It’s National Poetry Day! And we’re celebrating across our Leamington and Birmingham offices by sharing our favourite poems and the reasons why. This year’s theme is ‘poetry for change’ – rather appropriate for IC professionals. And it’s not surprising. For almost every big life event we turn to poetry. From the cheesy birthday rhymes inside a corner shop greetings card, to the verses we choose to mark the monumental moments in our lives, such as weddings and funerals – poetry is a powerful thing. So what are our team’s National Poetry Day top picks?
One of my favourites is Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.
I love the evocative sound of those nonsense words… “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.” And that’s just the first line.
The reader is left to interpret, guess or simply get lost in the magical sound of the words. There’s just enough recognisable language to allow you to build your own visual story as you go along. A picture can paint a thousand words, but Carroll shows that a few words can paint a thousand pictures. It’s a magical poem that plays on the imagination.
It also reminds me that in corporate communications, we need to do the opposite. We need to use words that are clear and unambiguous, so we’re not inviting a thousand readers to imagine a thousand versions of the message.
To play on Carroll’s words: “Beware the corporate jargon, my son, the key drivers that impact, the modular projections that underpin.”
There are so many poems to choose from – I found it quite difficult to pick just one! I love Megan Falley and Richard Siken, so they seemed obvious choices. But my favourite is OCD by spoken word poet, Neil Hilborn. His delivery of the poem is amazing – it really captures the daily struggles of living with OCD and dealing with tics and triggers. I recommend watching his performance of it!
“She loved that I had to kiss her goodbye sixteen times, or twenty-four times if it was Wednesday.
She loved that it took me forever to walk home because there are lots of cracks on our sidewalk.
When we moved in together, she said she felt safe, like no one would ever rob us because I definitely locked the door eighteen times.
I’d always watch her mouth when she talked
when she talked
when she talked
when she talked
when she talked…”
I like This Be the Verse by Philip Larkin but it’s a bit sweary… So instead I nominate Prince who might not be a poet strictly speaking but whose lyrics are like poetry to me because they never fail to make me smile/cry/think and they haven’t aged despite the fact Purple Rain came out in 1984.
I especially like Raspberry Beret (different album I know) for phrases like “Seems like I was busy doing something close to nothing” but I’ve gone with Let’s Go Crazy (from Purple Rain) for this verse:
“Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word, life. It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you, there’s something else.”
I learned this poem by Eleanor Farjeon in primary school and it’s the only one I’ve never forgotten. Having recently got two cats – and bought them a cat bed they never sleep in – I’ve been reminded of how true it is!
“Cats sleep, anywhere,
Any table, any chair
Top of piano, window-ledge,
In the middle, on the edge,
Open drawer, empty shoe,
Anybody’s lap will do,
Fitted in a cardboard box,
In the cupboard, with your frocks-
Anywhere! They don’t care!
Cats sleep anywhere.”
At first I thought about Ginsberg, Poe, Wilde, but I couldn’t find a poem that I loved that wasn’t a little bit depressing and dark. As such, as an antidote to the mysterious passages that I preferred as a moody teenager, I thought I would bring to public attention the Coates family poem. First written by, I think, my great grandfather, it has since been added to by my own Dad, who has added several verses over the years. It is a classic nonsense poem, and one I am very fond of.
“There once was a young man from Hawes*,
He was very bored,
His side blew off in the heat of the day,
And the first time he tried it, it sank.”
*A village in the North Yorkshire Dales, where my family lived for generations.