Poetry Reading Challenge #WyrdandWonder

Welcome to week 18 of my poetry reading challenge for 2023. I’ve challenged myself to read at least one poem a week during 2023 and during the month of May, they are all going to be fantastical or magical as it’s the month of #wyrdandwonder.

I began the year by reading the poems of Thomas Hardy and I’ve gone back to Hardy for this week’s poem.

When I set out to Lyonnesse
A hundred miles away
The rime was on the spray
And starlight lit my loneliness
When I set out for Lyonnesse
A hundred miles away.

What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there
No prophet durst declare
Nor did the wisest wizard guess
What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there.

When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes
All marked with mute surprise
My radiance rare and fathomless
When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes.

I wonder what it was that happened to the poet on his visit to the fabled land of Lyonnesse?

In reality, the poem recalls Hardy’s visit to St Juliot in Cornwall as a young architect where he first met his wife, Emma. Although that’s real life rather than fantasy, falling in love has a magic all of its own.


Reading Poetry Challenge Week 2

Week 2 of my poetry challenge and I have read a few more poems in the Thomas Hardy Collection. I am enjoying the slightly melancholic feel of many of these poems. I think that maybe I appreciate them more now that I am older as many of his poems are about things that he remembers from his youth.

One poem that really struck a chord this week was The Superseded. Hardy writes about how we have to step aside from things as we grow older to allow younger people to take our place. This is the natural order of things but still might be something that we regret. Being deemed too old to take part in something happened to me last year and it’s still a sad feeling to know that it is going on without me.

The Superseded
As newer comers crowd the fore
We drop behind
We who have laboured long and sore
Time out of mind
And keen are yet, must not regret
To drop behind

Yet there are some of us who grieve
To go behind
Staunch, strenuous souls who scare believe
Their fires declined
And know none spares, remembers, cares
Who go behind

Tis not that we have unforetold
The drop behind
We feel the new must oust the old
In every kind
But yet we think, must we, must we
Too, drop behind?

Thomas Hardy 1901

Over a hundred years later, this poem sums up exactly how I felt at the time and still feel now. This to me, is the beauty of poetry, that ability to capture feelings in words that stand the test of time.

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