Posts Tagged With: Poetry

Bikeman by Thomas Flynn

We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when an airplane flew into the north tower. I was at home, getting ready to go to work, just another ordinary day. Watching the events unfold on television was horrifying, but because I was so far away, it was impossible not to view them with a certain level of detachment. Thomas Flynn, a journalist living in New York, was there, and Bikeman is his account of that morning.

Bikeman is an extended, free-form poem, something not often published in today’s literature world. I’m not a poetry critic – I’ll freely admit that poetry is difficult for me. I often feel like I don’t “get it” – whatever the “it” is that the author is trying to convey. I didn’t have that lost feeling when I was reading Bikeman. It is beautifully, personally written, and I no longer feel detached from the events of September 11. I feel like I could have been there. Flynn doesn’t dwell on the minute details, but instead explores the immediate, visceral emotions of witnessing this most heartbreaking day. I literally could not put this short book down until I was finished, and I know it is not one I will soon forget.

In Flynn’s own words, he watches the first tower fall:

“The monster wall, airier than air itself, dances in broken parts,
waiting a moment. Then, amid the screaming
of those around me who realize
the tower is collapsing, I watch the chunks
gather up and begin to drop toward us.”

Walking through the ashes:

“We move from the place of the dead
In a dense cloud of sighs.
The fallen tower carries
flame-consumed human remains.
They are the ashes of ashes to ashes.”

Returning home:

“Amid a chorus of wailing eulogy,
the survivors move away.
I move with the living
yet I carry the dead,
carry them on a funeral march
beyond this September morning,
this forever September morning.”

I encourage you to find a copy of this small book, and take time to remember.

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by: Elizabeth

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hidden Words: Collected Poems by Spike Milligan

I’ve been reading this little by little over the last few weeks and have been really enjoying it. I love Spike Milligan anyway, his silly rhymes have always made me chuckle but this book reflects the other side of Spikes personality. The poems carry you through some of the darker periods in Spike’s life and explore his depression. These are certainly not the light quirky poetry you would be used to from him, they are all very moving and demonstrate the sadness that he had struggled with throughout his life.

God bless Spike Milligan, may he have finally found peace xx

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Betjeman, by A.N.Wilson

Betjemin by A.N.Wilson.

John Betjeman was by far the most popular poet of the 20th century. His collected poems sold over two million copies. Television audiences loved his quirky evocations of landscape and architecture. As Poet Laureate, he became a national icon, but behind the public man were doubts and demons. The poet led a tempestuous emotional life. For much of his 50-year marriage to Penelope Chetwode, the daughter of a field marshal, Betjeman had a relationship with Elizabeth Cavendish, the daughter of the Duke of Devonshire and lady in waiting to Princess Margaret. This book was written using the vast archive of personal material relating to Betjeman’s private life.


John Betjeman, poet, champion of architectual conservation and deeply religious man was born in 1906, the only child of a cabinet maker in Highgate, London. This biography by his friend, A.N.Wilson traces the origins of these passions and tries to define the man who, though loved by all who knew him, was hindered throughout his life by self doubt and guilt and a love affair with love.
Like most others of my generation, I was familiar with Betjeman’s deceptively simple verse that seemed somehow to speak of everyday things with candid honesty and unabashed emotion. I also knew that Betjemin was interested in architecture, beacause of his numerous television appearances and programmes, but I hadn’t realised the scope of this passion, nor the importance for him of the prevservation of buildings and the old England he loved so much. His life seemed to be a quest for the way things were…his poetry reflected this, and everyone is familiar with poems such as ‘Slough’ wherein JB bemoans the state of the New Town and prays for ‘friendly bombs’ to demolish it as it is no longer fit for humans! I knew this was an important part of his life, but I had not grasped just how much he cherished the buildings of bygone ages. It is difficult to tell which was more important to JB himself – this desire to preserve and conserve, or his poetry. The two things seem to be intrinsically intertwined.
A third theme throughout his life was his religion, again intrinsic in his writing. He was a devout Anglican and one of the most torturous periods of his life was when his wife, Penelope converted to Catholicism, not least because they had spent much time and energy together working on behalf of the Anglican church. His religious fervour is marked throughout his writing, and is also concentrated around his delight in Churches. From his youth, he travelled the length and breadth of Britain, visiting and admiring churches. It was an interest which never left him until he was confined to a wheelchair and mobility and travelling became more difficult.
A.N.Wilson clearly holds his friend in great esteem and with much affection, but he does not flinch from illustrating JB’s flaws, one of which was women. There seemed to be some controversy as to whehther JB was bisexual. I have to admit to believing he was homosexual before I read the book, and was shocked to find out that he was married for 50 years, until his death, infact, and also had a long time mistress, his live-in partner,  Elizabeth Cavendish, Lady in waiting to princess Margaret. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking this, given that his biographer explains that the contraversy over his sexual orientation did not disappear with time, even though there was little to support it. On the contrary, it appears that JB could not leave women alone, and although most of his ‘affairs’ were not consummated, he lived for the thrill of falling in love and admiring a beautiful female. It seems he always had to be in love. As soon as one adoration finished, another started. This flaw, a lack of commitment to his wife, albeit it only physically, as he loved her until he died, can perhaps be traced back to his childhood and the closeness with his mother. Or perhaps it is some desire to gain love from a maternal figure…but his passion for women never ceased, although it bought much pain to the two women who loved him most.
As a result of some of this information, I found my previous perception of Betjeman was somewhat inaccurate, and whilst I had much admired the man who wrote and perfomed Metroland for a television programme, and wrote of his love for Miss Joan Hunter Dunn (A Subaltern’s Love Song), I began to feel as the biography progressed that I didn’t like BJ much at all. Admire, yes, and still enjoy his work, and join in his aspirations to preserve the old, but like…probably not. He came across as weak and selfish. Although A.N.Wilson explains that he was wracked with guilt about the way he treated his wife, over the course of many years, it didn;t stop him repeating the same mistakes over and over and causing much pain to other people. Nor did her learn from his experiences as a child and make good his relationship with his son, Paul, who was treated very shabbily and uncaringly it seems, by both parents. Relationships, especially with family and loved ones are important and should be cherished, and so regretfully JB went down in my estimation. It will not stop me admiring the work of the former poet Laureate but I have to admit that this book changed my feelings about Betjeman in a way I had not expected.
The biography is well written and interesting, although a little repetitive in places. As I listened to the audio version, I cannot quote and illustrate as I would like, but suffice to say that it was a book which shook all my perceptions of this man, and which I enjoyed a great deal. I will read Betjeman’s work from a slightly different perspective from now on.

Susie / Kimmikat

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Puffin Quartet of Poets



ISBN 0 14 03.0121 6 First Pub by Penguin Books Ltd 1958  Editor Kay Webb.

‘A Puffin Quartet containing substantial selections from the poems of four of our finest writers of children’s verse:

with notes on the authors and their methods of composing’.

From inside cover –

“A Puffin Quartet of Poets.
This unusual anthology contains a selection of poems from the work of only four poets, but four of the finest contemporary writers of children’s verse. A substantial amount from the work of each is given, enough to show their individual quality and special characteristics.The quartet is made up of, Eleanor Farjeon, James Reeves, E.V.Rieu and Ian Serraillier. There are brief biographical notes and a short introduction to each section suggesting how these poets go to work. Their methods of approach to verse-making prove, in fact, to be so diverse that together they cast much interesting light on the whole subject of composition.”

This little book is probably wholly responsible for my love of poetry. It was given to me when a small child and I loved it. As soon as I could read, I devoured these poems over and over again, revelling in their humour and pathos, and the variety of themes and styles. Of the four poets, I loved James Reeves the best, and having reread the book this week, I can see why. As a musician in the making, I loved his rythmns. In ‘Run a Little’ the rythmn is clear and easy for a child to catch and I remember reading it and then singing it to a made-up tune. Likewise, ‘A Pig-Tale’ had an engaging lilt, like a nursery rhyme, which I found very attractive and read to myself purely for the rhythmn rather than the content.Some of the poems were favuorites because of the subject, like ‘Cows’. Being a country girl, and very fond of cows, this poem really appealed to me along with any poems about animals, such as ‘The Two Mice’ and ‘The Snail’. Young as I was, I also understood the metaphor of the sea maskerading as a dog in the poem called ‘The Sea’. This was perhaps a more grown up poem, giving me a little insight into the possibilities of poetry and preparing me for something a little more complex.

E.V.Rieu had me enthralled by his humourous poems, such as ‘Mr Blob’ and ‘Sir Smashmam Uppe’ and the cleverness of ‘A musical  at Home’ stretched my vocabulary and teased my brain as I realised the connections between the characters, their names and their given attributes. However, not surprisingly for a little girl, my heart went out to the very sad little hippo in ‘The Hippopotamus’s Birthday’. I remember being able to relate to the hippo’s sadness and crying for him. This was the poem I remembered all these years later, such was the impact, when I picked up the book again. Then there are poems that seemed to have little or no effect on me as a child. Perhaps I didn’t understand them on the first reading and didn’t attempt to read and understand them later. One good poem in this category would be ‘The Green Train’ which I have not remembered, as it was a little deeper and more meaningful than some of the others.

‘Mrs Malone’ was my favourite of Eleanor Farjeon’s poems, and I enjoyed re-reading it again. The story is about the generous humanity of a woman who takes in starved animals, even though she is very poor herself. Animals again! Also ‘Cat’…a poem guaranteed almost to be loved by a little girl. Ian Serrailier’s ‘Girls and Boys Come out to Play’ is enjoyable because of the references to nursery rhyme characters, but although it is very cleverly written, I am not sure that children today will recognise some of the rhymes and the fairy tale characters. I grew up with the rhyme about the crooked man, but again, perhaps contemporay children have not. Surely they could not fail to enjoy the story or the repitition of words; or the notion of everything and everybody being crooked.

The anthology was published in the fifties and many of the poems were written before then. As a result some of the poetry is a little dated, but most of it travels well and children can easily relate to poems that are nonsensical or about subjects they recognise, like animals, or houses, or painting for instance. I think most children would find the poems great fun and an easy introduction to poetry, especially poetry that they can read by themselves over and over again. I love this anthology and rate it up there with my beloved Winnie The Pooh! If you find a copy, grab it!

Susie 6/1/08

Blogged with Flock

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at