National Poetry Day – October 8th

Browsing Twitter this morning, I noticed that National Poetry Day was trending. What better inspiration for a blog post! Except … poetry isn’t really my thing.

As an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a book of poetry. I suppose I perceive poetry as hard work compared to reading a book. One feels one needs to understand the meaning behind a poem rather than taking it at face value.

In fact the only poems I read these days are short, funny ones or haiku which are often posted on Twitter or for amusement.

The last time I really read poetry was probably back at school when I studied my GCSEs (that’s the age 16 exams for my US friends). And perhaps that’s where my perception that one has to understand and dissect a poem comes from.

My exam poetry was based around the theme of conflict. I remember studying the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, some DH Lawrence poems, and a poem about a black guy trying to rent a room by telephone in London in the 50s.

I enjoyed the poems, but my goodness we sucked the life out of them. Same with the novels we read. You ended up hating them even if you liked them because I think we tried to infer far more meaning than the original authors ever intended.

But poetry wasn’t always like that for me. I brought to mind poems I liked to read as a child. I don’t know if parents do it these days, but my Mum read nursery rhymes and children’s verses to me from an early age. They were neat and funny, conveyed an immediate idea and stuck in the brain.

And years later, I’m afraid these old children’s poems are the ones that I would call my favourites. In fact, I shouldn’t be afraid to say it. It shows these rhymes have truly passed the test of time if I can still remember them thirty odd years later.

So today, in honour of National Poetry Day, I’m going to share my favourite poems with you:

Bed in Summer – R L Stevenson
(From A Child’s Garden of verses)

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

This poem really resonated with me as a child. I was terribly resentful of having to go to bed before it got dark and found it very difficult to sleep with any light in the room. I thoroughly identified with the author’s sentiment!

Cats Sleep Anywhere – Eleanor Farjeon

Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Open drawer, empty shoe, anybody’s lap will do.
Fitted in a cardboard box, in the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don’t care! Cats sleep anywhere.

The book in which I had this poem had a fab illustration of all the cats asleep around the house. And now I have my own cats they certainly do sleep everywhere and anywhere!

Waiting at the Window – A A Milne

These are my two drops of rain
Waiting on the window-pane.

I am waiting here to see
Which the winning one will be.

Both of them have different names.
One is John and one is James.

All the best and all the worst
Comes from which of them is first.

James has just begun to ooze.
He’s the one I want to lose.

John is waiting to begin.
He’s the one I want to win.

James is going slowly on.
Something sort of sticks to John.

John is moving off at last.
James is going pretty fast.

John is rushing down the pane.
James is going slow again.

James has met a sort of smear.
John is getting very near.

Is he going fast enough?
(James has found a piece of fluff.)

John has hurried quickly by.
(James was talking to a fly.)

John is there, and John has won!
Look! I told you! Here’s the sun!

I had trouble selecting just one poem from all of A A Milne’s. I think I used to enjoy them more than the Winnie the Pooh stories. I chose this one to showcase because what child hasn’t watched two raindrops race down the window pane on a wet day πŸ™‚

Jabberwocky – Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

I once had to recite a poem at church. I guess I’d have been about age nine. And this was the one I chose so clearly there was an early love of fantasy in there somewhere. What my audience thought of it I don’t know! To this day, I can still recite it off by heart.

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings on childhood poetry. What we read as a child can influence and shape us an adult – or if nothing else, bring back fond memories.



  1. I really enjoyed these! Most were new to me and I can see why you loved them.

    In my opinion, poems are written to enjoy and not to find some hidden meaning. When you listen to a song sung by your favorite singer or group; you do so to be thrilled by the words and tune. After a while, you find yourself singing those songs to yourself when you don’t have a player with you. I think the same applies to poetry.

    However, the poet will study poems in an attempt to learn how to compose words like those whose work she/he enjoys.

    Writing poetry is fun!

    I really enjoyed this! You made my day. πŸ™‚

  2. Love this line: “You ended up hating them even if you liked them because I think we tried to infer far more meaning than the original authors ever intended.”

    Have you ever been accused of having deep, hidden meaning in your novels? I have and it tends to drive me crazy because they infer some really weird things about what I’m trying to convey. (Some of which are totally against my morals!)

    But yeah, poetry hurts the brain πŸ˜‰

    1. magicwriter

      Eek yes some people do try and look too deep for meanings. My own novel is quite light though – I’m a believer in books for fun and escapism πŸ™‚ Classical music is very similar – it gets analysed to death on TV sometimes.

  3. I’m one of those people who can never get into poetry either. I don’t really know why. I guess it’s because I find that I have to engage on it “too much”. It’s not something that can be enjoyed without paying a lot of attention, which doesn’t really come naturally to me.

  4. Quote:
    β€œI enjoyed the poems, but my goodness we sucked the life out of them. Same with the novels we read. You ended up hating them even if you liked them because I think we tried to infer far more meaning than the original authors ever intended.”

    Yes, yes, yes.

    I recently read Cannery Row and saw a Goodreads review by a 15-year-old who hated it because it β€œhad no plot.” It’s a shame to force such a wonderful book on someone who doesn’t want to read it.

    The only school-assigned book I remember enjoying was The Great Gatsby, but when I took the test, I didn’t understand the symbolism it wanted me to write an essay on. The teacher failed me, and wrote in red ink at the top of my essay, β€œDid you even read this book?” My classmates, who mostly read CliffsNotes instead of the actual story, all did well since the study guide teased apart the symbolism for them. I never read a book for that teacher again, and I got wonderful grades the rest of the year.

  5. I’ve lost my poetry muse.
    As a writer, my fascination started with poetry. I’ve written several when I was 12, and I used to send to my mom because she works out of the country.

    After poetries, I started reading plays.

    Anyway, I want to find my poetry muse again so I can write it again. The last time I wrote a poetry is back in College about 10 or 9 years ago.

    Poetry is beautiful and it expresses so much.

  6. Okay, see if this isn’t fun.

    Look at your Web Site’s image above. Beautiful. What feelings does it bring forth within? How about the rough and craggy ridges under erosion by the soft, yet rough currents of the sea. That is my feelings, yours will likely be different. Maybe a lot different. In fact, it would be revealing to know why you picked that picture to represent your presence online.

    I can all but hear the water as it rushes forward, only to stop and quickly retreat seaward.

    Now, think of a relationship in which one member’s rigidity is soften by the other member’s unfailing and prevailing gentleness.

    A three stanza poem could be written, the first four lines speaking of the sea shore scene, the second four lines speaking of the couple and their growing relationship; and the third set of four lines could be about the “joining” of the two images of the same concept. Add a couplet making a statement of the results and presto! A nice sonnet is born.

    I will have to work on that. Tomorrow. It is late and I need my sleep. πŸ™‚

    But, here’s the point. Writing poetry is creative, fun, and can express your feelings in a short amount of words. Using 10 syllables per line, with 14 lines, is 140 syllables and perhaps less than a hundred words.

    Well, you wouldn’t have to use a sonnet nor would you have to use 10 syllables per line. In today’s world, free verse and free form is championed.

    No hidden meanings. No puzzle involved. Just beauty expressed while using words that have punch and a pinch of creativity.

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