One of the best thing about being a book blogger is that you often get the chance to read things you would normally have missed. Has Samiksha Tulika Ransom not messaged me on Instagram, then I might not have known this anthology existed. When I checked out the anthology, it sounded like exactly the kind of thing that I should be reading. I know I say it every time I review poetry but I don’t read enough poetry. Even though I studied the Romantic poets at university, I am still a little intimidated by poetry. I have much respect for anyone who writes it. I wouldn’t have confidence in myself. And if I did, I’d definitely never try and deal with such important themes.
Yesterday was National Poetry Day. I always consider myself a big poetry fan but, if I’m honest, I don’t read a lot of it these days. I have too many novels that need reading. Although I do try. After Rupi Kaur and Amanda Lovelace were all over Bookstagram a few years ago, I decided it was worth giving them a try. After all, everyone I saw was talking about how life-changing they were. I read them. I didn’t get it. Anyone who read my ramble about poetry last year will remember, I got quite angry about them. I don’t get it. It’s not poetry. It’s formating. But, that’s not the point. I want to reconnect with poetry by celebrating some of my favourite poems. I’ll be honest, as a lover of all things Romantic, most of these will probably be pretty obvious but there’s got to a reason we’re still talking about them after all these years, right?
Poetry. It’s something I love but don’t often read these days. I blather on and on about my university days when I read Romantic poetry all the frigging time but I’m 30 now. As much as I don’t want to admit it, it’s been a while since I finished my degree and I’ve kind of lost my way with poetry. So, I’m always trying to get back into it. Obviously, I have my favourite Romantic poets and have a certain fondness for the greats. I’m talking Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Yeats, TS Eliot etc. TS Eliot’s Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock is one of my favourite ever works of poetry. It shares the top spot with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner but I’ve discussed this before. My issue is contemporary poetry. I guess the closest I get to really loving contemporary poetry is the work of First World War poets. So, you know, not at all contemporary. It’s not that I hate it; I just don’t have the same love for it. Recently I’ve been trying to push myself to read more. It was this quest that got me to pick up Rupi Kaur’s collection Milk and Honey and Amanda Lovelace’s the princess saves herself in this one. Both collections were ones I’d seen praised all over social media and the internet as a whole. I expected to be blown away. I wasn’t.
I have always considered myself to be something of a poetry fan. After all, I spent as much time as possible at university studying the poetry of the Romantic period. I’m a massive fan of the work of Byron and Shelley. T.S Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” shares the title of my favourite poem along with ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. If anyone were to ask me, I’d confidently say that I was a poetry buff. However, the more I think about it the more I realise that this isn’t exactly true. Or, at least, not anymore. As anyone who reads my weekly rundowns will know, I’m not exactly great at reading novels let alone anything else. Every so often I will become a bit too self-aware and realise my inadequacies as a reader. Last year I decided I needed to read more non-fiction so bought some interesting books. I still haven’t read them. Every time the Man Booker International lists comes out I feel a pang of guilt for not reading enough foreign literature so I buy a few of the books or add them to my Amazon cart and promptly ignore them forever. I have so many books to read that it just becomes struggle to fit it all in. But poetry is something I figure I can embrace again and still manage to keep going with my normal reading. After all, a few poems here and there aren’t going to distract me too much. And there’s a whole world of contemporary poetry just waiting for me to explore. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
Dear John Donne,
What happened to you, man? You used to be the man. I mean you once tried to convince a woman to sleep with you using a fucking flea. You were one of the original players, dude. Legendary. The fact that, whilst we studied you at the age of 16, my elderly English teacher had to explain the “sucking on country pleasures” pun to one of my clueless and naive classmates just makes me love you more. There’s nothing funnier than a woman nearing, if not having surpassed, retirement age trying so hard not to say the word “cunt” to her A Level class but being unable to explain it in any other way. It’s one of my favourite school memories. I kind of adored her anyway but that really settled it.
So, yeah. I had a lot of fun reading your poetry at 16. It was hilarious. Also, it’s not as if they’re bad poems. I actually really like them. I’d started to get more into poetry by that point anyway (it was after my first day with the Ancient Mariner) but you were accessible and different. Pretty clever stuff. But, it was your way with the ladies that really captivated my friends and I. We thought you were great. I mean talk about using your powers for evil, John. I know poetry has always been used in the pursuit of romance but you skipped the love hearts and got straight into the bedroom. You were the ultimate bro. You were a legend.
Well, until my further education introduced me to the yawn fest that is your later work. And I get it. You always struggled with your religion but don’t worry about it. Don’t turn your back on the man you once were. I’m sure God would have appreciated your resourcefulness. Using your talents. Your God-given talents. Of course, I have nothing against these poems from a literary point of view. They’re good. They’re just not fun. And I always associated you with fun. It’s like watching comic actors/comedians doing serious acting roles. It’s not necessarily bad but it’s always a little bit disappointing.
You’re like Eddie Izzard. I love Eddie Izzard and think he’s one of the funniest people ever. His comedy is bizarre but so hilarious. Nowadays, you only ever see Eddie popping up talking about politics. In theory I have no problem with this and think he talks a lot of sense. However, I still kind of wish he was still talking about cake or death. Or like Michael Sheen. I have huge love for Michael Sheen and think he’s one of the greatest actors ever. So, it’s always a bit of upsetting to see him on TV talking about how Port Talbot and not pretending to be Tony Blair. Not bad but upsetting.
You see what I’m saying? No? Here’s one more stupid, pop culture analogy for you. You’re like Kings of Leon. I think Youth and Young Manhood, they’re very first album, is one of the greatest all-round albums I’ve ever heard and I, personally, don’t think any of their subsequent stuff has ever lived up. I’ve enjoyed a few songs here and there but have never been able to listen to full albums in one sitting. So I, basically, just listen to their early stuff. Just as I, basically, just enjoy your early poems. You see? Simple.
I’m glad I’ve finally taken the time to explain it to you. I feel like this letter will only bring us closer together.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls,
I don’t even know if I really do love your poetry. I love you as a person and your reputation so much that I can no longer distinguish between the two. You’re like the Sean Bean of Romantic poetry. I have such a great love for Sean Bean that I have no judgement over his films anymore. I can’t separate the awesome Northern badass for the awful characters he’s playing these days. Similarly, whenever I read your poems I just think of the rock star you once were and can’t tell if I actually like them. Chances are your poems are much more impressive than Sean Bean’s recent filmography but, hopefully, you get my point.
You see, I’m already getting flustered talking to you. I’m like all of those women who believed you were writing love poetry to them. You were the first rock star poet, man. You were like Tom Jones. Did women throw their underwear at you too? Did you appear someone to read your poetry and loads of horny women would just throw their undergarments at you? They did faint in your presence after all. You turned all of your female fans into the heroine of a gothic novel. How could I not love you? I’d probably have been one of them.
But I do, also, appreciate your poetry. Although, you are responsible for one of the most embarrassing moments in my university career. During my third year I took a half-course on you and Shelley. I was excited. I already loved you and I took the chance to do anything linked to Romanticsm. In one of our seminars we were tasked to analyse small sections of the poem Don Juan. My friend and I were given Dudù’s dream sequence, which pre-seminar I had only skimmed over. It took us both a ridiculously long time to understand what was going on. Our tutor thought we were both idiots and I felt so naive. Still, we got there in the end.
I’m not stupid enough to believe that you are the best poet to come out of the Romantic period but I believe that you, more than the others, really sum up what it meant to be a poet of that era. You rejected so many social norms and did what you wanted. You embraced your celebrity, you wanted a fun and exciting life, and you were an artist in your own way. More than anything, you’re fun. I mean, what would vampire fiction have been without you? John Polidori based the first ever true fictional vampire on you. You’re the reason we have Dracula, dude. You’re quite a guy. I’ve never felt the same way reading the poets of Keats, Shelley or Wordsworth as I do reading yours. You may not be the greatest but you’re the most entertaining. And the one that caused the biggest stir. Nowadays, women may be more likely to swoon over pretty-boy Keats. If we’re talking about the real Romantic pinup then, in my heart I know, it’s you.
There is no instinct like that of the heart,
Weekly Bookish Post
Okay, hands up, I didn’t write anything this week because I didn’t have a topic in mind. I want to start writing better posts so I didn’t want to start a habit of posting because I have to. I’ll spend some time thinking of my next one and, fingers crossed, will come up with something useful and interesting.
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
So, strictly speaking, I haven’t finished this yet but I intend to complete it tonight. It’s been wonderful going back over this tale. It really is one of the greatest pieces of crime fiction that’s ever been written. Agatha Christie really still is the Queen of Crime and this book is a masterpiece. Everything slots into place and it keeps people guessing til the end… unless you’ve already read it obviously. Then it’s just fun picking up on all the things that become so obvious when you know.
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- No Art: Poems by Ben Lerner
I had a random bookshop trip whilst waiting for a train the other day and I decided I was in the mood to buy some poetry. I’m a student of Romantic literature so I, understandly, love reading a bit of poetry but I tend to read less of it these days. Especially contemporary poetry. Most of the time I find it a bit too hipster-y for my liking. Like Milk and Honey. I so wanted to like the collection, and I mostly do, but a lot of it just felt silly… or pointless. I don’t know. But I decided to give Ben Lerner’s poetry a try based on the cover alone. I’ve heard a lot about Lerner but never read anything by him. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes.
- Undying: A Love Story by Michel Faber
Another collection of poetry added to my library. This time I thought it would be good to see what I thought of Michel Faber’s poetry. It also helps that the quote on the cover is from Ian McEwan, someone who I once considered my favourite contemporary writer. I admit that, even thought I like to act the big cynic, I’m a bit of an old romantic at heart so I do love poetry about love. Especially when it shows the realistic nature of human emotions. We’ll have to see if Faber can deliver.
- The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin
My final new purchase is a book that I’ve wanted for ages but one I’ve bought in a different edition than I’ve seen. So, no matter how excited I am that I now own it, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with the way it looks. Anyway, this is one of those fun little books that I just adored the sound of. It suggests reading material that is suitable for whatever malady you are inflicted with. What an adorable idea.
- Netflix Binges: Stranger Things
Thanks to BBC iPlayer I’ve now watched all three episodes of the BBC’s gruesome drama about the gunpowder plot. I absolutely loved the first episode when I watched it. It was dark, yes, but it was dramatic. I can see why people complained about the violence: it all got a bit much at times. Unfortunately, it didn’t really move beyond violence as the episodes went on. I understand that the underlying historical basis is there but it felt like this show had little else to fall back on. I found myself bored for the most part and, let’s be honest, this isn’t a boring story. Yes, we all know how it ends but that shouldn’t mean it couldn’t be exciting. It felt like Kit Harrington and co didn’t really understand their purpose. For the most part they’re trying to justify the attempted murder but then it doesn’t really delve any deeper than the torture scenes. It all feels like a wasted opportunity to make something really good with really great actors.
- New Cemetery by Simon Armitage
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- New Cemetery by Simon Armitage
I went into my local bookshop on Saturday in honour of Bookshop day intending to only buy the new Books Are My Bag tote. I also accidentally picked up this small collection of poetry. It’s the Ilkley Literature festival at the moment and Simon Armitage was there the other day. This signed copy was calling tonne. It’s beautiful.
- Netflix Binges:, Snack the Pony, Green Wing
- The World’s Emd
Going back to work after having a few days off last week proved to be extremely difficult. So, it came as a major surprise that I managed to keep on top of reading. I’ve decided I finally need to sort my sleeping habits out. Usually, I stay up way too late before work. This is mainly because I want to take full advantage of the time I have before I go back the next day. Just one of the major struggles of working in a job that you have zero passion for. Anyway, to get myself in better shape I’ve been trying to turn my computer off early and read for an hour or so before I go to bed. What usually happens now is that I get so engrossed in my book that I lose track of time but it’s an improvement, right? Whilst it may not be doing wonders for the amount of sleep I’m getting, it does mean that I’m making progress with my books read this year. I’ve finished another book finally. It takes a bit of pressure off after the 3/4 months that I spent getting through 7th Function. Fingers crossed it’s a sign things are improving.
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
So, as expected, I got through this book pretty quickly. I plan on writing my thoughts up for me Tuesday review so come back soon.
- The Answers by Catherine Lacey
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
I have seen this book of poetry all over Instagram in the past few months and have desperately wanted it. With Kaur’s second collection of poetry being released next month and finding myself in an emotional state, I decided it was the perfect time to buy it. I’ve already read snippets so I’ll be glad to finally get to grips with this collection.
- The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
On the same impromptu shopping trip that saw me buy Milk and Honey I also purchased this book. I’ll be honest, I only got this because I loved the cover. It’s a Penguin book and was so striking that I couldn’t not pick it up. Then I read the blurb and was hooked. This is the English language translation of the history of Soviet women in World War 2. Svetlana Alexievich wanted to tell the story of all of the strong women in her life who helped with the war effort but were deleted from official history. Now you all should know that I’m a lover of all things that show how great women are and this just sounds perfect. Combined with my love of history, I can’t think of a better book to get stuck into.
- Netflix Binges: Modern Family, Travel Man
Yesterday marked the start of my holiday from work and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve needed some time off and am planning on making use of it whilst I can. Knowing me, though, this will actually entail me sleeping til noon every day and then wasting my days in front of Netflix. Hopefully, I’ll get some reading done and some actual stuff accomplished. I’m definitely planning on seeing The Ghost in the Shell later on this week. I’m not sure how I feel about it but have some faith in it. I feel pretty safe with Scarlett Johansson but the film hasn’t done well so far. I can’t tell if that’s because it is genuinely bad or because people are just boycotting because of the whitewashing outrcry. I understand why people are pissed, obviously. There is a problem with casting white actors in roles that should be filled with Asian actors and Hollywood continues to deny that that problem exists. However, I’ll give the film a chance because that’s what I do. And because my friend really wants to go and see it. No doubt you’ll see my thoughts on here very soon.
- Little Black Classics
- The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
- So Much Poetry
- Lego Batman
- Batman and Robin
- Netflix binges: 24