Friday, 26 June 2015

Ten Reasons Why… You Might Enjoy the Poems of Carl Sandburg A personal view by Roger Stevens

Carl August Sandburg (1878 -1967) was an American poet, writer and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.  During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as a major figure in contemporary literature, especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920)
1 Carl Sandberg was a journalist and a socialist, and had a keen sense of and desire for social and economic justice, which was reflected in many of his poems. Despite being written so long ago his poems still resonate with us today.
A man is a man and what can you do with him?
but a machine, now you take a machine
no kids  no woman  never hungry  never thirsty
all a machine needs is a little regular attention
and plenty of grease
3 Sandburg wrote, “Here is the difference between Dante, Milton and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”
4 Trafficker
Among the shadows where two streets cross,
A woman lurks in the dark and waits
To move on when a policeman heaves in view.
Smiling a broken smile from a face
Painted over haggard bones and desperate eyes…
5 He was not afraid to tackle the inequities of organised religion.

You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it up all right with them by giving them mansions in the skies after they’re dead and the worms have eaten ‘em.
6 Grass
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work -
I am the grass; I cover all.
7 He wrote many, wonderful love poems. He asks of love,
“Is it a cat with claws and wild mate screams in the black night?”
Your white shoulders
I remember
And your shrug of laughter
Low laughter
Shaken slow
From your white shoulders
9 He was one of the first great poets to use free verse. Critics didn’t like it, especially in the early days, calling it un-aesthetic and unpoetic. It doesn’t seem in any way unusual now, but at the time it caused quite a stink in poetic circles. And as well as tackling traditional poetic subjects, he liked to write about every day, mundane things. And popular culture. Pre-shadowing the Beat Poets.
10 Lines written for Gene Kelly to Dance To

Tell your feet the alphabet
Tell your feet the multiplication table
Tell your feet where to go, and watch ‘em go and come back...

Friday, 5 June 2015

Ten Reasons Why You Might Enjoy...."The Way Things Are" by Roger McGough

 A personal view by Roger Stevens
1 Roger McGough is probably my favourite living poet. The best-selling Mersey Sound, published by Penguin in 1967, with Adrian Henri and Brian Patten, launched their careers. Roger McGough has written so many brilliant books that it’s hard to choose a favourite. But The Way Things Are is my favourite today. Tomorrow it may well be something else.
2 The poems in this book are easy to understand, easy to enjoy. Roger McGough doesn’t try to baffle you with indecipherable symbolism or impenetrable metaphor. They often work on different levels, though. I like that in a poem.
3 For the Sake of Argument
The cover of this book is yellow
But, for the sake of argument
let us call it red…
4 The poems in this book are very clever.
On the eleventh morning
Japheth burst into the cabin:
“Dreadful news, everybody, the tigers
Have eaten the bambanolas!”
5 A Literary Riddle
I am
Out of my tree
Away with the fairies.
A nut. A fruitcake. What am I?
6 If you are familiar with Roger McGough’s voice, maybe from listening to Poetry Please on Radio 4, then hearing him read these poems in your head, in his dry, distinctive Scouse accent, just adds to the pleasure.
7 There’s a good mixture of serious and funny poems in this book.
A serious poem will often end
With two lines that rhyme,
But not always.
8 The title poem is genius. “A sparkling patchwork of children’s logic, grieves quietly for the age-old fears deep down inside us all.”
No, the red woolly hat has not been
put on the railing to keep it warm.
When one glove is missing, both are lost
Today’s craft fair is tomorrow’s car boot sale.
The guitarist gently weeps, not the guitar.
I am your father and this is the way things are.
There’s always someone who spoils things, isn’t there?
We are all enjoying the story
and someone has to shout out something silly.

Roger’s most recent poetry books for children include The Penguin in Lost Property (Macmillan), with Jan Dean, and What Are We Fighting For? (Macmillan), poems about war, written with Brian Moses. The Comic CafĂ© (Frances Lincoln) is his latest children’s novel. He runs the award-winning children's poetry website, The Poetry Zone. Roger also writes for adults, plays in a band (with the legendary Robb Johnson) and performs his own songs in folk clubs. His latest album is called I Don’t Wish to Alarm You But… (Irregular Records.) He spends his time between the Loire, in France, and Brighton, where he lives with his wife and a very, very, very shy dog called Jasper.
 And here, from the not so dim and distant is a little something other from Roger....

Have you ever been embarrassed by your parents? When Joseph was a teenager he would refuse to actually walk with me and Jill in the street “in case his mates saw us.” How silly is that? And I don’t see why he should have been embarrassed by me and Jill dancing in the road at a street festival in Holland, either. He should have been proud of his step-dad. When I hoisted his mum over my head and did the splits at the same time it produced a huge cheer and applause from the crowd that had gathered around us. I was quite upset when he ran away instead of staying to help his mum carry me to the hospital. So you would think that, as a grown-up, I’d no longer be embarrassed by my parents.
But Jill and I decided to take my eighty-year-old mother for a drive in the country. It was a lovely sunny Saturday in June. We drove through the village of Northiam and saw that the local school was having a fete.
“Shall we have a look round?” I asked.
“Ooh, yes,” said Mum, “that would be nice.”
So we did. We had a go on the bottle stall and Jill won a small jar of salad cream. Then we bought a spider plant from the plant stall and watched a display of falconry.
Unfortunately the falcon man hadn’t turned up but the resourceful school decided to go ahead anyway.
Several teachers had each painted the picture of a bird of prey on a shoe box, and tied the box to their arm with a piece of string. Then each one took a turn of throwing the box up in the air while we had to imagine that it was a real bird, wheeling through the sky, and swooping on a sparrow.
The falcon I imagined was easily the best. It did somersaults and finished its display by swooping through a hoop of fire upside down.
So, Mum, Jill and me were walking around the school field enjoying the fete when a band started paying. It was the east Sussex All-Comers Ukulele and Trumpet band. They were brilliant. They played Take That’s greatest hits.
That was when my mum got embarrassing. She grabbed my hands and shouted out, really loudly, “let’s have a little dance!” then she started going round in circles, taking me with her, and every so often punching the air and whooping. An eighty-year old whooping woman dancing to Shine is not a pretty sight.
It was very, very embarrassing. The only good thing about it was that Jill went round with the hat and managed to collect seven pounds 63p. So we all treated ourselves to an ice cream and Mum bought another spider plant to keep the first one company.