Famous poems that don’t completely suck
|April 16, 2012||Posted by Rosie Watterson under poetry|
I like to think that, after six-ish articles, we trust each other, you and I. That when I tell you these poems are not completely terrible, you’ll believe me. I have to admit, I’m a poem person, but I understand why some people aren’t. And I’ve chosen these four poems in the hope that I might convert you.
This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
When do you think he wrote that? 2005? 2003? No – 1971! As with the next poem, I feel it loses momentum after the first verse. I do, however, adore the line, “fools in old-style hats and coats,” as it gives the poem a timeless quality.
Bloody Men by Wendy Cope
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.
You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read their destinations,
You haven’t much time to decide.
If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy this poem, but I feel it could be half the length – and that’s not very long. Wendy Cope did a lovely one about an orange, but it was a bit too happy. I’m not really into happy poems.
Let Me Die A Youngman’s Death by Roger Mcgough
Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death
When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party
Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides
Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one
Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death
This is one of my absolute favourite poems. I love the “short back and insides”; it makes me happy every time. I also like how Mcgough doesn’t describe the death in the last stanza, but rather merges imagery in a way that gives the feel of the death.
I thought I’d leave you with a poem that ends in an odd way. When you’re reading it please, please bear with it. It’s the brilliantly weird ending that really makes the poem.
Toilet by Hugo Williams
I wonder will I speak to the girl
sitting opposite me on this train.
I wonder will my mouth open and say,
‘Are you going all the way
to Newcastle?’ or ‘Can I get you a coffee?’
Or will it simply go ‘aaaaah’
as if it had a mind of its own?
Half closing eggshell blue eyes,
she runs her hand through her hair
so that it clings to the carriage cloth;
then slowly frees itself.
She finds a brush and her long fair hair
flies back and forth like an African fly-whisk,
making me feel dizzy.
Suddenly, without warning,
she packs it all away in a rubber band
because I have forgotten to look out
the window for a moment.
A coffee is granted permission
to pass between her lips
and does so eagerly, without fuss.
A tunnel finds us looking out the window
into one another’s eyes. She leaves her seat,
but I know that she likes me
because the light saying ‘TOILET’
has come on, a sign that she is lifting
her skirt, taking down her pants
and peeing all over my face.