Sunday, October 17, 2010

Help Needed Re: Poetry

We were given an awful assignment the other day in my British Literature class. Immediately I knew that at least I wouldn't be at a complete loss since I have at least 300 people who love to read and at least a few of them must be familiar with the topic introduced ;)

The assignment is to memorize 100 lines of poetry by a British poet. The poet can also be from a former colony of Britain (India, Jamaica, Nigeria, etc.) and I can memorize the works of more than one poet (i.e. ten lines from one, forty from another, etc.). Besides the obvious problem of memorizing 100 lines (of which I have no doubt I will fail miserably at), I'm also at a loss for finding British poets. Oh sure, I could Google them. And I intend to. But I would love to receive recommendations from people who love poetry and have favorite poets. I would prefer humorous poems since I have a hard time delivering emotional poems, but I would be up for the challenge of attempting an intense poem. I would prefer British poets of color, but honestly, I'm willing to settle for a female, humorous poet. Above all, I would love some funny poets.


You can leave them in the comments or email me. It would be especially awesome if you included the name of the poet and your favorite poem by them. I look forward to reading some great poetry (and shudder at the idea of memorizing it) :)


  1. Personally I think Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling would be perfect! I think it has a kind of sing-songy quality that would help with memorization, too.

  2. I know he's white AND male, BUT if you're a fan, Roald Dahl has a collection of fractured fairy tale poems called Revolting Rhymes. They're quite funny. Here's a link to Cinderella:

  3. I don't know if this is cheating, but you MUST try Grace Nichols if you haven't already. She wasn't born in Britain, but she became a Brit citizen about 40 years ago (I think - must check that). I highly recommend you read THE FAT BLACK WOMAN'S POEMS. Even if it's not right for you reading aloud (she has a very Caribbean voice and cadence to her work), they are cool! Love this one:

    The Fat Black Woman Goes Shopping

    Shopping in London winter
    is a real drag for the fat black woman
    going from store to store
    in search of accommodating clothes
    and de weather so cold

    Look at the frozen thin mannequins
    fixing her with grin
    and de pretty face salegals
    exchanging slimming glances
    thinking she don't notice

    Lord is aggravating

    Nothing soft and bright and billowing
    to flow like breezy sunlight
    when she walking

    The fat black woman curses in Swahili / Yoruba
    and nation language under her breathing
    all this journeying and journeying

    The fat black woman could only conclude
    that when it come to fashion
    the choice is lean

    Nothing much
    beyond size 14

  4. Ooh, I'm so useless with poetry. I love Ben Okri, though (his prose is indistinguishable from poetry at times)so I found one of his poems online:

    I'll think & try to e-mail you more ideas.

  5. Some more online ones from Ben Okri.

  6. I'm not great at poetry, so this answer is a bit not-quite-what-you-asked-for...Robert Service (Canadian) wrote wonderful WWI poetry. My favorite is Victory Stuff (it's all about the soldiers coming home and feeling awkward at the armistice celebrations since they are reminders of the bad side of the war). Here's a link:

  7. Oops, sorry one of those links was a duplicate. Meant to put this:

    Living is a Fire

    Living is a cross

    That any one of the rock-faces


    We are drawn

    To many seas.

    We drown wholesomely

    In the failures of confrontation.

    The rain


    Our doorsteps

    Has nothing to do

    With the simplest desires

    And lacerations

    We bring

    To the smallest acts

    Of living.

    The child

    On the broken catwalk

    Hearing the sounds of our hunger

    Without understanding

    Throws echoes back

    To the earliest abandonments

    Of love.

    Minor devastations preceding


    Resonate the ineffable.

    The mothers that wake

    At the slightest sound

    And the fathers that

    Smoke all night

    And the rest of us who are

    Vigilantes from the demons

    Of oppressed sleep

    Find at dawn the clearest

    Images of bewilderment.

    Even the best things

    Collapse beneath the weight

    Of ignorance.

    Living is a fire

    That any one of the wave-lashes


  8. Oh I loved the poem about the Fat Black Woman shopping for winter clothes!

    I know one Russian poet descended from an African grandfather (no joking!) and his name is Pushkin. Maybe you would like one of his poems (translated into English of course)? One of them, entitled "Winter evening" I quote below:

    The storm wind covers the sky
    Whirling the fleecy snow drifts,
    Now it howls like a wolf,
    Now it is crying, like a lost child,
    Now rustling the decayed thatch
    On our tumbledown roof,
    Now, like a delayed traveller,
    Knocking on our window pane.

    Our wretched little cottage
    Is gloomy and dark.
    Why do you sit all silent
    Hugging the window, old gran?
    Has the howling of the storm
    Wearied you, at last, dear friend?
    Or are you dozing fitfully
    Under the spinning wheel's humming?

    Let us drink, dearest friend
    To my poor wasted youth.
    Let us drink from grief - Where's the glass?
    Our hearts at least will be lightened.
    Sing me a song of how the bluetit
    Quietly lives across the sea.
    Sing me a song of how the young girl
    Went to fetch water in the morning.

    The storm wind covers the sky
    Whirling the fleecy snow drifts
    Now it howls like a wolf,
    Now it is crying, like a lost child.
    Let us drink, dearest friend
    To my poor wasted youth.
    Let us drink from grief - Where's the glass?
    Our hearts at least will be lightened.

  9. Jackie Kay and Benjamin Zephaniah are two poets of colour born in Britain that I would recommend.

  10. I love Wendy Cope. Funny, female, British, and in that order, I think. Here's a sample.

    Bloody Men

    Bloody men are like bloody buses -
    You wait for about a year
    And as soon as one approaches your stop
    Two or three others appear.

    Here's my blog post on her that has two other poems of hers:

    There are some great Indian Poets. Top of my head: Nissim Ezekiel, Dom Moraes,A.K. Ramanujam. Kamala Das's feminist poetry. And don't forget Vikram Seth's very funny Beastly Tales.

  11. if you want to memorize english poetry from an indian poet,i`ii refer to ravindranath tagore,whose 150th birth annivesary is being celebrated this year.there are thosands of lovely poems in hindi,the official language of india. once you learn hindi,you will love to recite hindi poetry from vidyapati to buddhinath mishra

  12. Well I'm a bit of a poetry geek and I love memorizing poetry, so this assignment actually sounds fun... Two I'd recommend: Philip Larkin (white and British) has the most AMAZING dry wit in his poems. I love them. One of my all-time favorites is his "Aubade" ( although he's got other great ones that are somewhat less depressing.

    Also, have you looked at Dereck Walcott? His poetry is GORGEOUS; he's from (I think) St. Lucia, one of the Lesser Antilles islands in the Caribbean- not sure if it's a former British colony, but from the themes he often writes about I am guessing it might be. His poem "Love after love" is one of my very favorites too.

    Good luck, Ari!

  13. I mentioned Srikanth Reddy a while ago. If you google you should be able to find most of his poems online. Benjamin Zephania is one of the most well known poet for teenagers and younger children. And I'll second the nomination for Wendy Cope because she's so funny.

  14. Oh sorry, it had to bee a BRITISH poet...

  15. Thank you everyone for the recommendations! I'm slowly going through all of them.

    I'm leaning toward Roald Dahl, Jackie Kay and looking forward to reading the rest of these recommendations :)

  16. James Leigh Hunt. Several of his poems are short and sweet, have a clear and clean rhyme scheme to aid in memorization, and have a certain amount of meaning, to give them weight in your mind.

    Rondeau, by James Leigh Hunt:

    Jenny kissed me when we met,
    Jumping from the chair she sat in.
    Time, you thief who love get
    Sweets in your list, put that in.
    Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
    Say that health and wealth have missed me.
    Say I'm growing old but add:
    Jenny kissed me!

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