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The Nation's Favourite Poems of Love by…
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The Nation's Favourite Poems of Love

by Daisy Goodwin

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A fairly standard collection of love poetry compiled by the BBC which is hindered by being too conventional. It contains mostly well-known poems (by Shakespeare, Browning, Byron, etc.) which are great, but which I was already quite familiar with (as I'm sure many other readers will be). There are no foreign poets (how can you not include the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who wrote some of the finest love poems of all time?) and whilst there are a few attempts to introduce some contemporary poetry, these mostly sit uneasily beside their elders. The editors also make a conscious decision not to include love songs (in the introduction, The Beatles' 'We Can Work it Out' is mentioned as a potential candidate), which is understandable, but then they include older poems which were set to music ('A Red, Red Rose' by Robert Burns, for example). The net result of this conservatism meant that the book lacked those auras of surprise, novelty and daring which so often go hand-in-hand with the grand theme the poems seek to explore.

Favourites include: 'To His Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell, 'Sonnet 29' and 'Sonnet 106' by William Shakespeare, 'The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships' (from Doctor Faustus) by Christopher Marlowe, 'A Red, Red Rose' by Robert Burns, 'Sonnet II' by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and 'When We Two Parted' and 'So, We'll Go No More a-Roving' by Lord Byron. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Why is poetry so much the Cinderella of modern-day writing?

The reading of books, both fiction and non-fiction is going through something of a renaissance, but poetry, which in so many ways encapsulates the essence of the modern lifestyle – abbreviated, terse and sparse of phrase; more sound-bite and MTV video clip than Shakespeare – seems to be the wallflower, left unchosen and un-danced.

Yet redolent of romance; verse talks so much more to the soul, echoes the rhythm of the heartbeat, and much the better recalls those fond memories that jumped the heart-beat, relit the full colour of that passionate encounter, that intense glance, that meaningful touch – re-igniting those magical moments of the past.

I was lucky - I grew up, born as John Denver said in the summer of my 27th year (tho’ actually my 19th) - in the artistic heart of Liverpool. Centred on Hardman Street that steep hill of bars, restaurants wending up from Bold Street at the city end to the University, wandering past the art college of John Lennon fame, the Chauffeurs private club, the Cabin Club at the bombed out St Georges church end and taking in the Everyman Theatre from where Willy Russell, Barbara Dickson, Julie Walters et al first captivated and challenged, to the Philharmonic pub of the fabled Victorian pink marble latrines, standing on the opposite corner, where on most Wednesday evenings the Liverpool Poets held a small but rapt audience in thrall and beers, or rather it should be said, we held them in beers. Can poetry ever have been so cheaply bought?

The Nation’s Favourite Love Poems – a selection of Romantic Verse, a BBC book, captures some of the verses of the irreverent Liverpool four and so very much more. It tickles and warms the heart to imagine such “stuffy” writers as John Betjeman lost in love - feeling his heart leap as he writes of Miss J. Hunter Dunn.

Wendy Cope says it with Flowers

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, Look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

In this selection of 100 poems, poets through the ages scribe out their hearts, or write lucidly and whimsically of passion and lust –try to read John Fuller’s salacious ode- Valentine - without secretly melting and laughing inside –

I’d like to find you in the shower
and chase the soap for half an hour.

Most books are read and discarded – this book, and the memories, warmth, humour and style will remain with you, or as so much more magically put by Leigh Hunt in 1859, recalling a kiss from more than half a century previous,

Jenny Kiss’d me when we met
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who loves to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss’d me.

Do yourself a real treat, put a real spring into your stride - re-capture the full essence of the lust in living – dive full body into a book of poetry!!

Better yet, share it with, or give it to, your loved, or lusted one! Flowers fade, but words coalesce, take root and remain. ( )
1 vote JonQuirk | Dec 10, 2007 |
A collection of 100 favourite English-language love poems, as voted by BBC audiences in 1997. Edited by Daisy Goodwin. Includes classics from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare, Donne, Keats and Yeats, Auden, Burns, Marvell, and others more contemporary. An interesting collection, and a nice gift book. ( )
  tripleblessings | Nov 10, 2005 |
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