Alternative Literature

Just a little something we found. We thought it might entertain a few of you.

Taken from


‘Don’t be too harsh…’

‘Don’t be too harsh to these poems until they’re typed.  I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty:  at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction.’

~Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, March 1938

Carpe Diem

Today we’re going for something a little different: a philosophy rather than a poem. Though of course, it is poetry related. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be on our site.

Carpe diem.

‘Seize the day’.

It’s a Latin phrase, largely popularised by the filmDead Poets’ Society.

If you haven’t already seen Dead Poets’ Society, I would recommend watching it sooner rather than later. It’s a must for any aspiring writer / poet / artist – or just for anyone who wants to take a hold of life and run with it. Not to mention, it’s a tear jerker (though no more on that – we wouldn’t want to ruin the ending).

Here’s the famous ‘Carpe Diem’ clip from the film:

Tastebuds tantalised? Go and watch the rest! You won’t be disappointed.

And in case you’re interested, here are the poems mentioned in the clip in their entirety:


To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time:
by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.



O Captain! My Captain!
by Walt Whitman

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

And just in case we hadn’t spoiled you enough, here’s a video with Vincent Price reading Whitman’s poem:


Poems taken from:

One Month To Go…

… until THIS:

Yes folks, that’s right. Exactly one month from today, we will be hosting our reading at Deptford Lounge.

Date: Saturday 26th May

Time: 3:00pm

Venue: Deptford Lounge, 9 Giffin Street, Deptford, SE8 4RJ

The time to get excited is… NOW!

St George’s Day

As with everything else today, this post has a Shakespearean theme to it.

So we’re wishing you a happy St George’s Day with Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. Some fantastic acting and a curious haircut. Enjoy.

A New Sonnet by Mark Ravenhill

We’ve also just had this drawn to our attention by poet, actor and singer Alex Knox.

It’s a new sonnet, commissioned by the RSC, written by their writer in residence, Mark Ravenhill.

We think it’s fantastic.

The Poet Of Them All…?

Here is a picture of the bard himself:

William Shakespeare

Or if that’s not exactly to your taste, you can always feast your eyes on the image below instead. We understand that Joseph Fiennes might be more people’s cup of tea than an etching of a balding (though talented) playwright.

‘Shakespeare In Love’ (We certainly are!)

Whether or not you agree that Shakespeare was one of the best and most influential poets who ever put pen to paper (or rather, quill to parchment), we think he deserves a little bit of recognition.

Especially today, as it is exactly 396 years since he died. It’s also roughly 448 years since he was born (lots of people will try to tell you he was born on April 23rd as well. As far as I’ve ever discovered, this is merely hypothesis. He was definitely baptised on April 26th, so it’s probable that he was born on the 23rd, but not certain. However, it fits with the patriotic image, and it’s quite neat to have him dying on his birthday, if a little morose, so we’ll let that rest).

To celebrate Shakespeare, the lovely World Book Night people have put a sonnet in the back of each of the 480,000 books they’re giving away today – and if you don’t have one of those books, then never fret, because all the sonnets are available in PDF format here.

Plus a personal favourite of ours:

Sonnet 130
William Shakespeare

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfume is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go, –
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

And just in case you’re still hungering for more of the Bard, here’s a little musical treat for you. ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’, from Kiss Me Kate, the musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew.

(Unfortunately, the subtitles stop once the actual song starts, but if you actually go to YouTube to watch the clip, the lyrics are all written out below the video, so if you really want to sing along, you can.) Enjoy!

Thanks to and for the images.

World Book Night

World Book Night, 2012

April 23rd is notoriously many things: St George’s Day, Shakespeare’s death day (and most probably his birthday as well) and Cervantes’ death day. Just as importantly, though, it is World Book Night.

At [insert text here], we get a little over-excited at the prospect of free reading material. So if you haven’t already checked them out, then go have a look at their website: World Book Night. Because they’re also very lovely people, they’re also streaming their event (held tonight at the Southbank Centre) on their website, so visit later on for some online literary goodness, too. It starts at 7:15, and will be well worth watching.

So in honour of this day of literary joy, yours truly signed up to be a giver. Today, I have handed out 24 copies of A Tale of Two Cities. Only four people refused to take them (two because they’d already read it, and two because they just weren’t interested, and no amount of persuasion could convince them that they ought to be – their loss). One or two people seemed doubtful, but took them anyway. Most people were overjoyed that someone was handing out books. Or, as one recipient put it, ‘giving people free culture’. The best two were the American management students studying in one of the campus cafes at lunch time. When I asked if they wanted a book, one broke out into a massive grin and the other actually squealed with delight. I felt like a literary Father Christmas.

In the back of each of the World Book Night books, carefully selected by Don Paterson, is a Shakespeare sonnet. A Tale of Two Cities contains Sonnet 34 – a very fitting one, considering the dismal weather today (which perhaps was partly what helped me feel like Father Christmas – not only is it cold, but my raincoat is bright red).

I’ve now distributed all my copies of the book, but here’s a little something for those of you not lucky enough to get one:

Sonnet 34
William Shakespeare

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
‘Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak
That heals the wound and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.

It is necessary to write…

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  That is where the writer scores over his fellows:  he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. 

~Vita Sackville-West