Poetry and wine are liminal things.  They live on the borderlands between the wild and the civilized, between reason and irrationality.  Their territory is the unplanned, the unexpected, the pathless.

Source: Harry Eyres, Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), 48-49

Poetry is a lifelong companion and solace to many. To me it’s a distillation of life – whether in the grand sweep or in its small moments – painted and sculpted in words. At its best, it connects me to other people, places and times, stripping away the ephemera of surface difference to reveal what it is to be human; embracing both the joy and the striving of it.

As Adam Nicolson puts it, ‘a description, through a particular set of lenses, of what it is like to be alive on earth, its griefs, triumphs, sufferings and glories’.

All poetry is memorial.  Much of it is elegy.

Source: Adam Nicolson, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters (London: William Collins, 2015), 50

And paring down to the essence, it is one of the most vital and vibrant channels for capturing and transmitting human experience across distances of time and culture, or as a prism for understanding our own context.  Ezra Pound described poets, like artists, as the ‘antennae of the race’, sending us signals from the past, the present and the possible, allowing us to fine-tune our sensibilities and our engagement with the world.

It also reminds us – me, at least – that the path we tread, a seemingly once-only learn-as-you-go time on this earth, has been trodden before. The finest poetry, that which endures, makes visible those footsteps on the sand. It’s a deep reassurance that we are not alone in our fears, hopes, or fragility.

This page brings together poetry-related posts including quotations, ideas and books that have delighted or edified me. Click on the book covers to read my whole-hearted quote-rich reviews.

We hold on to the highest poetry out of desperate need.

Source: Till I End My Song: A gathering of last poems, Harold Bloom (ed), New York: HarperCollins, 2010, xxii

Reviews for you

Harry Eyres - Horace and Me - cover
Adam Nicolson - cover - The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters
Cover - Crossley-Holland Beowulf
Kevin Crossley-Holland - The Breaking Hour - cover

Love bade me…

One of the most beautiful English poems, of great simplicity and generosity, by George Herbert.  Much of his poetry is...

A poet’s prayer

In fact, a prayer for any writer. Having just read John Drury's marvelous appreciation of George Herbert's life and his...

The piling up of beauty

Clive James' spent decades working on his splendid translation of Dante, sometimes in 'back burner' mode, other times full on. ...

A fair request

In an age where you are expected to shout, tweet, bluster and generally blather about everything you do, it is...

Sweet-running river

Flowing like the sweet-running river it evokes, a meandering metaphor for Hector's strength and movement, likened to a thoroughbred horse...

Roughing out poems

Hand-written notes and journals have a magic to them. Durrell is a favourite poet and his house in Greece was as...

Diving in head first

Keats was a bold player, keeping his eye determinedly focussed on achieving enduring greatness, not on the fads and fashions...

After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption.

Source: Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous

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