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 008 – Drayton

Poems for my family 008 – Drayton

Listening time: under 5 minutes.  One of the greatest love poems in English, this was written by Michael Drayton (1563-1631) the night before he died.  Drayton was a friend of Shakespeare and a student of Spenser. I can think of few more dignified and moving...

Poems for my family 007 – Carlos Williams

Poems for my family 007 – Carlos Williams

Listening time: under 3 minutes.The lovely opening line of this poem by William Carlos Williams creates a surprising contrast between the stillness of a rose and the tumult of war.  The rest of the poem picks up, in rhythm and imagery, on the rose, filling...

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...

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

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...

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