Words well spent…reading Penguin’s Poems for Love.

book heart 2I was supposed to be doing the ironing today. That hasn’t happened. Instead I’ve sat and read a book I was given for Christmas, Penguin’s Poems for Love compiled by Laura Barber. I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether or not my time would have been better spent ironing.

It’s a long time since I’ve read any poetry, a prose-geek by nature, I spend most of my time reading novels. I studied poetry a lot at school and University and took some creative writing poetry modules as part of my degree. Like a lot of people, I have my favourite poems and, upon opening this book, I had high hopes as Barber uses Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How do I love thee? as the basis for categorising this collection of poetry. I’ve always loved Barret Browning’s poem and consider it one of my favourites, so, as I have said my hopes were high.

This book is divided into sections, such as, How do I love thee?…Suddenly – all in all, there are twenty-six divisions ranging heartfrom Suddenly to Regretfully. It’s an interesting idea and means you end up ‘reading on a theme’ with each section of the book. For several years now, I’ve kept a notebook in which I write any pieces of poetry or prose that I consider to be beautifully written and well-expressed. I was hoping that Barber’s collection might allow me to add to my notebook of worthies. I haven’t exactly stopped and counted how many poems are contained within Barber’s book, but suffice to say there are many, well over a hundred. It interests me, then, to observe how many I found that ‘spoke’ to me.

While reading I stuck post-its to identify the poems that I felt had something special to say. At the book’s conclusion, I have a small post-it-ed collection of just seven poems. Evidently, I am choosy. Or, perhaps, it’s that love is a very unique emotion and hard to pin-down in a way that speaks universally. Naturally, there were poems I’ve studied and others that I’d come across in general reading in the past. There’s a healthy spattering of Shakespeare, Donne, Byron and Browning. It came as no surprise to me, then, that the poems among my seven (excepting one by e e cummings) are not by writers who I’d come across before.

love never failsI also drew some conclusions about my own personal taste while reading. It would seem, I don’t like poems that use a person’s name in them. I do like poems that describe everyday actions. I don’t like poems that make reference to the ‘classics’. I’m not particular about rhyme-structures. I don’t like poems that are three pages long. I like poems that express love simply, in everyday terms; that describe physical gestures and acknowledge the power of a cumulation of small things.

Of the seven I’ve selected, it’s hard to pick an absolute favourite, there are two I’m particularly fond of. They are rather different in tone – one hopeful, one rather sad. I’ll post them here for anyone that’s interested, feel free to skip them if poetry’s not your thing. I don’t want to foist endless lines of  weighty and emotion-laden words on someone who’s wanting a light-hearted read.

The first is by James Fenton, and titled Hinterhof…window rain


Stay near to me and I’ll stay near to you –

As near as you are dear to me will do,

Near as the rainbow to the rain,

The west wind to the windowpane,

As fire to the hearth, as dawn to dew.


Stay true to me and I’ll stay true to you –

As true as you are new to me will do,

New as the rainbow in the spray,

Utterly new in every way,

New in the way that what you say is true.


Stay near to me, stay true to me. I’ll stay

As near, as true to you as heart could pray.

Heart never hoped that one might be

Half of the things you are to me –

The dawn, the fire, the rainbow and the day.


The second and sadder, by Dora Sigerson Shorter. It is untitled.holding hands

I want to talk to thee of many things

Or sit in silence, when the robin sings

His little song, when comes the winter bleak

I want to sit beside thee, cheek to cheek.


I want to hear thy voice my name repeat,

To fill my heart with echoes ever sweet;

I want to hear thy love come calling me

I want to seek and find but thee, but thee.


I want to talk to thee of little things

So fond, so frail, so foolish that one clings

To keep them ours – who could but understand

A joy in speaking them, thus hand in hand.


Beside the fire; our joys, our hopes, our fears,

Our secret laughter, or unchidden tears;

Each day old dreams come back with beating wings,

I want to speak of these forgotten things.


I want to feel thy arms around me pressed,

To hide my weeping eyes upon thy breast;

I want thy strength to hold and comfort me

For all the grief I had in losing thee.


timeSo there you have it. I hope those of you that took the time to read them felt your time had been well-spent. As for me, I suppose I’d better turn my mind to everyday things, namely, the ironing.


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Filed under 21st century, Books, Reading

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