Talking  Poetry by Jenny Strickland

Clough, Margie: At Least the Duck Survived. Margie is a delightful local poet, whose poetry is about real life and people we recognise. e.g.

To Isabel

 Here it is almost night and the west wind

is blowing blobs of rain against my door;

my fingers stiffen and my feet get cold, but

where you are sitting colouring a picture

of yellow sunflowers to send to me

the sky is cloudless and

 the sun is rising.


Duffy, Carol Ann: The Other Country. Duffy is Britain’s Poet Laureate. Her latest collection The Bees has the reviewers all abuzz. (Sorry!) Not in the Library yet and not easy to find in SA. She uses vivid language and her poetry is accessible. E.g. from Away From Home

“You put down your case, and blurred longing sharpens like a headache”


Edited by Carol Ann Duffy:  Answering Back. This is available here (from Kalk Bay Books).  Various poets were asked to choose a poem written by someone else and then write a response to it.

Billy Collins chose W H Auden’s

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong

The Old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position; how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…


Billy Collins’ poem Musée des Beaux Arts Revisited starts

“As far as mental anguish goes,

The old painters were no fools.

They understood how the mind

The freakiest dungeon in the castle,

can easily imagine a crab with the face of a priest…”


Like Margie Clough, I enjoyed Ian McMillan’s choice and response to

The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

so much depends


 a red wheel


 glazed with rain


beside the white



Ian McMillan responds with The Green Wheelbarrow 

To be honest, not much depends on this.

My dad just left it by the side of the lawn

When he went to pick me up when I fell.


His spade and fork sat in it waiting

For him to return; like my mother sat

Looking through the window


Each night, waiting for him to come home…….


My dad picked me up and I stopped crying.

I’m crying now, dad. I wish

I could sit by the window and see you coming home.


Go on, push the wheelbarrow again!

Let me hear the music of the squeak!


Lewis Watling, our 92-year-old local Scenic South poet, has done something similar with this poem from his collection Out of Dark Spaces.

A Thing of Beauty

I’ve often wondered how John Keats could praise

those gifts of beauty that his numbered days

must nullify while still his heart was young,

and all his unlived songs be left unsung.

Was it that in his poet soul he knew

his spirit’s words would nourish me and you

and renew themselves again, again, again

to reveal a hidden beauty trapped in pain?

Now in my tenth decade I can avow,

 my poet’s wish is to express the Now

so that its substance will not disappear

as long as lambent words can reach a listener’s ear

for Beauty created carries endlessly

essence of the breath that’s breathing me.

(See also under


I’ve been reading through a collected edition of Wilfred Owens’s poetry called The War Poems ­– though, as he was killed five days before the end of WWI, aged just 21, (his parents received the news on Armistice Day), he didn’t write much else. The best are the much-anthologised Anthem for Doomed Youth –“What passing bells for these who die as cattle?….”.- and Dulce et Decorum est, which exposes the lie of ‘glorious war’. I’ve read a lot of heart-wrenching novels set in WWI but Owen catches at one’s emotions in so few words. I thought The Letter was simple yet so moving. One can just picture the chap writing to his wife with a blunt pencil and lying to reassure her –

“I’m in the pink at present, dear.

I think the war will end this year.

We don’t see much of them square-‘eaded ‘Uns……”

and ending with him speaking to his friend

“I’m hit. Take ‘old. Aye bad….

Write my old girl, Jim…”


And one more. I heard of Edward Thomas only recently and then saw a collection of his poetry at the charity bookshop in Main Road. He is known as a ‘War Poet’ because he was killed in France in 1917 but he was then 39 and most of his poetry is about the English countryside. Perhaps his best-known is



Yes, I remember Adlestrop — 
The name, because one afternoon 
Of heat the express-train drew up there 
Unwontedly. It was late June. 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 
No one left and no one came 
On the bare platform. What I saw 
Was Adlestrop — only the name 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass, 
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 
No whit less still and lonely fair 
Than the high cloudlets in the sky. 

And for that minute a blackbird sang 
Close by, and round him, mistier, 
Farther and farther, all the birds 
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

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