My final book post for the year covers my favourite poetry books, as well as my favourite poets! Poetry is such a personal preference. I’m afraid that I have to admit to being unashamedly conventional in my tastes! A true romantic at heart, though others may say ostrich-like, I love both art and poetry, which promotes positivity and beauty in images, words and thoughts and which makes you feel good! Nothing too deep or heavy or angst-ridden, where you immediately want to go and slit your wrists (or throat for that matter!), though there are exceptions like Dylan Thomas, who strings his words together so beautifully that he is still one of my favourite poets!
Poetry is for reading out aloud! I love the sound of the words and the rhyme, cadence and rhythm of the verse. I enjoy a wide eclectic range of forms from rhyming sonnets to some prose; Japanese haikus and funny limericks, and even terrible doggerel, some of which I have been known to write myself!!!
A love of poetry begins in childhood. Children respond so well to rhyme and rhythm and many of my favourite poetry stems from that time, so I have started with some favourite poetry books for children (today), progressing into some general poetry books for adults, and then, some specific poets, no doubt generational favourites (Wednesday), as well different genres, including some of our wonderful Australian poems and humorous nonsense rhymes (Thursday). Please note that many of the poems mentioned can be accessed online through sites like:
Poetry Books For Children
Nursery rhymes are the very start of preparing children for the wonderful world of poetry and rhyme!
In the Old Gum Tree: Nursery Thymes and Verse for Little Kids Illustrated by Cathy Wilcox 1989/1990
This thin paperback contains old traditional favourites like Baa Baa Black Sheep and Ladybird, Ladybird, as well as colloquial Australian verse like Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree and other short rhymes and poems, written specifically for Australian children.
AA Milne (1882-1926)
When We Were Very Young, 1924
AA Milne was not only responsible for that wonderful children’s classic, Winnie the Pooh, with all its iconic characters, so loved by generations of children, but also for engendering a love of poetry in children. There are so many wonderful poems in this book, including (with first lines):
Buckingham Palace (They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace-Christopher Robin went down with Alice);
Happiness (John had Great Big Waterproof Boots On);
Puppy and I (I met a man as I went walking; We got talking, Man and I);
The Four Friends (Ernest was an elephant, a great big fellow, Leonard was a lion with a six-foot tail, George was a goat, and his beard was yellow, And James was a very small snail!), a personal favourite;
Lines and Squares (Whenever I walk in a London street, I’m ever so careful to watch my feet). Remember doing this?!;
Market Square (I had a penny, A bright new penny. I took my penny to the market square);
Disobedience (James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree Took great Care of his Mother, Though he was only three), such a wonderful rhyme!;
The Three Foxes (Once upon a time there were three little foxes, Who didn’t wear stockings, and they didn’t wear soxes);
Rice Pudding (What is the matter with Mary Jane?);
Missing (Has anybody seen my mouse?);
The King’s Breakfast ( The King asked The Queen, and The Queen asked The Dairymaid: ‘Could we have some butter for The Royal slice of bread?’);
Hoppity (Christopher Robin goes Hoppity, hoppity, Hoppity, hoppity, hop!);
The Dormouse and the Doctor (There once was a Dormouse who lived in a bed Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red)); and
Halfway Down (Halfway down the stairs Is a stair Where I sit).
We also grew up with AA Milne’s other poetry book: Now We are Six by AA Milne 1927/ 1956, with classics like:
King John’s Christmas (King John was not a good man!);
Busy (I think I am a muffin man…But round about and round about and roundabout I go!);
Sneezles (Christopher Robin had sneezles and wheezles));
Binker (Binker – what I call him – is a secret of my own);
Cherry Stones (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor);
Buttercup Days (Where is Anne?), my poor sister’s bête noir;
Us Two (Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, There’s always Pooh and me!);
Forgiven (I found a little beetle, so that Beetle was his name, And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same….And Nanny let my beetle out!);
The Little Black Hen (Berryman and Baxter, Prettiboy and Penn And old Farmer Middleton Are five big men);
The Good Little Girl (It’s funny how often they say to me, ‘Jane? Have you been a good girl?), my pet hate, but still memorable!; and
In the Dark (I’ve had my supper, And had my supper, and HAD my supper and all!)
I love AA Milne’s repetition, his rhyme, his subject matter so pertinent to children’s lives, even today, although it is a very different time period, and his great sense of fun! It is hard to imagine that anyone would not know his poems, at least in the English-speaking world, but for those of you who don’t, see: https://www.poemhunter.com/alan-alexander-milne/poems/.
I think AA Milne is about to enjoy renewed popularity, with the current release of the film about him and the story behind the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh, Goodbye Christopher Robin. See: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1653665/ for a description and the trailer.
Another lovely poetry book for children aged between six and twelve years of age is :
I Will Build You a House: Poems for Cushla, chosen by Dorothy Butler 1984.
While Dorothy specifies in the introduction that she tries to avoid dividing her poetry into topics or themes, preferring to surprise her audience, many of the poems chosen are about animals and nature. They include some classic old poems, including:
Hurt No Living Thing by Christine Rossetti;
Four Ducks on a Pond by William Allingham; and
Envoy; Windy Nights; and Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).
When my children were young, we had a book of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry titled: A Child’s Garden of Verses 1885, which can be read online as part of the Gutenberg Project. See: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/25609/25609-h/25609-h.htm. Like AA Milne, his poems are short, have rollicking rhyme (eg Windy Nights and My Shadow) and are so rich in imagery (eg Travel and Block City), so wonderful for developing the imagination and a lifelong love of poetry!
Envoy is one of my favourite poems by Robert Louis Stevenson:
Go, little book, and wish to all
Flowers in the Garden, meat in the hall,
A bin of wine, a spice of wit,
A house with lawns enclosing it,
A living river by the door,
A nightingale in the sycamore!
Another poetry book I read to my children was: A New Treasury of Poetry, Compiled by Neil Philip 1990.
This book does divide its poems into subject matter with the following chapters:
A Child Went Forth;
Days are Where We Live;
Birds and Beasts;
Sing a Song of Seasons;
Children If You Dare Think;
Once Upon a Time;
The Land of Whipperginny; and
Goodnight; with an Index of Poets and an Index of Titles and First Lines in the back of the book.
I loved Neil Philip’s comparison of poetry as ‘most akin to magic’ in his introduction (page 14).
The poetry includes:
Traditional rhymes like ‘Lavender’s Blue’ ;‘I Know Where I’m Going, ‘This is the Key ’; ‘Lord Randal’; ‘How many Miles to Babylon’ ; ‘I Had a Little Nut-Tree’ and ‘Frankie and Johnny’;
and some famous, old, lyrical poems, including:
The Tyger by William Blake 1794 (Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright In the Forests of the night!);
The Cataract of Lodore by Robert Southey 1823;
I Remember, I Remember by Thomas Hood 1826;
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat by Edward Lear 1871 (The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea In a beautiful pea-green boat), a delightful nonsense poem; and the particularly rousing poem:
The Highway Man by Alfred Noyes 1906 (The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding-Riding-riding-The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door);
As well as more modern (as opposed to ancient!) poems like :
The Rum Tum Tugger by TS Eliot (The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat) 1939
Days by Philip Larkin (What are days for? Days are where we live) 1953;
The Magpies by Denis Glover, one of my favourite poems with the chorus line: Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle, so evocative of their beautiful song) 1964 ; and
The History of the Flood by John Heath-Stubbs (Bang Bang Bang Said the nails in the Ark) 1971;
Some of the poems are common to adult anthologies like :
The Daffodils by William Wordsworth 1807;
A Thing of Beauty 1818 (A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness…) and To Autumn 1819 (Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness!), both by John Keats;
The Lake Isle of Innesfree by WB Yeats 1888;
Sea Fever by John Masefield 1902 (I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky)
Leisure by WH Davies 1911 (What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare);
After Apple-Picking 1914 and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening 1922, both by Robert Frost 1914; and
Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas 1945;
The Macquarie Bedtime Story Book 1987, compiled by Rosalind Price and Walter McVitty also contains some wonderful poetry for children. Particularly memorable poems include:
A Rhyme to Jump into Bed With (Bounda-bounda-bounda bump!), a very bouncy fun poem; and Highrise (Do you know what I would build If all the blocks were mine? I’d pile them up And pile them up As high as I could climb), both by Sally Farrell Odgers.
When the King Rides By (Oh, what a fuss when the king rides by And the drum plays rat-a-tat-plan!); and Promises (If I had a needle, a needle, I’d sew you a wonderful cake!), both by Margaret Mahy;
When I Went to Byaduck (When I went to Byaduck, to Byaduck, to Byaduck, My Grandma said to me…!); and Waddle Duck (Ducks in the farmyard, ducks in the dawnlight, Waking up brightly as the day comes back, Waddle-duck, waddle-duck, Quack, quack, quack); both by Colin Thiele;
Stomping Horace by Doug MacLeod (Horace was a stomper In the second grade!); The Ant Explorer by CJ Dennis (Once a little sugar ant made up his mind to roam – To fare away far away, far away from home);
Ten Little Rabbits by Anonymous (Ten little rabbits playing round a mine. One slipped down a shaft, then there were nine);
Three Fleas by Bill Scott (Here are three fleas with powerful knees who can leap as high as the tallest trees – boing – boing – boing!);
M.’s Songs by JS Manifold (Coots eat waterbeetles, Rats eat cheese, Goats eat anything they Darned well please!), one of my all-time favourites;
Miss Strawberry’s Purse by Eric C Rolls (Miss Strawberry has a long fat purse To keep her money in); and
Mulga Bill’s Bicycle by AB Paterson (‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze!)
All of them have wonderful rhyme and a great sense of fun and humour and many of them are written by Australian poets.
My final poetry book for children, Come Listen: A Book of Poetry for Secondary Schools: First and Second Forms 1966 by Marjorie Pizer and Joan Reed was a textbook we studied in Grade Six of primary school, despite its title, and I loved the poems in it! They are divided into sections and I have given a small sample of examples in each grouping:
Story Poems and Ballads eg The Man From Snowy River by AB Paterson; The Minstrel Boy by Thomas Moore; The Listeners by Walter de la Mare; and The Wild Colonial Boy (Anon);
Fun and Nonsense eg The Triantiwontigongalope by CJ Dennis; Johnson’s Antidote by AB Paterson; The Bunyip and the Whistling Kettle by John Manifold; Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll; and Sad Story of a Motor Fan by HA Field;
Animals and Other Creatures eg Macavity: The Mystery Cat by TS Eliot; The Eagle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and Snake by Ian Mudie;
Old Favourites eg The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt; and If by Rudyard Kipling;
People eg Hiawatha by HW Longfellow; and Clancy of the Overflow by AB Paterson;
Background to Today eg The Teams by Henry Lawson; Colonial Fleets by EJ Brady; They’ll Tell You About Me by Ian Mudie, such an iconic Aussie poem; and Old Botany Bay by Mary Gilmore.
Country and City eg A Song of Rain by CJ Dennis; Pippa’s Song by Robert Browning; Cargoes by John Masefield; and From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Thoughts and Feelings eg The Vagabond, again by Robert Louis Stevenson; Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc; Break, Break, Break by Alfred, Lord Tennyson; When You are Old by WB Yeats; and The Great Lover by Rupert Brooke.
This book gave me an excellent grounding in poetry, as well as in Australian verse (more later)!
I hope this post has brought back very many happy memories, as well as given a few suggestions for poetry for today’s children. For more children’s poetry, see my post on Thursday on Nonsense Rhymes. Tomorrow, we enter the world of adult poetry!