Sharing a selection of poems I’ve been carrying in my saddlebags, many committed to memory, for decades.  A while ago I decided to start sharing them with my family, writing them out one by one, by hand, to be sent in an envelope with a few comments and some context thrown in.  I hope they bring you as much inspiration, delight, fortitude and solace as they have me, and will be adding one or two a month for some time.

Poems for my family 006 – Cavafy

Poems for my family 006 – Cavafy

This poem has been in my mental saddlebags for about a quarter of a century.  I can't remember how I came across it but after a few readings it imprinted itself on my memory. It's by a Greek poet, Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), and draws on one of the great Greek...

Poems for my family 005 – McGee

Poems for my family 005 – McGee

Inspired by a high altitude test flight, this dazzling poem has added poignancy because John Gillespie McGee (1922-41) died soon after in an air collision with his Spitfire. It conveys the sweeping thrill and ethereal freedom of flying to great heights, with the plane...

Poems for my family 004 – Durrell

Poems for my family 004 – Durrell

Listening time: under 5 minutes. Durrell has long been a favourite writer and poet.  When I first read his Alexandria Quartet in my twenties, I went back to the beginning and started again, something I've only ever done for one other book (The Tale of Genji).  I...

Poems for my family 003 – Donne

Poems for my family 003 – Donne

Listening time: under 3 minutes. This is the third poem I chose to share with my family, copied out by hand and sent by post.  Written as part of a series of meditations by John Donne (1572-1631), it is life-affirming even while it speaks of dying.  Above all, it...

Poems for my family 002 – Frost

Poems for my family 002 – Frost

Listening time: under 4 minutes. This is the second poem I chose to share with my family, in what will be a series to be sent approximately once a month, hand-written and by post, delivered to two brothers and their families, and one father. That means writing the...

Poems for my family 001 – Yeats

Poems for my family 001 – Yeats

Listening time: under 3 minutes. The first time I heard this poem was when my mother recited it to my step-father in the kitchen. She had tears in her eyes but I wasn't sure if it was because she was moved by the poem, or by the fact that it manifestly fell on deaf...

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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