Friday, December 13, 2013

Nearing Forty...*

I turn 40 soon.
I know.
I think I was more fussed by move from my teens into my twenties so I'm not stressing about it. Instead I'm distracting myself by thinking of 40 things I can do when I'm 40.

The first thing I thought of was to learn at least 40 poems by heart - partly inspired by the Poetry By Heart programme in schools and partly by being reminded of Invictus by William Ernest Henley following the death of Nelson Mandela. I reckon it can't be a bad thing to have an arsenal of poems to draw on for any situation life throws at you. The poem I have by heart (and yes, I know it's only four lines long) is Epilogue by Grace Nichols.

Anyway, I asked some of my friends on Facebook to tell me their favourite poems. The ones they've held in their hearts since the moment they heard them and they came up with some crackers. Some poems I already love and will enjoy learning by heart and some I'd not come across before. A couple are probably a bit too long to make it to the shortlist of 40 but it's been great to read. I'll be flicking through my poetry collections and anthologies over the Christmas holidays to add to the list but here are the poems that have been suggested so far...

After Long Busyness by Robert Bly
I Go Back To May 1937 by Sharon Olds
If We Must Die by Claude McKay
Indelible, Miraculous by Julia Darling
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Late Fragment by Raymond Carver
Machines by Michael Donaghy
Night, Death, Mississippi by Robert Hayden
Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy
The Identification by Roger McGough
The Moment by Margaret Atwood
The Mower by Philip Larkin
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Sun is Rising by John Donne
This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

I'm probably going to blog about my approach to learning each poem (that will be another thing to try when I'm 40 - keeping a regular blog!). And I'm interested to see if I'll still have all forty poems in my head this time next year. We'll see.

*About six years ago I came across the poem Nearing Forty by Derek Walcott and now here I am...