Sunday, 23 January 2011

A time to rhyme

There’s something satisfying about reading an old, familiar poem, even (especially) if you almost know it by heart.

What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare...
(Leisure by W. H. Davies)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...
(If... by Rudyard Kipling)

Poetry can be a great comfort when times are hard. Mum is very ill. It’s cancer of the oesophagus. My life has returned to the routine of daily hospital visits and bags of washing.

At times like this I can’t concentrate on novels so I thought I’d revisit Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled in which he explains the processes of poetry writing. I love reading Stephen Fry. He writes as he talks and it’s like having him sitting next to me but this book has beaten me. I never knew that poetry could be SO complicated with its anapaest, dactyl, molasses... It makes my attempts at poetry writing look embarrassingly naive. [My Little Nut Tree]

But does that matter? I enjoy it so I’m issuing a warning! I’m going to carry on writing it however naive it may be.

Our love of rhythm and rhyme is nurtured from when we’re very young through nursery rhymes and simple songs. My favourite picture books are the rhyming ones which brings me to a major gripe. I understand:
  • that publishers need to watch the pennies
  • that picture books are expensive to produce.
  • that they need to get foreign rights to cover the cost
  • that rhyming texts make translation more difficult

 ...but I can’t be the only person who loves rhyming picture books. If we all love them and the children all love them, isn’t it a shame that most publishers state quite clearly in their submission guidelines ‘No rhyming texts’. Come on publishers. Give us more of what we want!

What’s your favourite ‘almost recite by heart’ poem?



  1. So sorry to hear your news, and agree rhymes are underrated. Was brought up on the scary but fascinating StrewelPeter - a rhyming translation! We were also taught poems, hymns etc as a matter of course. I'm sure it must help with learning to read and was happy to revisit AA Milne and RL Stevenson ith my own children. For grown ups? 'I must go down to the sea again ...' or in autumn 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close-bosomed friend of the maturing sun, conspring with him how to load and bless with fruit the vines that round the thatch eaves run'
    At least the sun is shining here right now, even if vines in short supply.

  2. Thanks Ali. A A Milne is an all-time favourite of mine and I do love Masefield's I must go down to the sea. Thanks for sharing your favourites.

  3. Sad to hear life is still sad and emotional.
    As a child I loved poetry and in my teens I wrote several. Not brilliant, but I enjoyed writing them. Take care. Hugs xx and licks from Poppy & Barney!

  4. Oh gosh, so many! I do have a soft spot for A.A. Milne's poems though, and they are sweet and naive.

    I read to Connor every night and his favourites are definitely the rhyming books. I hate the way publishers are phasing them out, in favour of some truly awful stuff. Bleauch!

  5. Hi Pauline, writing poetry is really cathartic. Maybe we should all share our teenage, angst-filled scribblings!

    Hi Merrilee, interesting to hear that the publishers are doing the same over your side of the world. If only we could say something that would make a difference.

  6. You've already named my favourite - Kipling's 'If', but I grew up with the Pengiun Book of Comic & Curious Verse, and have a special fondness for The Pobble Who Has No Toes.

    I hope you continue to find comfort in reading - and writing - poems!