What this blog is and how to use it

This blog contains poems that have caught my attention over the years. Many of the poems I've discussed and explored with 16 -19 year old students in my capacity as lecturer in English.

Browse the list of poems by scrolling down the page or read the titles of poems or names of poets in the sidebar 'Poem Titles and Poets'. Then click on the title or poet.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn by Tim Turnbull

Tim Turnbull

Hello! What's all this here? A kitschy vase
some Shirley Temple manqué has knocked out
delineating tales of kids in cars
on crap estates, the Burberry clad louts
who flail their motors through the smoky night
from Manchester to Motherwell or Slough,
creating bedlam on the Queen's highway.
Your gaudy evocation can, somehow,
conjure the scene without inducing fright,
as would a Daily Express exposé,

can bring to mind the throaty turbo roar
of hatchbacks tuned almost to breaking point,
the joyful throb of UK garage or
of house imported from the continent
and yet educe a sense of peace, of calm -
the screech of tyres and the nervous squeals
of girls, too young to quite appreciate
the peril they are in, are heard, but these wheels
will not lose traction, skid and flip, no harm
befall these children. They will stay out late

forever, pumped on youth and ecstasy,
on alloy, bass and arrogance, and speed
the back lanes, the urban gyratory,
the wide motorways, never having need
to race back home, for work next day, to bed.
Each girl is buff, each geezer toned and strong,
charged with pulsing juice which, even yet,
fills every pair of Calvin’s and each thong,
never to be deflated, given head
in crude games of chlamydia roulette.
Now see who comes to line the sparse grass verge,
to toast them in Buckfast and Diamond White:
rat-boys and corn-rowed cheerleaders who urge
them on to pull more burn-outs or to write
their donut Os, as signature, upon
the bleached tarmac of dead suburban streets.

There dogs set up a row and curtains twitch
as pensioners and parents telephone
the cops to plead for quiet, sue for peace -
tranquility, though, is for the rich.

And so, millennia hence, you garish crock,
when all context is lost, galleries razed
to level dust and we're long in the box,
will future poets look on you amazed,
speculate how children might have lived when
you were fired, lives so free and bountiful
and there, beneath a sun a little colder,
declare How happy were those creatures then,
who knew the truth was all negotiable
and beauty in the gift of the beholder.

The Insider by Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats


Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
       Of deities or mortals, or of both,
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
         For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
                For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
         When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."