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The Nation's Favourite Twentieth Century Poems
Member Name: thehonesttruth
The Nation's Favourite Twentieth Century Poems
For me, there are two types of books. There's the kind you make time for - a pot of strong hot tea, a blanket, and a prime spot on the sofa with your feet curled under you. And then there's the other kind - books that are so meaningful that you can't just read through them, but rather have to read a little at a time, and then sit back and digest the words, sounding them out in your head and putting your own meaning to them.
Poetry books fall into the second category, a category I rather crudely call ' Bathroom Books'. These are the books that cover my bathroom windowsill, the books I grab for when I'm sitting in the bath and don't have much time to read, or (rather disgustingly, I know) read when I'm sitting on the toilet!
I think probably most people have a favourite poem of some kind, be it something inspirational, such as Rudyard Kipling's 'If', something that helps you through hard times, or even just a silly limerick that makes you giggle.
So, as both a writer and a reader of poetry, when I saw this book at my local charity shop priced at an extremely reasonable 30p, I snapped it up to dip into as I lay in the bath.
This book came about as the result of a poll conducted in 1995 by The Bookworm, to find the nations favourite 100 poems (hence the catchy title) The book starts with a small forward by Griff Rhys Jones, and then launches headlong into a wonderful collection of poems .
Whether you seek inspiration, consolation, humour, wit, or nonsense, this book contains something for every taste in poetry. Unsurprisingly, Kipling's 'If' snags the number one spot, and deservingly so, in my opinion. Its a poem I personally have a great love for, finding it inspirational, and in fact I would almost class the poem as ' Words to live by', and its the only poem I am going to include in full in my review, as I find it loses a lot by being cut into pieces.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!
Other favorites of mine include Lewis Carroll's nonsensical Jabberwocky:
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
And 'Remember' by Christina Rossetti, a poem I remember hearing as a young child at my grandmother funeral.
"And afterwards remember do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad."
Of course, there are many other poems here, many of which I had heard before, and some I'd never encountered at all. If I were to quote all of the poems I love or identify with, this review would probably run far longer than the patience of most reader! Suffice it to say that many of them inspired me, a few made me smile, some made me dream, and a few even made me want to cry. I'm not going to lie and say I personally enjoyed every poem in this book - but then again, that's the beauty of poetry - different things mean different things to different people, and everyone has their own taste.
There's plenty for the lover of romantic poetry - Elizabeth Barret Browning's 'How do I love thee' resides amongst these pages, as well as poems by Yeats, Shelley, and Keats. There's a smidgen of Shakespeare, some Marlowe, and a little from my favourite poet, Wordsworth.
Even for children, there a few gems here - The Owl and the Pussycat immediately springing to mind, as well as Jabberwocky, and some others.
Overall, this book is an excellent mixture of classic and contemporary, comedy and tragedy, love and hate, and everything in between, and while its not one of those books suitable for curling up with a hot mug of tea and a pack of chocolate digestives, it's nevertheless an exceptional book.
I paid a mere 30p for my copy, which I definitely regard as great value. The retail price for this book is 6.99, and you can of course lay your hands on a copy at www.amazon.co.uk, . This is also available on Daisy for the blind (available at http://onlineshop.rnib.org.uk ) which of course requires a Daisy computer, and as an audio book for listening to when driving, although the audio book contains only 42 of the poems.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! You won't like every poem, but I defy anyone to read this book and not find something hidden amongst the pages they can identify with! Dip into the pages, read a poem, and then take a break to digest the words and find your own meaning. That, after all, is what good poetry is all about.
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