That sounds like a Health Visitor's answer to the latest Betjeman book Trains and Buttered Toast , it's not (but could be now I think about it) and you'll get the drift eventually.
I'm an occasional rather than a frequent poetry reader but I'm determined to read more.Despite my best endeavours I find it is not always the first book I head for but Jeanette Winterson's piece in The Times this weekend confirms it. I must make better use of poetry.
I went to a talk years ago given by an inspiring speaker who was determined we would all be in love with Gerard Manley Hopkins by the end.Tall order for me as I had most certainly wrecked my deutschland and sprung my instress over studying him for A Level.But one point she made has resonated ever since, poetry is there amongst other things to teach, to console and to warn and I've never forgotten that.
Over the years however one or two have managed to fight their way into my little canon of essentials.
Elegies by Douglas Dunn was one of those book club purchases unseen and unknown back in the late 1980's.I think by this time I was suffering from Mummy's Fried Brain Syndrome and this may have been an attempt to read something more improving than the back of a cereal packet.
It is a book that has had an overwhelming impact on me down the years, poems written after the death of Douglas Dunn's first wife in March 1981.He records illness, diagnosis, second opinions, those last days and nights together, registering the death and then his life afterwards and that all makes it sound morose and miserable but it isn't.Yes it's poignant and sad but it has an element of hope and survival to it and some wonderful little moments as his wife decides she'd best make an effort over this whole business of dying. It's a memorable and lasting tribute to her, exactly what you'd expect elegies to be.
It would be pointless to talk about poetry and not mention my treasured copies of The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes and Ariel by Sylvia Plath.
Yes, I have just about every poem he and she ever wrote in various anthologies but these two collections contain some of the diamonds.The Horses and The Thought-Fox by Ted Hughes and my all time favourite Morning Song by Sylvia Plath.
I would certainly place dearest Seamus Heaney in my little canon and of his collections possibly The Spirit Level wins the prize for me, though I've yet to pass a verdict on District and Circle.
No mini-canon complete here without The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy and Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes by Billy Collins for a wry look at life.
But I have a new and exciting one to add.
I caught a snippet of an American woman reading her poetry on the radio, something about bathing a baby as slippery as buttered noodles and was so intrigued I missed the name; it was only mention over on Scott Pack's blog of Sharon Olds that tripped the memory switch .
Selected Poems has just arrived and I sat frantically flicking through the pages to see if I'd guessed right and there it was,
Bathing the New Born
I love with an almost fearful love
to remember the first baths I gave him,
our second child so I knew what to do,
I laid the little torso along
my left forearm, nape of the neck
in the crook of my elbow, hips nearly as
small as a least tern's tail
against my wrist, thigh held loosely
in the loop of the thumb and forefinger, the
sign that means exactly right...
........When I got him too soapy he'd
slide in my grip like an armful of buttered
Michael Ondaatje rates Sharon Olds's poetry as "pure fire in the hands...the roughness and humour and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss".
Who am I to disagree? A great new discovery for me.