Poetic Licence - Sarah Nicholson

March must be the month for poetry as I see Peter Leyland posted something About Poetry on Saturday, I do hope you will allow me to add my own thoughts and memories...

Poetry can take many forms from sonnets to Limericks, Haiku to Villanelle (OK I confess I’m not really sure of the structure for a Villanelle – didn’t she want to kill Eve?}

I digress, and

I might meander even more

as I write this in a lyrical style

as poems are often written

Hmm I wonder what actually constitutes a poem? 

I’m loathed to look up a definition, Google will undoubtedly bamboozle me. Poems can be highbrow and esoteric or about the mundane and everyday – I wrote one once about belly button fluff – more about that later…

I started writing poetry early and here’s one of my early efforts from primary school.

I also remember writing one at BIG school about a dolls house, I vividly recall reading it out in class, it had a repeated refrain which everyone joined in with. I was in year 7, or first year as we called it in those days.

Sadly that poem is lost in time, as are all the other poems written during puberty. I do wonder how many of us have poured our hearts out on the page in our teenage years as a way of expressing our angst at the unfairness of the world?

As for reading poems, our local newsagents used to sell slim volumes of Patience Strong verse that I could afford with my pocket money. I didn’t find them saccharine sweet at the time but rather wistful. For balance on my bookshelf I had a copy of Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids and a rather nice anthology which featured The Swing by Robert Louis Stephenson, I learnt it by heart.


I did A level English literature and we studied Gerard Manley Hopkins and Robert Browning. My friends and I decided Hopkins wasn’t very manly and his poems were dull.

Nowadays I have a real appreciation of his lyricism, I enjoy the majesty of his writing and if I see a row of trees, be they poplars or not, I think of his poem Binsey Poplars, which is odd because I’ve just re-read it and it's about trees that have been felled. Maybe I never fully listened in the lesson. Or maybe it was another poem entirely.

Meanwhile Browning’s poetry has often hit the spot, especially his shorter works, some of the long ones go on and on - I’m sure Bishop Blougram is still apologising somewhere.

My favourite Browning poem is A Toccata of Galuppi, I admit my understanding of it is sketchy but the rhythm is so musical, it gallops along,

The soul, doubtless, is immortal–

where a soul can be discerned.

Perhaps I should have it read at my funeral?

Which reminds me I wrote a poem when my mother-in-law died which I read at her wake all about the food she had fed us over the years. From lemon meringue to cheese flan she was a marvellous baker.

Death certainly provides a rich seam of inspiration; I wrote many poems after my husband died to help untangle my emotions.

One of them Goldilocks and the Three Brothers, can be found in a recently published anthology put together by the Suffolk Writers Group. Alongside the bellybutton fluff poem, I wanted to show my range.

The Tapestry of Poetry is a most beautiful book which made excellent Christmas presents. Of course, I have my own copy and it sits snuggly on my shelf with my growing collection of books and pamphlets by poets that I know and have the privilege to call my friends.

Flicking through the books now I discover funny poems that make me laugh, rants that make my blood boil. Some are about real people in history, adding a new perspective. There are words which express aching grief, and words documenting love - both real and imagined.


Poems can really be about ANYTHING.

They can rhyme or not,

be sometimes short, pithy and to the point

or long.

Some can be subversive ๐Ÿ˜‰


Do you have a favourite?

Ones written by your own hand

locked away in a drawer,

or something learned at school that you still remember -

years later.


Add comments below



etc. etc.


And thank you for indulging my whimsical look back at poems I love and remember, I hope it’s sparked something, maybe inspiration enough to go away and write your own poetic masterpiece.


Ruth Leigh said…
I had a similar experience, Sarah. I wrote poetry all the time at primary school and read it at high school. It did help a lot with the feelings around anger and the unfairness of life. It's a wonderful medium and I'm grateful to you for including my own slender volume. As for a favourite - too many to mention! My Last Duchess, perhaps, anything by Wendy Cope or Brian Bilston and there are some wonderful Margaret Atwood ones too.
Susan Price said…
I enjoyed reading this, Sarah. I've never felt the urge to write poetry: I'd be interested to know why some writing comes out as a poem, and other writing as a story or novel.

Sassoon's 'The General' is a favourite of mine, as is Blake's 'Chimney Sweep' and 'London.' I like angry poems!

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