Poetry Challenge Week 12

For week 12 of my challenge to read at least one poem, I went back to my own bookshelves to see what poetry I have. I discovered a book of Shakespeare’s Sonnets which I had completely forgotten about. I think my husband bought it for me when we performed in Kiss Me Kate as a show present. So I’ve gone from very contemporary feminist poetry to very classic sonnets. Most of them are love poems but this one seems that it could be just as much about a family member or friend.

Sonnet 30
When to the sessions of sweet silent thoughts
I summon up remembrance of things past
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought
And with old woes, new wail my dear time’s waste
Then can I drown an eye (unused to flow)
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe
And moan th’expense of many a vanished night.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan
Which I new pay, as if not paid before
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend
All losses are restored and sorrows end

I’m certainly guilty of going over and over past events in my head and I love the idea of being able to think of a loved one and feel better.


Poetry Challenge – Week 8

This week I have been reading 50 Poems to Open Your World collected by Padraig O’Tuama which I picked off the shelf at the library. It’s a collection of poems that Padraig (a poet himself) has chosen which reflect what it is to be alive today and each one is has a reflection on what that poem means to him. It’s mainly quite a modern collection and most of the poets I have never heard of but I’ve really enjoyed reading the wide range of poems in this book.

50 Poems to Open Your World collected by Padraig O’Tuama

One of the poems that stood out for me was this one by Trinidadian poet Roger Robinson.

A Portable Paradise

And if I speak of paradise,
then I’m speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no-one else would know but me.
That way, they can’t steal it, she’d say.
And if life puts you under pressure.
trace its ridges in your pocket.
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief.
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room – be it hotel
hostel or hovel – and find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep

Roger Robinson

I love the idea of a portable paradise, one that you carry around with you where ever you go.

Poetry Reading Challenge Week 5

Week 5 of my challenge to read at least one poem a week. It’s becoming more of a routine now to flick through my poetry book a couple of times a week and just read two or three poems. The trick is to actually have the poetry book out on the sofa or table and not tucked away on the shelf!!!

I’m still reading this collection of poems designed to uplift you and it has been lovely discovering some favourite poems such as ‘Let No One Steal Your Dreams’ by Paul Cookson and ‘The Door’ by Gustav Horub both of which I used to use with my pupils when I taught full time.

My favourite poem out of the ones that I have read this week though is this gorgeous poem that Kwame Alexander wrote for Maya Angelou.


Into the wonder
of daybreak

Be a rainbow in the cloud
Be a free bird on the back of the night wind
Shine on honey!

Walk with joy in your golden feet
Over crystal seas
and purpled mountains

Know your beauty
is a thunder
Your precious heart unsalable

Be brave
Like a new seed bursting
with extraordinary promise

Shine on honey!
Know you
are phenomenal.

by Kwame Alexander

I love the images in this poem especially the bird on the back of the night wind and the new seed.

What do you think about this poem?

Poetry Challenge – Week 4

It’s the fourth week of my personal poetry challenge to try and read at least one poem a week during 2022. After finishing my book of Thomas Hardy’s poems which often had a sad, reflective tone, I thought I would go for something hopefully a bit more cheerful.

I bought this book a year ago in the Waterstones half price sale and until this week, it’s sat unopened on my bookshelf. This anthology is full of poems to lift you up and keep you going when things get tough because ‘Tomorrow is Beautiful’.

My favourite poem so far is one by Jackie Kay who is a Scottish poet so it seems appropriate to choose this one in the week when we celebrated Burn’s Night. It’s also very apt for New Year being all about those resolutions that we make.

Remember the time of year
when the future appears
like a blank sheet of paper
a clean calendar, a new chance
On thick white snow

You vow fresh footprints
then watch them go
with the wind’s hearty gust.
Fill your glass. Here’s tae us. Promises
made to be broken, made to last.

Jackie Kay

I love the fact that it’s OK not to keep those resolutions. Some promises are made to be broken, others will last.

Poetry Challenge Week 3

Week Three of my 2023 Poetry Challenge and I have finished reading my Thomas Hardy Collection. I skimmed over a couple of the really long poems but rediscovered one of my favourites which is especially appropriate for this week which has been cold and snowy.

Snow in the Suburbs
Every branch big with it
Bent every twig with it
Every fork like a white web-foot
Every street and pavement mute
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward, when
Meeting those meandering down, they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall

A sparrow enters the tree
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eyes
And overturns him
And near inurns him
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.

The steps are a blanched slope
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin
And we take him in.

Thomas Hardy pub 1925

I just love the images in this poem; the snowflakes meandering and drifting back up, the poor sparrow being overturned and nearly buried by the lump of snow and the thin cat seeking shelter. The rhymes make it easy to read and it seems hard to believe that it was written almost a hundred years ago.

I have loved reminding myself of the poems of Thomas Hardy. Next week I want to move on to something that is new to me though.

Reading Poetry Challenge

I love poetry and always have. When I was younger, I used to spend hours writing poems that never saw the light of day, or even more embarrassingly, actually got shown or given to my boyfriend of the time. As a teacher, I used to love reading poems to my class and getting them to write their own. So why don’t I read poetry now?

I have no idea but it’s something that I want to change. So to try and make sure it doesn’t just stay as something that I will do ‘one day’, I’ve decided to set myself a challenge. I always do better when I have a bit of accountability so my challenge is that I will read at least one poem a week and write a short blog post

So here goes week one of my poetry challenge! I decided to keep things simple and revisit some old favourites to begin with.

Thomas Hardy was one of the major authors that I studied for my A level English Literature and I loved his poetry. A lot of the poems are about his love of nature, love itself and time passing and many of them have a slightly melancholic feel to them. He also wrote about the sadness and futility of war years before Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. But when he was young, the Napoleonic wars were still fresh in people’s minds and then there were conflicts such as the Crimea and the Boer War. The effect of war on young soldiers has always been the same and this waste of life is shown so clearly in Drummer Hodge.

Drummer Hodge
They throw in Drummer Hodge to rest
Uncoffined – just as found
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew
Fresh from his Wessex home
The meaning of the broad Karoo
The Bush, the dusty loam
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally

Thomas Hardy 1899