September 2014 - July 2015

As we enter our fifth season the poetry group sails on - with seven founder members still involved. Success lies in sticking to a simple formula:

       bring something you love, respect and want to share by reading it to others.

Dylan Thomas would have been 100 years old on the 27th October 2014, making him the natural choice to open our poetry season in September. His best work never fails to charm the ear and surprise us with its distinctive and complex use of simple language. If you are familiar with: The Hunchback in the Park, And Death shall have no Dominion, Fern Hill, and Do not go gentle into that good night you will know we had a good time.

The nineteenth century American poet Emily Dickinson was our choice for October. Her unique voice, off beat vision of life and tightly constructed rhythms and rhymes were well represented by: I dwell in Possibility, “Hope” is the thing with feathers, I’m Nobody! Who are you?, Because I could not stop for Death, Wild Nights – Wild Nights!, and Her breast is fit for pearls.

In November, in a year when remembering The First World War was even more momentous than it usually is, we returned to the theme of War poetry. This time we chose work written about other conflicts. Here are some of the poems we read: Vergissmeinnicht by Keith Douglas, Spooky by Curt Bennett, Search and Destroy by Michael J Whelan, Letter Composed during a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin C Power, and A Century Later by Imtiaz Dharker,

'Poetry to start your day and keep you in good heart' is a theme well suited to December. The group rose to the challenge well. Any of these poems would be a great way to start a cold winter’s day, leaving a pleasant trace of sentiments heartfelt and well expressed to buoy you along: The Pettichap’s Nest by John Clare, Adlestrop by Edward Thomas, Upon Julia's Clothes by Robert Herrick, The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W B Yeats, Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat by T S Eliot, and Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from Roald Dahl's Rhyme Stew.

January prompted us to explore poems under the theme of Beginnings - our choices reflecting a wide variety of responses to this highly charged word: The Temple by George Herbert, First Day at School by Roger McGough, Home Thoughts, from Abroad by Robert Browning, You Begin by Margaret Atwood, On The Pulse of the Morning by Maya Angelou, Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens, The Schooner Flight by Derek Walcott, and Caedmon's song by U.A.Fanthorpe.

St Valentine’s Day meant Love poetry in February, there’s plenty of it around so even though we have chosen this theme before we came up with a fresh selection that crossed concepts, cultures and times: Song of a chaste wife, to the Ssu-k'ung Li Shih-tao by Chang Chi, A Fever by John Donne, To my Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet, Ae Fond Kiss and John Anderson my jo by Robbie Burns, A Birthday by Christina Rossetti, He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven by W B Yeats, and St Valentine’s Night by Dannie Abse.

Something Irish in many styles and forms could be heard at our evening in March: Ich am of irlaunde (anon), The Lost Land by Eavan Boland, A Christmas Childhood by Paul Kavanagh, Magdalen Walks by Oscar Wilde, A Lapful of Nuts by  Samuel Ferguson, The Song of Wandering Aengus by W B Yeats , When You Are Old by W B Yeats, He Refuses to Read His Public’s Favourite Poem by U A Fanthorpe  and (of course) some limericks to end the evening.

Desert Island Poems was Sara’s idea for April. We each chose three poems to take to our individual desert islands. When the tides threatened to sweep away all three we were asked to read the one we would save from the waves. These were our choices: Poem in the Matukituki Valley by James K. Baxter, The Widow by Wendy Cope, Diamonds and Rust by Joan Baez, He seems as fortunate as the gods... Sappho, Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth, Binsey Poplars by Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth, and Sigh no more ladies… by Shakespeare. Each poem was an even more personal choice than usual making the evening especially memorable. We savoured both the readings and the spaces ‘between the acts’ when people talked about why the poems are important to them.

Poems Short and Pithy was our theme for May. This was more challenging than expected; short poems were easy to come by but were they witty? Knowing? Satirical and carrying some weight in the all-too-soon-last-line? If you know these poems you can judge for yourselves:  Ross Poldark's Horse by Pam Ayres, Mary Pugh was nearly two by Spike Milligan, Time to Rise by Robert Louis Stevenson, Thought for a Sunshiny Morning by Dorothy Parker, Zoo Cage by Michael Rosen, In Search of Cinderella by Shel Silverstein, Marathons by Fiona Pitt-Kethley, High Country Weather by James K Baxter, Fire and Ice by Robert Frost, and If you've let your body sag by Pam Ayres.

A balmy summer’s evening in June was just the right setting to enjoy the poetry of Thomas Hardy and to share what we knew about his life and the imagined and real landscapes of Wessex. The poems reflect his preoccupations with rural customs, love, loss and death so it made sense to read them in order of composition, filling in biographical details along the way: Heredity (1901), The Man he Killed (1902), Beeny Cliff  (March 1870 - March 1913), At Castle Boterel (1912), In the Moonlight (1917), Shortening Days at the Homestead (1922-1925), The Sundial on a Wet Day (1922-1925), Proud Songsters (1928), and towards the end of his life A Consideration, a reflection on my eighty-sixth birthday.

We thought Insults and Compliments would throw up some amusing and energizing lines to finish the season in July and it didn’t disappoint: The Donkey by G K Chesterton, On a Cock at Rochester by Sir Charles Sedley, Apparition by Mark Doty, The Miller from Chaucer’s The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Farmhand by James K. Baxter, Du Bist Die Ruh by Ford Madox Ford, Girls' Chorus by Christopher Logue, and Slough by John Betjeman.

This year we welcomed new member Dorothy to our group. We have settled on nine members this year which has worked well, with three quarters of the group able to come each month on average. We have gradually come to know what people like and can sometimes anticipate what they might choose to read. We look forward to another season of stimulating, enjoyable and friendly Tuesday evenings during 2015-2016.

Diane Maybank

Group co-ordinator