Love and the Power of Poetry

A while ago we posted an advert for the BBC’s 2009 Poetry Season.

Tonight we bring you something beautiful, poetic, and just the right level of emotional for a Friday night in.

Here’s comedian Robert Webb recounting a particular poem, and a particular poet, that touched his life:

‘Poets are always taking the weather so personally.’

Poster by Evan Robertson.

View more of Robertson’s literary quotation posters here:

‘The community of any English poem today is larger than any nation-state.’

‘English poetry extends back around 500 years, and its scope is the scope of the English language. That is to say, when a North American, an Australian, an Indian or a Jamaican writes a poem in English, that poem enters the corpus of English poetry. Of course it may be that the poet in question was intending to contribute to a national school of poetry, was intending to add his or her brick to the edifice of a national effort. But the community of any English poem today is larger than any nation-state. And besides, the geography of poetry is not the same as the geography of nation-states. Welsh poetry is written for Welsh-speakers wherever they may be. It is not written for all citizens of the United Kingdom. A Spanish poetry, written for Spanish-speakers in the United States, would enjoy a community, through language, with Hispanics everywhere. An Amharic poet, writing in Toronto about life on the streets of Toronto, would be writing for Ethiopians – or at least Amharic-speakers – everywhere. And a poet writing in Chinese has the notable advantage of being able to communicate with anyone who understands written Chinese: the community is in the script.’

– James Fenton, An Introduction to English Poetry

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

Classic poetry by William Blake, ‘The Tyger’ was published in 1794 as part of his collection ‘Songs of Experience’.

Click here to read poem more clearly, or listen to a reading of the poem. From the Poetry Foundation website.

Alternative Literature

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

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!

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.