‘Many people I know say they feel poetry is difficult.’
I borrowed a copy. I quickly realised that borrowing this book was not an option for me: I needed my own copy. I bought a copy. I’ve skimmed through, I’ve read and reread. And I will continue to read and reread.
An eclectic collection of poetry: love and death, language and sex. There are poems I know – not by heart, because that is never a skill I’ve acquired. I recognise phrases and look for the whole. Or I remember who wrote a set of words, a poem that has become an anthem for a particular emotion.
See, I’m not even talking about this book and why I like it so much, simply about where poetry can take me. And, like his songs, the poems Paul Kelly has chosen make me think.
Some poems are ancient: the first five chapters from the Song of Solomon (the title ‘love is strong as death’ from the eighth chapter). And Catullus, Sophocles and Homer.
I saw some other old friends including Thomas Hardy, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Kenneth Slessor, Banjo Paterson, Dylan Thomas and Judith Wright.
I skimmed Shakespeare, and met and fell in love with Maxine Beneba Clarke‘s ‘Brown’.
There are poems I remember from school, over half a century ago, and ones I’ve met since. New friends and old friends: poems to comfort, poems to explore.
This is a personal selection, organised in alphabetical order by title. Because, in Paul Kelly’s words:
‘Listing the poems alphabetically by title allows them to jostle one another in a democratic manner – the transcendent with the earthy, the loquacious with the sparse, the hymnic with the polemic.’
This is a book to own, to treasure, to buy as a gift for others. It’s both a comfort and an inspiration. And, just maybe, I might learn all of the words to some of these poems by heart. Perhaps.
‘And let poetry by your friend. It can take you to the end.’