrievable loss.

August favourites #1: Love Poem

August 2, 2018

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

I couldn’t begin to count the number of love poems I’ve read, taught, studied and loved, but there is one that always calls to me, and which is definitely my favourite: John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. The poet is about to travel overseas, a dangerous journey in the early seventeenth century: no guarantee that he will make it back to his wife. And I know that he must have been in love with her, because he wrecked his career by marrying her secretly. He forbids her to be sad about his departure, assures her he will be back, and that he will miss her. The conceit (extended metaphor) of the two of them as a pair of compasses (mathematical not navigational) is marvellously developed, and there is a lovely erotic touch, imagining his physical desire re-awakening as he gets closer to home.

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
   And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
   The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise,
   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
   To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
   Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
   Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
   Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
   That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
   Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
   Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
   As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
   To move, but doth, if the other do.
And though it in the center sit,
   Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
   And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.
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