by students from Loughborough WEA’s Literature group
Pat Reynolds writes:
To celebrate National Poetry Day on Oct 8th with its theme of “Light”, a group of us, who got to know each other through WEA Literature and Poetry courses over the last few years, held an informal half-day get-together at Gorse Covert Community Centre, Loughborough. The morning featured music, poetry readings and discussion of poems suggested by group members… and of course coffee and cake!
A number of us write below about our enjoyment of Poetry Day, the pleasure we find in poetry, and also about the inspiration and fun we get from WEA Literature and Poetry classes shared with others with similar interests.
I particularly liked the poem written and read by group member Marie called “ Eternal Dragonfly.” (See last page for the poem.) The morning ended with Byron’s poem “So We’ll Go No More A Roving” which we listened to set to music by the band Little Machine, suggested by group member Angie. I enjoyed this, as last term we discussed with tutor Mike Wilson how to decide when a poem set to music “works.” My brother Steve is a musician so I am always on the lookout for exceptional bands new to me.
“So We’ll Go No More A Roving”
So we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day return too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.
“In his dynamism, sexuality, self-revelation and demands for freedom for oppressed people everywhere, Byron captivated the Western mind and heart. He stamped upon 19th C literature, poetry, arts, politics and even fashion and style, his image and name as the embodiment of Romanticism.” ( From www.poetryfoundation.org )
… “A poem is a little machine for remembering itself.“ This link will take you to
Little Machine’s band website, where under <Albums> you will find the poem beautifully played by the band….and lots more poetry set to music.
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George Gordon Lord Byron
The morning of poetry and music was informative, and more importantly for me – fun! The poems featured included “something old, something new.” Other group members chosen poems will feature below, so keep on reading!
The joy of a WEA course is it can lead to an interest in a subject that you hadn’t previously had, and perhaps further courses to enjoy. For the past two years the class was doubly beneficial to me as I was rather unwell and it gave me a focus point for the week, socially and educationally. I also like the other informal get-togethers our group arranged through the year, culminating in this celebration for National Poetry Day.
Come and join us on Nov 23rd !
If you haven’t been to a WEA Literature class before why not come and try out on Monday morning 10am – 12 for 3 weeks from Nov 23 with Tutor Mike Wilson. We are a very friendly group. We shall be looking at short stories, so the class is called not surprisingly “Short Stories, Short Course.”
We meet at Gorse Covert Community Centre, Maxwell Drive, Loughborough, LE11 4RZ. Plenty of free Parking, and hand-made coffee at break-time! Local shops and services. The perfect venue. Fee £23.10
Contact WEA on 01509 268636 to enquire and book.
Hope to see you there. The ideal antidote to Xmas shopping!
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Angie Hardy writes:
He proposed in a petrol station… they were on their way to a restaurant where he was going to do it properly, but he couldn’t wait that long. So then they went back to her mum’s who cooked them corned beef hash. The romance didn’t stop there. A few years later she had collected a small box full of poems he had sent her. Even after marriage and two kids, on holiday not long ago she woke up and found a poem he had written and put under her pillow. Who…? It was a big week for poetry with National Poetry Day 8th Oct, a poetry marathon through the day on Radio 4, a Poetry Postie cycling around Devon, poetry readings and events nationwide, and our local poetry bash held here in Loughborough. So then of course it was Wayne Rooney, interviewed on the Beeb by Gary Lineker, who revealed romantic poetry was also part of his life. Who knew that the shy, scabby-kneed, Scouse striker for Man U and England was such a dark horse? Of course this was a gift to the tabloids, whose sub editors thought Xmas had come early. The Mirror wondered what one of his poems to Colleen would be like…”Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, you are well hot.”
I felt sad that a professional footballer and poetry in the same sentence didn’t seem to “go.” Or perhaps being working class and poetry don’t go together? After all wasn’t it just the Guardian reading chattering classes who tuned in to Radio 4’s Day of Poetry and heard Prince Charles starting the Day reading “ My Love is Like A Red Red Rose” and the Archers cast reciting Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard?” Possibly, but my father was a working class country boy who left elementary school at 13 and he always remembered with such affection the poetry learnt by heart in school.
He taught me some of it when I was a kid, and I loved the rhythm, the rhymes and the stories – “I Remember, I Remember” by Tom Hood, Tennyson’s “Brook”, Southey’s “After Blenheim.” Soon after A Levels though, poetry disappeared from my life as I preferred novels, particularly feminist writing, the classics and contemporary writers, especially women, who helped me find meaning in my own personal experience.
I joined WEA Literature classes in Loughboro needing new interests when I felt sorry for myself following an operation. This was about 8 years ago and taught by Sue Love and later Mike Wilson. I have had so much enjoyment again from poetry. I can’t imagine life without it. It is seriously addictive.
Oscar Wilde said he made sure he had his diary with him on journeys as… “ One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” As my diary nowadays seems limited to entries about cancelling the milk (and of course reminders for WEA class) the traditional slim volume of poetry is what I read on the train. When all else fails, Voltaire advised cultivating your garden. Totally ignoring his advice, as anyone can see from the lush growths of weeds demanding attention at the back of my house, I hang out at poetry festivals instead of garden centres.
Though I haven’t bumped into Wayne and Colleen at a festival yet.
One of my choices for our celebration of National Poetry Day was Welsh poet Gillian Clarke – we listened to her on CD reading “The Habit of Light” her memories of her mother. She has a mesmerising voice with its breathy Welsh cadences. The imagery in her poem reminds me of my own mother. (From Collection Five Fields published by Carcanet Press www.carcanet.co.uk ) CD of “Twenty Poems” by Gillian Clarke available from www.gillianclarke.co.uk
“The Habit of Light” by Gillian Clarke
In the early evening, she liked to switch on the lamps
in corners, on low tables, to show off her brass
her polished furniture, her silver and glass.
At dawn she’d draw all the curtains back for a glimpse
of the cloud-lit sea. Her oak floors flickered
in an opulence of beeswax and light.
In the kitchen, saucepans danced their lids, the kettle purred
on the Aga, supper on its breath and the buttery melt
of a pie, and beyond the swimming glass of old windows,
in the deep perspective of the garden a blackbird singing,
she’d come through the bean rows in tottering shoes,
her pinny full of strawberries, a lettuce, bringing
the palest potatoes in a colander, her red hair bright
with her habit of colour, her habit of light.
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Keith Hodgkinson writes :
My chosen poem to read for National Poetry Day was the verse “ Awake” from The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam – appropriately the first on our morning’s programme!
Awake! For Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! The Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light
Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat was the first poem I took seriously. A young teenager, I was struck by its irreverence and wit (to quote one verse), its insistence on worldly wisdom and what I soon identified as materialism.
The fact that he lived around 1100 and was a Persian (=Iranian) Muslim mathematician and astronomer gave me a first taste of cultural complexity, and an alternative view of mainstream Eurocentric history
“Awake” was the first poem I learned to recite. Little of his original poetry has survived but he is known by repute and later citations. Although he undertook the classic Mecca pilgrimage his poems are remarkably unspiritual, humanistic, almost atheistic (if that were possible).
The Rubaiyyat, written in Farsi, contains up to 801 verses (quatrains) though the oldest has only 158. Edward Fitzgerald, translator (1809-1883, Cambridge University poet) took many liberties with the text and ignored many of the Muslim lines of thought.
The first edition was published in 1859, the same year as Darwin’s Origin of Species, and the translation reflects much of contemporary religious scepticism.
The Moving Finger writes: and having writ
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
( Left – edition pub. 1928)
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Yvonne Sketchley writes:
MY FIRST INTRODUCTION TO OMAR KHAYYAM… COURTESY OF UNCLE REG
I was about 13 years old and my friend’s Uncle Reg lived with her family. When we were bored Mary and I would creep upstairs and listen to Uncle Reg spouting “poetry” behind the locked bathroom door.
The first verse ‘Awake for morning in the bowl of night…’ and the 51st verse ‘The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on…’ were my first introduction to this poet.
He was unknown to me then, but both verses stuck in my memory and it wasn’t until I was in my forties that I found a tiny book of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation and realized Uncle Reg did know ‘real poetry’ after all.
Of course Uncle also recited other poems, ruder than Omar Khayyam. Mary and I would giggle until Uncle Reg heard us and roared “b***** off, you b*****s!” He was eccentric but this word was not in my vocabulary then. He tried to play and sing along to a small organ as well… awful, awful noises from the front parlour.
Fitzgerald found no-one would publish his translation. Eventually it was printed anonymously and most of the copies ended up in the penny remainder box, but it became very popular later after being promoted by well known writers. I found out later that Uncle Reg was of that generation who would have learnt poetry by heart at school and that this was a very popular poem.
Both these verses from the Rubiyaat have stayed in my memory for all these years. It is a wonderful story. Brought back teenage memories to hear Keith read from Omar for our Poetry morning.
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My choice of poem for National Poetry Day was “ Light” by Rabindranath Tagore. I am a romantic and this is passionate. The heart is the centre of living, being. Tagore’s poem opens our eyes to a rich, mystical and religious world as well as giving us freedom by spreading light, little by little, throughout the verses. It lifts my mind and spirit
I was introduced to Bengali poet Tagore’s work by another book group member. We were reading the 2006 Man Booker winning novel ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ set in the north-east Himalayas. We looked into Tagore’s life and read some of his poems.
There is so much to choose from, but I chose his “Light” poem from his book ‘Gitanjali’ (which translated means ‘Song Offerings’).
“Light” by Rabindranath Tagore
Light, any light, the world- filling light
The eye-kissing light,
Ah the light dances, my darling, at the centre of my life;
The light strikes, my darling, the chords of love;
The sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.
The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light.
Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.
The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling
And it scatters gems in profusion.
Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling,
And gladness without measure.
The heaven’s river has drowned its banks
and the flood of joy is abroad.
PLEASED TO CONTINUE LEARNING…
I joined the WEA Literature class in 2008 when the WEA lived at Loughborough College where I had resumed working again aged 42. I was soon familiar with the phrase that became so important then in education..…“life-long learning.”
Bill was the WEA literature tutor then and was running a class on American writers. I had very little knowledge of some of these authors so I thought I would give it a go. We read such inspiring novels by among others, Willa Cather and of course wonderful Edith Wharton. I knew Mark Twain and Henry James from school and John Steinbeck from the cinema, but not the short stories of Stephen Crane or the poems and short stories of Raymond Carver, whose work I came to love. I was soon hooked on Literature classes.
Sue Love then took over as the group’s tutor with further wonderful journeys for me into the world of novels and novelists. As an added bonus tutor Mike Wilson (also a published poet himself) has brought more poetry and music to the life of the class.
There is so much to read and talk about – long may the WEA’s work flourish so I can continue with my own “ life-long learning.”
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Angela Wallace writes:
On National Poetry Day I particularly liked this John Clare poem, Schoolboys in Winter chosen and read by Mary to contrast with “The Sentry” by Wilfred Owen. (See Ann’s section next) These carefree boys in the poem by Clare we all imagined could a century later be the young soldiers dead in the Trenches of WW1 described by Owen. I wasn’t familiar with this poem, so always good to discover a new pleasure. I have visited Clare’s cottage and read some biographical background so felt I could relate to the sense of place and love of nature. Also reminded me of Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man and childhood pastimes (recollected in old age!)
“ Schoolboys in Winter”
By John Clare
The schoolboys still their morning ramble take
To neighbouring village school with playing speed,
Loitering with passtime’s leisure till they quake,
Oft looking up the wild-geese droves to heed,
Watching the letters which their journeys make;
Or plucking haws on which their fieldfares feed,
And hips and sloes; and on each shallow lake
Making glib slides, where they like as shadows go
Til some fresh pastimes in their minds awake.
Then off they start anew and hasty blow
Their numbed and clumpsing fingers till they glow;
Then races with their shadows wildly run
That stride huge giants o’er the shining snow
In the pale splendor of the winter sun.
Completely different was hearing group member Marie reading her own poem “Eternal Dragonfly” (see final page for the poem). So uplifting to have such creativity in our midst and to have a first-hand conversation with the poet. I loved her close focus on a delight of nature which we can all relate to and how the language renders it as a special experience.
As ever, it was stimulating to have a lively exchange of viewpoints, with humour, and the inspiration to go off and research new areas. Thanks to Angie for organising the Day.
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Ann Corbin writes:
The power of words, sometimes just a few, has always fascinated me. Words placed in the right order have the ability to convey deep feelings or humour and bring understanding to the reader. Occasionally there just aren’t the words available to describe our experiences and feelings… so we have to do the best we can but can’t convey the whole truth.
Through words we glean from the poet the excitement, trauma, delight, and grief he\she is describing. Poetry is a medium that lends itself so well to this kind of communication.
In latter years it has proved a voyage of discovery for me, and particularly with the WEA poetry classes.
On National Poetry Day, October 8, we spent a delightful 3 hours studying, sharing and listening to a wide variety of poems which prompted interesting and often humorous discussions. Many of these were new to me. Here are two I particularly liked:
The Sentry was chosen for reading by Angie, whose Grandfather was blinded in WW1.
“The Light Gatherer” by Carol Ann Duffy conveys so well with her imagery of light, the nature, excitement and energy of a small child discovering the world. A tremendous contrast to the next poem The Sentry.
Here are some of her descriptive phrases:
– two clear raindrops (referring to the child’s eyes)…..
– the light of a smile, feet glowed, when language came it glittered….
– you fell from a star into my lap…. you shine like a snowgirl,
– a buttercup under a chin…
All these paint a picture of light and the deep love a mother has for her child.
We’d found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell
Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.
Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime
Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,
Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.
What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
Who’d lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
If not their corpses. . . .
There we herded from the blast
Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
And splashing in the flood, deluging muck —
The sentry’s body; then his rifle, handles
Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
“O sir, my eyes — I’m blind — I’m blind, I’m blind!”
Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids
And said if he could see the least blurred light
He was not blind; in time he’d get all right.
“I can’t,” he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there
In posting next for duty, and sending a scout
To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about
To other posts under the shrieking air.
Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
And one who would have drowned himself for good, —
I try not to remember these things now.
Let dread hark back for one word only: how
Half-listening to that sentry’s moans and jumps,
And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,
Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath —
Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
“I see your lights!” But ours had long died out.
This is a very personal poem, an experience of great intensity, which Owen had described to his mother in a letter, and then wrote the poem 18 months later after he had been encouraged in his writing by poet Siegfried Sassoon when they were in the same hospital.
I found it very moving. Owen powerfully describes the conditions of the trenches that the men inhabited in WW1: this is truth in its most graphic form, horrifying imagery.
…waterfalls of slime kept slush waist high, what murk of air remained stank old, and sour.
The young sentry, blinded by the bomb…. “we dredged him up, for killed … “eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids”…. ” and the wild chattering of his broken teeth” …
Owen describes some other soldiers “Those other wretches how they bled and spewed, And one who would have drowned himself for good”…this leaves us in no doubt of the terror and utter hopelessness of their situation.
Wilfred Owen died aged 25 on the battlefields a few days before the end of the War was declared.
More information, poems, and critical appreciation from Wilfred Owen Ass. www.wilfredowen.org.uk
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Marie Kavanagh writes:
Absolutely great celebration of National Poetry Day.
Thanks to Angie, Mary, Keith and all the group for the organization, research, readings and good humour! Comprehensive file of notes to go with the poems, shall look forward to going through them.
The WEA tutored classes I go to – Poetry and Creative Writing – are inspiring and motivating and help give so much meaning and purpose to life.
Thanks so much to those of you who said you liked my own poem “Eternal Dragonfly”
You arouse in me a lightness
of heart, a tenderness.
We go back a long way, yet
you’re still so shy, introverted;
skating warily, airily, over
my garden table delicately
brushing my left cheek, close enough
to whisper in my ear.
I long to hold you
gently; to cup you in my hands,
feel your feathery touch
I won’t harm you;
I’ll watch in wonder as you grace the light
with your light flight,
dancing on air up
towards the meadows.
I glance away…
and you’re gone…
in calm delight
by Marie Kavanagh
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Don’t forget to put National Poetry Day Thursday OCT 6TH 2016 in your diary.
A Meeting of Minds…
with the WEA
We learn together
We think together
We talk, we laugh