5 Poems to Read for National Poetry Month

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:

Ae Fond Kiss – Robert Burns

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.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S Eliot  

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.

My Last Duchess – Robert Browning 

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.

Goblin Market – Christina Rossetti 

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 – Carol Ann Duffy

‘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.

Curing my Venom by A. Rinum review

Hi everyone! This is a first for me: my first review of a poetry collection! Poetry is quite a tricky subject for me to write about; whilst I studied it at University and spent many, many hours pouring over literary criticism on the subject, I’ve never given my own opinions about a particular poem or collection. The main reason for this is I worry that I don’t understand or misinterpret it, more so than any other type of literature. But since it is National Poetry Month and the author very kindly sent me a copy of her collection, I thought I would overcome my worries and review Curing my Venom. The collection is split into five parts, each representing a stage of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Rinum focuses primarily on mental health and the challenges that occur with illness, but also mentions more positive aspects like self-acceptance.

Rinum’s language and word choice are excellent. The images she creates are very evocative and poignant; one can picture them so clearly. The repetition of certain images as well helps to emphasise Rinum’s meaning and keeps them at the forefront of the reader’s mind, for example poison is frequently used to represent mental illness. However, one of my favourite poems from the collection ‘What was I?’, uses nature as a way to explore depression and the highs and lows it causes. Sometimes one feels on top of the world and almost invincible and other times sadness seems to be the only thing that ever and will exist. The natural world is used to reflect the ‘world’ of the mind and I think Rinum deals with those two contrasting thoughts beautifully.

Rinum is also very playful with form. Some poems rhyme, others don’t (and admittedly I found some of the rhymes a bit forced and didn’t really work when reread) which helps to keep the reader engaged, as well as the lengths varying greatly. Some are short and sharp whilst others go into more depth. There is even one poem (‘Downside Up’) which is upside down, highlighting the effect mental illness can have on our perspective of the world.

The illustrations by Fatima Munir are also well done. They are highly detailed black and white designs, but they don’t overpower the words and compliment the poems really well. It means the collection is this curious blend of imagery and words which combined create a very striking piece of work.

As you can imagine, Curing my Venom is not the cheeriest collection you may ever read, and most of the happier poems are in the fifth and final section. Some hit a raw nerve with me so I had to skip to a happier one straight after, and whilst it a short read I did have to stretch it out a few days so I didn’t feel overwhelmed. But the language and drawings are very beautiful. A really interesting debut and one for people interested in poetry. Or perhaps those looking to get back into it; I’m certainly curious to read more  after finishing this.

Curing my Venom is published independently and you can find more information here.