Read a Poem

22 Jun 2024

The weather has finally flipped from cold and rain to warmth and sunshine. The meadows were cut last week, but it was too wet for baling, so the fields were striped with long lines of damp cut grass. Then suddenly it was hot, and the farmers were racing around in their tractors getting the hay turned, dried and baled into big, sweet-smelling cylinders.

Spikes of purple foxgloves are standing against the grey dry-stone walls and family groups of tiny wrens flit in and out of gaps between the stones looking for insects and spiders. Dog rose is flowering pink in hedgerows along the lane, with the wren’s distinctive call and trill sounding out surprisingly loud for such a small bird.

The onset of summer has got me thinking about poetry again. In early May I listened to a radio programme about poetry therapy in the series ‘Just One Thing’, by the presenter Dr Michael Mosley, in which he talked about the beneficial effect of reciting rhythmic poetry out loud. It’s worth a try, here are a few lines to have a go. Shakespeare fits the bill well. Firstly, some words from a fairy in a wood near Athens in Midsummer’s Night’s Dream:

I must go seek some dew-drops here

And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I’ll be gone;

Our queen and all her elves come here anon.

And now a bit of a summer love sonnet:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Both of those are absolute crackers as we say here in Yorkshire. Give them a recitation first thing in the morning and feel the joy!

As well as being cheered up by reading beautifully formed iambic pentameter aloud, I’ve also been listening to poetry to delve deep into embedded emotions. On Radio Three’s Late Junction a little while ago I heard a reading by Emily Berry of her poem ‘Ghost Dance’. The combination of words, sound and music permeated me – in Emily Berry’s words “Everything … very … porous”.

Emily Berry’s mother died when she was a child and Ghost Dance is part of her exploration of a child’s disembodied grief and lack of understanding of death and loss: “I caught sight of her, or thought I did -/ in the arms of my grandfather at the end of the war, / or holding a wine glass in a garden”. The poem, and others in her collection ‘Stranger, Baby’ have helped me dig into my own suppressed childhood emotions that, decades later, are still there calling out to be tended. 

Do you have any poems that you enjoy reciting aloud? Or perhaps you have a poem that speaks to your inner lost child.

Rowan on the Moor

A Moodscope member

Here’s the link to the radio programme ‘Just One Thing – Read a Poem’ by Michael Mosley, who went missing on the Greek Island of Symi on 5 June after going for a walk into the hills from the beach on a very hot day and found dead on 9 June.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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