Friday Poetry: my favourite poem when I was little

Old-Lady-Who-Swallowed-a-Fly-rhymesYesterday The Good Reading Guide started running a competition on their Facebook page, asking readers what their favourite book was as a child. This simple question took me far too long to answer.

Should I say Seven Little Australians because it’s an Australian classic? Should I say Ballet Shoes because I always loved the descriptions of the clothes? Should I say Ginger Meggs because I read those comics obsessively?

Finally I decided to put down the truth, even though it sounded a little strange. From the moment I read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy in year 4, I completely fell in love. I wanted to be as adventurous as Sir Percy, as beautiful as Lady Marguerite and I even wanted to live in a time when Madame Guillotine could come to chop off your head.

It was a relief to write the truth. However this question got me thinking – what was my favourite poem as a child? From a young age, I was marched off to many, many, many drama eisteddfods. The first poem I ever performed was ‘Poor Old Fish’ about a fish that was killed by over feeding. I think my favourite poem was ‘I know an Old Lady’. My Dad used to read it to us and it’s completely ridiculous. I think I enjoyed how things become progressively worse for this poor old lady.  Also as a child I never liked poems that were very realistic. Who wants real life when you’re dreaming about far way lands and the French revolution?

 

I know and Old Lady

Rose Bonne and Alan Mills

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a bird
How absurd to swallow a bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a cat
Imagine that. She swallowed a cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a dog
What a hog to swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a goat
Opened her throat and down went the goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a cow
I don’t know how she swallowed the cow
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a horse
She’s alive and well of course!

Friday Poetry: The Call

file0001783491009My husband shared this poem with me which he had read on The Art of Manliness.  I must admit to being a closet fan of that blog and wishing there was something similar for women.

I think everyone has a different call and we all “face the crashin’ lightnin'” in different ways. Having a baby was certainly one way I had to face up to nature. As I was giving birth, I felt I was facing up to life.

The poem describes some occupations as “dyin’ in yer pod.” As a teacher I’ve been so lucky to never has this feeling of boredom. Well, that’s not entirely true. Exam supervision is pretty soul destroying. Every teacher would agree that teaching is an exciting and varied job, with no one day like the next. Every day can be inspirational, challenging, exhausting and hilarious.

Thanks to one of my bossy friends, I’ve actually done white water rafting (I thanked her later for being so pushy). It was very out of character for me, but I absolutely loved it. However facing thirty two kids, in a packed Year 10 classroom, can be every bit as exhilarating as going down the “rippin’ plungin’ rapids”.

The Call
By: Earl H. Emmons

Did you ever have a longin’ to get out and buck the trail,
And to face the crashin’ lightnin’ and the thunder and the gale?
Not for no partic’lar reason but to give the world the laugh,
And to show the roarin’ elyments you still can stand the gaff.

Don’t you ever feel a yearnin’ just to try your luck again
Down the rippin’ plungin’ rapids with a bunch of reg’lar men?
Don’t you ever sorta hanker for a rough and risky trip,
Just to prove you’re still a livin’ and you haven’t lost your grip?

Can’t you hear the woods a-callin’ for to have another try
Sleepin’ out beneath the spruces with a roof of moonlit sky,
With the wind a sorta singin’ through the branches overhead
And your fire a gaily crackin’ and your pipe a-glowin’ red?

Don’t you often get to feelin’ sorta cramped and useless there,
Makin’ figgers and a-shinin’ your pants upon a chair?
Don’t you yearn to get acquainted once again with Life and God?
If you don’t, then Heaven help you, for you’re a dyin’ in yer pod.

Friday Poetry: Funeral Blues

This week I said goodbye to my younger sister Liz. She flew out of Australia to live and study in Scotland for a year. Despite being six years my junior, Liz and I have always been the best friends. We know exactly what the other is thinking.

One thing I love about Liz is her contradictions. She sometimes likes to fancy herself a bit of hipster. However she also doesn’t mind putting her feet up to a good Midsummer Murders or reading anything by Alexander McCall Smith. Perhaps McCall-Smith is one of the reasons she chose to study in Scotland… Certainly after reading his books the place does feel like home.

Liz and I even lined up to meet Alexander McCall Smith at the Opera House. And a year earlier I had lined up to have my book signed by the author. He was quite the gentlemen, standing up and shaking hands with every person he met.

I think I asked him to sign one of Scotland Street books. But I also brought along a book of poems by W.H Auden.  As I had hoped he was surprised and delighted to see the book. I felt a little smug. I’m sure the whole line of middle ladies had wished they’d thought of such a clever trick.

You see, his novels are full of references to Auden. Characters are always using Auden’s poems to muse on life.

It’s hard to pick a favourite, so I’ve decided to go with one I know my sister loves.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good

W.H. Auden

Friday Poetry: O Captain! My Captain!

I’m sure every teacher has watched Dead Poets Society. I used to watch it at least once a year; it’s terrible that I’m such a cliché of an English teacher.  It always guarantees me a good cry and a dose of inspiration. Until yesterday I had never read Walt Whitman’s poem O Captain! My Captain! which is quoted in the film.

The poem left me a little shocked as it wasn’t as I imagined it to be. The poem was written for Abraham Lincoln. Honestly it could be about any great person who we have lost in our lives.  The poem made me think of Fr Amin Abboud, a priest and medical Doctor who passed away this year on the 19th of July. Thank you Fr Amin for loving us all with your generous heart. You are missed.

O Captain! My Captain!

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills; 10
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Walt Whitman

Friday Poetry: What is poetry?

imageWhat is poetry?

I recently found this group of definitions. It’s hard to pick a favourite out of them; they are all so brilliantly expressed and perfectly true.

Poetry is “the music of the soul” (Voltaire)

Poetry is the “art of uniting pleasure with truth.”(Samuel Johnson)

Poetry is the “record of the best and happiest moments of the best minds.” (Shelly)

Poetry is the “synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits…a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanation” (Carl Sandburg)

Poetry is “not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more real to us.” (T.S. Eliot)

And best of all, poetry is that which “makes my body so cold no fire can warm me,” and makes me “feel as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickenson)

Friday Poetry: Love and Friendship

In her poem, Bronte rejects love which is like “the silly rose”. She seems to suggest that friendship, in times of suffering as in winter, will offer greater comfort.

Personally I think love and friendship are best when they go together. Without friendship, as in a true sharing of minds, hearts, laughter and suffering, love would lack substance or endurance. As Bronte says, it would be silly.

Love and Friendship

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.

Emily Bronte

20130705-114710.jpg

 Friday Poetry: Birthday Poem

liz and milleLast Friday, due to a combination of technical problems, I missed putting up a poem on Friday. Instead, I found myself in a Apple store for the first time in my life. The girl in a blue t shirt told me I had to make an appointment.

“You need to make an appointment to speak to a Genius,” she said. “It’s like going to see the Doctor.”

This week is the birthday of my sister Liz and my cousin Mille. So here is a poem for their birthday; it’s not a friendship poem  or a birthday poem but a poem to help them to a happier day. I owe these girls big time – they always put me in a better mood.

Dogs

Julie O’Sullivan

Dogs don’t worry.

They sleep,

and yawn

and eat,

and scratch,

and slowly fry on warm verandahs, and

snap!

at flies (in moments of great exertion)

and slowly open sleepy eyes

to gaze at men; who worry

and look at dogs

and mutter,

“Dumb animals!”

Aside

Previous Older Entries