Celebrating the timeless power of poetry
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
These opening lines of William Blake’s famous poem The Tyger crackle with magic for me. They have done ever since I was a child.
Why? I don’t really know. I’ve always had a fascination for tigers but it’s far more than that. The words seem to have a special power – like an incantation. Even the spelling of Tyger seems magical and mysterious.
The power of words
Isn’t it strange how a collection of words can have such a powerful effect on us? They can make us feel happy, sad, angry – even hungry. I defy anyone to read or listen to Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen without tasting its rich, sticky, gooey goodness and wanting another slice. Go on, try it!
I feel wistful whenever I read Sea-Fever by John Masefield as if the line: ‘I must (go down) to the seas again’ was written especially for me.
I was lucky enough to be born by the sea but I have spent most of my life in London – which I love. But I always feel drawn to the sea and the pull is getting stronger the older I get. Just as Masefield said, ‘…it’s a call that may not be denied’.
I know lots of people feel the same too; it’s a shared experience.
Sharing a love of poetry
My earliest memory of poetry is of me sitting on my grandma’s knee, listening to her telling me the tale of two rats. It was a funny choice of poem because she hated rats! But it was a tale of romance and mystery and it had a very satisfying rhyme.
I don’t know where she learned it –possibly at school or on her own grandma’s knee – but the words have stayed etched in my mind and I was able to pass them on to my daughters when they were young.
Through their insistence on a story before bed, we discovered a treasure chest of new stories and poems. Poems like Please Mrs Butler by Allen Ahlberg – a mischievous tale which shows what can happen when a teacher is relentlessly bombarded with questions from her pupils.
That’s the thing about poetry and stories in general – they’re great to share and they bring people together.
This brings me nicely on to Poetry Together – a lovely new national initiative to bring old and young together to perform a poem they have learned by heart.
Founded by author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, the project aims to link schools with local care homes and bring long-lasting benefits to both groups. Participants can choose whatever poem they like and Poetry Together gatherings will be happening nationwide over two weeks, beginning on National Poetry Day on October 3, 2019.
The official website suggests a range of poems from poets including Edward Lear, Maya Angelou, Laura Elizabeth Richards and Benjamin Zephaniah.
I’m delighted to see that The Tyger is there too – and I hope that, through initiatives like Poetry Together, this magical collection of words will keep on burning brightly in the imaginations of many more generations to come.