What's your favourite poem?

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  • What's your favourite poem?
  • As per title… I want inspiration for a new photography project. To give you an idea of the kind of thing, this was based on Alice in Wonderland.

    Hearts by Will Slater, on Flickr

    Premier Icon binners

    High Flight by John Gillespie Magee

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air…
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark or even eagle flew —
    And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

    That photography is brilliant BTW! Loving your work there fella

    Premier Icon BigJohn

    There once was a girl from Devizes
    who had …

    Ooh I like that. And cheers Binners!

    I don’t read enough poetry, mainly ‘cos I don’t like reading it, I like to hear it. But Youtube is brilliant for that, so I figure I have no excuse really.

    **edit* Just read up a little bit on Magee. Sad story, makes the poem so much more poignant.

    Premier Icon honeybadgerx

    The following as it always reminds me of getting out on the bike in the winter months….

    Tractor – Ted Hughes

    The tractor stands frozen – an agony
    To think of. All night
    Snow packed its open entrails. Now a head-pincering gale,
    A spill of molten ice, smoking snow,
    Pours into its steel.
    At white heat of numbness it stands
    In the aimed hosing of ground-level fieriness.

    It defied flesh and won’t start.
    Hands are like wounds already
    Inside armour gloves, and feet are unbelievable
    As if the toe-nails were all just torn off.
    I stare at it in hatred. Beyond it
    The copse hisses – capitulates miserably
    In the fleeing, failing light. Starlings,
    A dirtier sleetier snow, blow smokily, unendingly, over
    Towards plantations Eastward.
    All the time the tractor is sinking
    Through the degrees, deepening
    Into its hell of ice.

    The starting lever
    Cracks its action, like a snapping knuckle.
    The battery is alive – but like a lamb
    Trying to nudge its solid-frozen mother –
    While the seat claims my buttock-bones, bites
    With the space-cold of earth, which it has joined
    In one solid lump.

    I squirt commercial sure-fire
    Down the black throat – it just coughs.
    It ridicules me – a trap of iron stupidity
    I’ve stepped into. I drive the battery
    As if I were hammering and hammering
    The frozen arrangement to pieces with a hammer
    And it jabbers laughing pain-crying mockingly
    Into happy life.

    And stands
    Shuddering itself full of heat, seeming to enlarge slowly
    Like a demon demonstrating
    A more-than-usually-complete materialization –
    Suddenly it jerks from its solidarity
    With the concrete, and lurches towards a stanchion
    Bursting with superhuman well-being and abandon
    Shouting Where Where?

    Worse iron is waiting. Power-lift kneels
    Levers awake imprisoned deadweight,
    Shackle-pins bedded in cast-iron cow-shit.
    The blind and vibrating condemned obedience
    Of iron to the cruelty of iron,
    Wheels screeched out of their night-locks –

    Among the tormented
    Tonnage and burning of iron

    Weeping in the wind of chloroform

    And the tractor, streaming with sweat,
    Raging and trembling and rejoicing.


    There was a young man called Frank
    who worked in a bank
    he drove there and back in a tank
    and in his time off he liked to ride mountain bikes


    Dulce et Decorum est

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    The boy stood on the burning deck
    Eating red hot scollops
    One fell down his trouser leg
    And burned him on the ankle
    Missed his bollocks completely.

    Premier Icon DezB

    “Autumn” by me, at school.
    It’s bugged for 40 years that my teacher criticised it for being factually incorrect.

    Can’t say favourite, but “The Thought Fox” I have liked for ages. “May I Feel Said He” is great too 😀

    A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
    Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
    Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
    Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
    Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

    LET us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats 5
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question…. 10
    Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
    Let us go and make our visit.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, 15
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
    Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
    Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 20
    And seeing that it was a soft October night,
    Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

    And indeed there will be time
    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window panes; 25
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands
    That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.

    In the room the women come and go 35
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    And indeed there will be time
    To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
    Time to turn back and descend the stair,
    With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— 40
    (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
    My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
    My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
    (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
    Do I dare 45
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

    For I have known them all already, known them all:
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, 50
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    I know the voices dying with a dying fall
    Beneath the music from a farther room.
    So how should I presume?

    And I have known the eyes already, known them all— 55
    The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
    And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
    When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
    Then how should I begin
    To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? 60
    And how should I presume?

    And I have known the arms already, known them all—
    Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
    (But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
    Is it perfume from a dress 65
    That makes me so digress?
    Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
    And should I then presume?
    And how should I begin?
    . . . . . . . .
    Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets 70
    And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
    Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

    I should have been a pair of ragged claws
    Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
    . . . . . . . .
    And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! 75
    Smoothed by long fingers,
    Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
    Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
    Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
    Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? 80
    But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
    Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
    I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, 85
    And in short, I was afraid.

    And would it have been worth it, after all,
    After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
    Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
    Would it have been worth while, 90
    To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
    To have squeezed the universe into a ball
    To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
    To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
    Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”— 95
    If one, settling a pillow by her head,
    Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
    That is not it, at all.”

    And would it have been worth it, after all,
    Would it have been worth while, 100
    After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
    After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
    And this, and so much more?—
    It is impossible to say just what I mean!
    But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: 105
    Would it have been worth while
    If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
    And turning toward the window, should say:
    “That is not it at all,
    That is not what I meant, at all.”
    . . . . . . . . 110
    No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
    Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
    Deferential, glad to be of use, 115
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
    Almost, at times, the Fool.

    I grow old … I grow old … 120
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

    I do not think that they will sing to me. 125

    I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
    Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
    When the wind blows the water white and black.

    We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown 130
    Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

    Premier Icon martinhutch

    Mr Potatohead – me too, it’s a wonderful poem. Especially now I’m getter older…

    yes martinhutch it gets more relevant by the day

    Premier Icon Bunnyhop

    ‘From a railway carriage’ by Robert Louis Stevenson.


    We had this as a reading at our wedding. Not a poem per se, and IIRC it was actually edited from a couple of separate pieces, but it moved us,

    Mountain thoughts – John Muir

    What wonders lie in every mountain day! . . . Crystals of snow, plash of small raindrops, hum of small insects, booming beetles, the jolly rattle of grasshoppers, chirping crickets, the screaming of hawks, jays, and Clark crows, the ‘coo-r-r-r’ of cranes, the honking of geese, partridges drumming, trumpeting swans, frogs croaking, the whirring rattle of snakes, the awful enthusiasm of booming falls, the roar of cataracts, the crash and roll of thunder, earthquake shocks, the whisper of rills soothing to slumber, the piping of marmots, the bark of squirrels, the laugh of a wolf, the snorting of deer, the explosive roaring of bears, the squeak of mice, the cry of the loon-loneliest, wildest of sounds.

    A fine place for feasting if only one be poor enough. One is speedily absorbed into the spiritual values of things. The body vanishes and the freed soul goes abroad.

    And of course the Ode Of Rememberance

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them.

    I’ve stood at the Menin Gate for the ceremony and was moved almost to tears. I’m choking up now remembering it


    Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse:

    They **** you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were **** up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.


    The Road Not Taken
    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    Premier Icon psling

    I hope you’re going to go back and pick up the litter… 😉

    A recently read one which I like:

    How majestically he stood
    at the edge of the wood,
    then with a tentative stop, he came
    as if someone called his name.
    Down the hillside, then a pause;
    I do not know the cause
    but with a frantic glance around
    hoof beats pounded at the ground
    and with a graceful leap in space,
    the white tailed buck left in his place
    only tracks of where he’d been.
    Wonder if I’ll see him again?

    The Deer by Joyce Horovitz.

    (sorry, you’ll have to count the number of lines yourselves 😆 )


    William Carlos Williams – This Is Just To Say

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold


    Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, a true genius. The musical interpretations by David Axelrod are amazing too.

    Mr Woppit

    Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse

    They **** you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were **** up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

    Even as a part of a cultural masterpiece, STW Forum doesn’t allow it. It starts with an F and the second one is in the past tense.

    Premier Icon bearnecessities


    Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.


    Keep up at the back, Woppit.

    Mr Woppit

    I hate “Desiderata”. Flaccid rules for airhead hippies. 😛

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    My love will come
    will fling open her arms and fold me in them,
    will understand my fears, observe my changes.
    In from the pouring dark, from the pitch night
    without stopping to bang the taxi door
    she’ll run upstairs through the decaying porch
    burning with love and love’s happiness,
    she’ll run dripping upstairs, she won’t knock,
    will take my head in her hands,
    and when she drops her overcoat on a chair,
    it will slide to the floor in a blue heap.

    Yevgeny Yevtushenko


    ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley.

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.


    There once was a man from Nantucket
    Whose **** was so long he could suck it
    He said with a grin
    Wiping *** from his chin
    If my ear was a **** I would **** it


    From one of my favourite poets:

    John Clare (1793-1864)

    He could not die when trees were green,
    For he loved the time too well.
    His little hands, when flowers were seen,
    Were held for the bluebell,
    As he was carried o’er the green.

    His eye glanced at the white-nosed bee;
    He knew those children of the Spring.
    When he was well and on the lea
    He held one in his hands to sing,
    Which filled his heart with glee.

    Infants, the children of the Spring!
    How can an infant die
    When butterflies are on the wing,
    Green grass, and such a sky?
    How can they die at Spring?
    He held his hands for daisies white,
    And then for violets blue,
    And took them all to bed at night
    That in the green fields grew,
    As childhood’s sweet delight.

    And then he shut his little eyes,
    And flowers would notice not;
    Birds’ nests and eggs caused no surprise,
    He now no blossoms got:
    They met with plaintive sighs.
    When Winter came and blasts did sigh,
    And bare were plain and tree,
    And he for ease in bed did lie,
    His soul seemed with the free,
    He died so quietly

    This was read at my grandads funeral and I find it such a perfect little poem.

    Remember Me:
    To the living, I am gone.
    To the sorrowful, I will never return.
    To the angry, I was cheated,
    But to the happy, I am at peace,
    And to the faithful, I have never left.
    I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
    So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea – remember me.
    As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty – remember me.
    As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity – remember me.
    Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved,
    the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
    For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.

    Margaret Mead, American writer and poet (1901 – 1978)


    There was a young man from Dundee
    Who got stung on the leg
    By a wasp
    When asked if it hurt he said ‘no, not a lot and it can do it again if it likes’.

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    Full Moon and Little Frieda

    A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket –
    And you listening.
    A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
    A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
    To tempt a first star to a tremor.

    Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
    wreaths of breath –
    A dark river of blood, many boulders,
    Balancing unspilled milk.
    ‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly, ‘Moon! Moon!’

    The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
    That points at him amazed.
    from Poemhunter

    I could say Milton’s “Paradise Lost” but I think it’s a bit too much for a single photography project.

    Or the The Darkling Thrush

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    The stars are matter
    We are matter
    But it doesn’t matter

    Don Van Vliet

    Proper loving this thread, cheers chaps!

    Premier Icon DaRC_L

    Or there is this…
    A Word to Husbands

    To keep your marriage brimming
    With love in the loving cup,
    Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
    Whenever you’re right, shut up.

    Ogden Nash

    Either “As the team’s head brass” or “Adelstrop”.

    Premier Icon youngrob

    In the Snack Bar by Edwin Morgan

    A cup capsizes along the formica,
    slithering with a dull clatter.
    A few heads turn in the crowded evening snack-bar.
    An old man is trying to get to his feet
    from the low round stool fixed to the floor.
    Slowly he levers himself up, his hands have no power.
    He is up as far as he can get. The dismal hump
    looming over him forces his head down.
    He stands in his stained beltless garberdine
    like a monstrous animal caught in a tent
    in some story. He sways slightly,
    the face not seen, bent down
    in shadow under his cap.
    Even on his feet he is staring at the floor
    or would be, if he could see.
    I notice now his stick, once painted white
    but scuffed and muddy, hanging from his right arm.
    Long blind, hunchback born, half paralysed
    he stands
    fumbling with the stick
    and speaks:
    ‘I want –to go to the-toilet.’

    It is down two flights of stairs, but we go.
    I take his arm. ‘Give me-your arm-it’s better,’ he says.
    Inch by inch we drift towards the stairs.
    A few yards of floor are like a landscape
    to be negotiated, in the slow setting out
    time has almost stopped. I concentrate
    my life to his: crunch of spilt sugar,
    slidy puddle from the night’s umbrellas,
    table edges, people’s feet,
    hiss of the coffee-machine, voices and laughter,
    smell of a cigar, hamburgers, wet coats steaming,
    and the slow dangerous inches to the stairs.
    I put his right hand on the rail
    and take his stick. He clings to me. The stick
    is in his left hand, probing the treads
    I guide his arm and tell him the steps.
    And slowly we go down. And slowly we go down.
    White tiles and mirrors at last. He shambles
    uncouth into the clinical gleam.
    I set him in position, stand behind him
    and wait with his stick.
    His brooding reflection darkens the mirror
    but the trickle of his water is thin and slow,
    an old man’s apology for living.
    Painful ages to close his trousers and coat –
    I do up the last buttons for him.
    He asks doubtfully, ‘Can I- wash my hands?’
    I fill the basin, clasp his soft fingers round the soap.
    He washes, feebly, patiently. There is no towel.
    I press the pedal of the drier, draw his hands
    gently into the roar of the hot air.
    But he cannot rub them together,
    drags out a handkerchief to finish.
    He is glad to leave the contraption, and face the stairs.
    He climbs, and steadily enough.
    He climbs, we climb. He climbs
    with many pauses but with that one
    persisting patience of the undefeated
    which is the nature of man when all is said.
    And slowly we go up. And slowly we go up.
    The faltering, unfaltering steps
    take him at last to the door
    across that endless, yet not endless waste of floor.

    I watch him helped on a bus. It shudders off in the rain.
    The conductor bends to hear where he wants to go.
    Wherever he could go it would be dark
    and yet he must trust men.
    Without embarrassment or shame
    he must announce his most pitiful needs
    in a public place. No one sees his face.
    Does he know how frightening he is in his strangeness
    under his mountainous coat, his hands like wet leaves
    stuck to the half-white stick?
    His life depends on many who would evade him.
    But he cannot reckon up the chances,
    having one thing to do,
    to haul his blind hump through these rains of August.
    Dear Christ, to be born for this!


    “This be the verse” and “this is just to say” have already been posted, so I won’t both posting them again.

    gracefully surrendering the things of youth

    Sod that!

    Brown and Agile Child
    Brown and agile child, the sun which forms the fruit
    And ripens the grain and twists the seaweed
    Has made your happy body and your luminous eyes
    And given your mouth the smile of water.

    A black and anguished sun is entangled in the twigs
    Of your black mane when you hold out your arms.
    You play in the sun as in a tidal river
    And it leaves two dark pools in your eyes.

    Brown and agile child, nothing draws me to you,
    Everything pulls away from me here in the noon.
    You are the delirious youth of bee,
    The drunkedness of the wave, the power of the wheat.

    My somber heart seeks you always
    I love your happy body, your rich, soft voice.
    Dusky butterfly, sweet and sure
    Like the wheatfiled, the sun, the poppy, and the water.

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