National Poetry Day. Could I let this go by without a blog post? Not likely. But rather than present my own work, today I want to talk about some of the poems I remember from my childhood and also a little about what inspires me today.
The first poem I want to share is one I remember from my infant school days. Our class recited it at Harvest Festival. It is called Bed in Summer.
Bed in Summer
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 in the tree
Or hear the grown up people’s feet
Still going past me on 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?
Robert Louis Stevenson
One thing I remember about learning this poem is my misunderstanding of the line “I have to go to bed by day,” As a seven year old I took this to mean I have to go to bed by the time daylight came, rather than “by day” meaning simply in daylight. Mind you, my confusion didn’t stop me from enjoying the poem as I got the general gist of it. In winter it is still dark when you get up, (which, these days, causes me waking up issues on early work mornings!) and in summer it is still light when you go to bed. Simple. I think I had more experience of the latter because, I believe, when I was at school I never really had to get up when it was still dark. As a child, this poem resonated with me though, as it described the difference in the seasons. I used to love being able to play in the garden in the evening before I went to bed in the summer. And now, as a generation has turned, our eldest son finds it hard to go to bed when it is still light. He says “But it’s still morning, It’s not bedtime yet!” Er yes it is Kyle, I’m afraid. Easier now Autumn is here again and he’s knackered from school too! So I chose this poem as a nod to my infant school days. I think as I grew up I never forgot the first verse but I did forget the subsequent verses.
My next poem is called Windy Nights and, coincidentally, is also by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.
Robert Louis Stevenson
As a child, I owned a book called “I like This Poem” It contained many great poems, as well as annotation from children about why they liked them. I didn’t used to bother to read that. I just read the poems. I’m not quite sure why but I took a liking to this one and wanted to learn it. I must have read it so many times because it sticks in my mind even today. Especially the opening lines: Whenever the moon and stars are set, whenever the wind is high, “All Night long in the dark and wet, a man comes riding by” I just loved the rhythm and loved to imagine this man galloping about on a horse in the dark. I loved the old fashioned use of language in the closing lines “By at the gallop goes he” A memorable poem. Very well crafted.
As well as I like this Poem, I remember two other poem books I owned as a child. One was Please Mrs Butler, by Allan Alberg, a collection of poems about school life, which later made me want to work in the classroom with children. The other was Smile Please, by Tony Bradman, a collection of poems about children and home life. I loved both books and read the poems so many times. At that age it was rhyme all the way. I hadn’t explored non-rhyming poems yet. That was to come later, at secondary school.
I can’t possibly do a blog post about poems I enjoyed as a child and not mention Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. The man was a genius and it’s been so brilliant to see his 100th birthday celebrated so widely. His books were often poetry in themselves but I loved Revolting Rhymes. My favourite was the Cinderella one.
My interest in poetry faded during my time at secondary school, although I still wrote a few poems, even outside English lessons.
There is one ‘poet’ (albeit a fictional one) I want to give a nod to and that is Rik, the people’s poet, played by the late Rik Mayall (so sadly missed) I loved his silly little poems in the Young Ones. “Oh House, House, House, Oh you’re made of Stone but you’re not alone-ly house” (to pick one of his less contraversial ones) I want to give this talented man a nod on National Poetry Day because of the quote that is relevant to his passing, two years ago, but also to poets in general.
On one of his little rambles the character, Rik talks about after he has gone and the quote goes like this:
“… And all the grown ups will say ‘But why are the kids crying?’ and the kids will say ‘Haven’t you heard? Rik is dead, The people’s poet is dead!’ and then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenager will say ‘Why kids, don’t you understand Nothing? How can Rik be dead when we still have his poems?'”
Rik Mayall, in character as Rik from the Young Ones
And why have I jumped from Roald Dahl to Rik Mayall?
Because this quote has really spoken to me in recent years. The relevance to Rik Mayall’s death is that Rik Mayall himself left a great legacy – his work! So how can he really be gone when we can still watch old episodes of the Young Ones and Bottom etc and remember him as he was.? It’s simple. His work will always be with us.
The same can be said of so many writers, singers, comedians, television personalities who are no longer with us. We have always have what they created.
And as for poems? well it’s simple. Think of poems you remember as a child, and as an adult. Those that have made a mark on you? Those poems will be around long, long after the poet is gone and therefore the poet leaves a legacy, his/her work. It can be enjoyed and celebrated long after he/she is gone.
Therefore, my Young Ones quote has relevance in the world of poetry. If only one of my little poems is remembered by one person, that will be enough for me. If they are remembered by a few more people? Even better.
I will sign off now before I start waffling (oopsy have I already started?)
Thanks for reading and Happy National Poetry Day