Favourite Poems


It’s difficult to choose one poem above all the others which I have loved for years ,but being forced to choose I’ve gone for three of my favourite poets and chosen for each,one of their longer works. In my opinion one of the greatest poems ever written is Gerard Manley Hopkins’s  ‘Wreck of the Deutschland’ which is an amazing tour de force. To add to this goes Philip Larkin’s ‘Whitsun Weddings’ and probably the poem which has most emotional impact for me Dylan Thomas’s ‘Fern Hill’ Each time I read this poem it seems to speak directly to me about Time, growing old and the loss of childhood.


I have two favourite poems,’Disabled’ by Wilfred Owen and Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’ The Owen poem I have used in History lessons with Year 9 pupils after previously having looked at why young men joined up in 1914. This poem shows harsh reality of war and its effects. It makes clear that had they been born in the late 19th century or early  20th century, this could have been their fate.’ Sonnet 18′ captures for me the power of love of one person for another better than any other I’ve read.


My favourite poem is ‘One Day I Wrote her Name upon the Sand’ ,a sonnet by Spenser. It prefigures Shakespeare’s attempts to explore how the poet through his poetry can bequeath immortality to his loved one. On a lighter note we used to holiday in St Ives and on Portminster beach I too used to write on the sand, but use the words’ Leeds United’, hoping to annoy any Manchester United fans.


For a variety of reasons a poem can become one’s favourite. Walt Whitman’s ‘I sing the body electric’ is an amazing, eccentric poem  as is Christopher Smart’s ‘I will consider my cat Geoffrey’ both of which I love. Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ is another poem I am repeatedly drawn back to for its dense succession of striking ideas and images.Yet another I like for its acute observation captured in a minimum of words is Sylvia Plath’s ‘Morning Song’. Finally, I’ve always enjoyed narrative verse,ranging from Browning’s ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’, Goethe’s ‘Erl King’,and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Hunting of the Snark’, to Stanley Holloway’s ‘Albert and the Lion’.


I first read T.S.Eliot’s ‘Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock’ when I was about fifteen and it has remained a favourite ever since.; I can still remember huge chunks.Another favourite is Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’,which I thought sounded so modern despite having been written in 1867. Sylvia Plath’s ‘Morning Song’ I love for its ability to capture the joy,uncertainty and apprehension of being the mother of a new-born baby. For anyone with Northern Ireland connections Part 3 of Seamus Heaney’s ‘ Whatever you Say,Say Nothing’ really resonates. It’s brilliant.


I have chosen ‘London’ by my favourite poet William Blake.I have always loved the work of this poet,artist,visionary and revolutionary and ‘London’ is my especial favourite. As a ‘Song of Experience’ it reveals his compassion and anger at the state of the city which still,sadly, has relevance today. Other of his well-known poems worth re-reading are ‘The Lamb’, ‘The Tyger’ and ‘The Sick Rose.’