Hi everyone! So most people probably already know this, but April was National Poetry Month in the US and Canada. Despite being from neither of these countries and missing April by two days (blame the Women’s Prize!), I still wanted to join in and recommend some poems that I really enjoy. Hope you do too! A couple of these poems have been mentioned before on my blog but some I’ve not yet had the chance to mention here, which is a shame because these are some of my favourite poems. I will leave links to them so if you fancied reading them you can. Most of them are from Poetry Foundation which is a great website for exploring poems and their writers. But without further ado, I’ll jump into the poems:
Not technically a poem but a song. Off to a good start. However this is my favourite work of Burns, and can be read as a tribute to lost love. It is a sad and poignant piece, but there is so much love and passion that radiates off the page it never becomes maudlin or self-indulgent. Everyone has been in a relationship that has ended or had their heart broken, so ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is quite a relatable poem, despite being written in 1791. Burns really captures the rawness of those early days. If you haven’t read any Burns then this is a good place to start.
Prufrock devastated me when I first read it as an undergraduate, and it still moves me to this day. Eliot nails down the feelings of loneliness and never being good enough, and it really connected with me. His imagery is also stunning, evoking these beautiful and sad segments of a life yet also hinting at underlying themes. In particular I love the phrase: ‘In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo’. It’s such a wonderful encapsulation of the poem. Eliot’s use of repetition and intertextuality also help to make Prufrock an incredible piece of poetry.
This is what happens when a thriller meets poetry. And it’s wonderful. The premise is a Duke is showing a gentleman a portrait of his last wife and begins to talk about what happened to her. Browning’s language is so rich; conveying so many different interpretations that you notice something new each time you read it. The use of rhyming couplets is also brilliantly done; it almost lulls you into a false sense of security with the rhythm before you realise what the Duke is inferring. He is also a really unreliable narrator which works perfectly for this poem. Robert Browning is one of my favourite Victorian poets and ‘My Last Duchess’ is definitely my favourite of his.
The longest poem on this list but well worth the effort. Sisters Lizzie and Laura live alone, hearing goblin merchants selling fruits during the night. Laura consumes some of the fruit, despite her sister’s warnings, and slowly begins to deteriorate. It is up to Lizzie to save her. Whilst ‘Goblin Market’ has these magical and fairytale-esque elements, it really is a poem about familial love. The relationship between Lizzie and Laura is wonderfully drawn and is the heart of the poem. It can be read as a feminist critique of Victorian society, capitalism, or an exploration of drug addiction. But I shall leave you to your own interpretations of this brilliant poem.
‘Medusa’ comes from Duffy’s collection The World’s Wife and I would highly recommend any of the poems featured in it. This poem is told from the perspective of Medusa, and it is implied that she is talking to Perseus. Duffy, in a similar way to Madeline Miller’s Circe, takes a female figure from Greek mythology and gives her a voice. Medusa is quite a sad, lonely figure; unable to look upon anything without it turning to stone. The reader feels sympathy for her. That is, until the last line. It is so ambiguous that it leaves the entire poem up for interpretation which I really enjoyed. You are never quite sure what you have read.
And those are my 5! What are some of your favourite poems? Let me know – or if you’ve read any of the ones mentioned above, I’d love to hear your thoughts.