Favourite writers, continued – Poets.
31. William Blake, largely for Jerusalem
32. T.S. Eliot. When I studied Eliot in 6th form I was either told, or believed independently, that Eliot was impenetrably hard. Not surprisingly I found him thus. Returning to Prufrock or the Wasteland decades later something has happened, and they have become accessible, almost conversational. I find it hard to explain this transformation except to suggest that it is more complicated than just me being a bit slow aged 17.
33. John Keats. Rich, sumptuous poetry. All the more extraordinary that he produced this body of work in such a few short years.
34. Wilfred Owen – I am not in a position to argue this in any detail, but I have a suspicion that Owen wasn’t just our greatest war poet, but one of our greatest poets full stop. His works are compressed, intense, masterpieces, where every sound and syllable counts.
35. Shelley, for Masque of Anarchy, a brilliant piece of polemic which opens with this fantastic line about the Home Secretary, whom he accuses of responsibility for the Peterloo massacre:
“I met Murder on the way – He had a mask like Castlereagh”
And ends with this rousing call to arms:
“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few”
Which would make a great slogan for the Labour Party don’t you think?
I also have a soft spot for Ozymandias:
36. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for Sonnet from the Portugese.
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
37. Kipling, for If. Nationalistic, misogynistic nonsense I know, but can’t help loving it.
38. Rupert Brooke, for Granchester. The section on the women of Cambridgeshire is hilarious.
39. John Herrick. Obscure Elizabethan poet, but some great love poems,
40. Brian Patten. Witty, warm and wise.
“I caught a train that passed the town where you lived.
On the journey I thought of you.”
Honourable mention to John Cooper Clarke for Evidently Chickentown http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGWhjojt5dw.
Having reviewed this list I can’t avoid the suspicion I have favourite poems rather than favourite poets. So be it.