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Poetry, my inheritance.

Updated on September 8, 2016

"And no birds sing."

Poetry, an ancient art form once used as a popular medium to record history is a large part of my life. Listening to the rhythmic tones of my parents as they recited children's nursery rhymes such as "The Cat and the Fiddle" I have always had an attraction to poetic verse. Growing up, I was privileged to have a parent who shared a passion for reciting poetry and encouraged my relationship with poetic verse.

In my younger years, my Father encouraged my exposure through such enjoyable offerings of AA Milne's "When We Were Very Young" and poems written by well-known Australian Poets, Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson and Dorothea McKeller.

When I was twelve, my oldest brother gave me a book of Pam Ayres' poetry. At first, I wasn't keen on her humour, but as I began to experience life, her poetry drew my attention. I especially took to her poems: "I Wish I'd Looked After My Teeth" and "The Dolly on the Dustcart". The latter I performed in a local Eisteddfod when I was seventeen with much success and looking just like the Dolly on the dustcart.

My passion for reciting poetry grew when I began private speech and drama classes in my early teens. Through my extra-curricular education, I developed a strong affinity for John Keats' poems, in particular, "To Autumn" and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". John Keats was an English Poet whose poetry falls into the Romantic category along with Wordsworth and Lord Byron.

Poetry that I enjoy the most has catching rhythms or an underlying song that creates a yearning in the reader to repeat its phrases again and again. Poetry should never become tiresome especially if read out aloud. If you close your eyes, poetry should spark images that are lasting and memorable. The opening stanza of "To Autumn" is just the first in many beautiful images that Keats artistically paints with words:

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;"

Poetry for me is much more than words used in a creative form to express the writer's thoughts, emotions, opinions or to tell a story. Poetry is an art form; it is music made with speech which deserves to be performed and heard in a theatrical setting.

Shakespeare's poems have never been too far away from my lips either. The Elizabethan's famous poem, "Sonnet 18" is an excellent poem to recite as a breath control exercise. If you ever want to increase your lung's capacity, try reciting the first verse in one breath while still using inflection, pause and pace. The poem was an audition piece for the Royal Shakespearean Company in London in the 1980s and 1990s. It might still be. This is just a short excerpt to give you a taste of the famous Bard's poems:

"Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

One of my favourite collection of poems is the "The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám" which has a few different translations but none more popular than the five editions attempted by Robert Fitzgerald. Omar Khayyam (1048–1131) was a Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer. I like Fitzgerald's renditions so much that I have few different versions of "The Rubáiyát" on my bookshelf as well as a number of early 1900 spin offs such as "The Rubáiyát of a Cat", "The Rubáiyát of a Golfer" and "The Rubáiyát of a Modern Man". You might say, that I am a collector of Rubáiyáts. Why do I like Fitzgerald's translation of "The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám" so much? The quatrains can be humorous, the rhyming is eloquent and I can relate to many of the underlying themes.

"The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."

Or in plain speaking English: Life moves on and you can't do a thing to change the past!

Some of the stanzas in the "Rubáiyát of Omar Khyayyam" have a very humorous theme and it contains sexual innuendos, discourse about life, death and describes a man who indulged in a copious consumption of wine and opium.

My own poetic likes are a mix of ancient texts and modern verses. TS Elliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" a collection of poems about humanised felines which were used as the basis for Andrew Lloyd's Webbers musical, "Cats" . During my senior years at High School, I formed a speech choir and coached a group of young children from my local primary school choir to recite the poem in the Mackay Eisteddfod. I am still quite proud of the second place Walkerston State Primary School took in the competition for the young choirs recitation of "Macavity: The Mystery Cat!" Ah, such, Memories!

Now, I have an opportunity to share this passion of poetry that I inherited from my father with my daughter, who at the tender of age three is beginning to recite nursery rhymes out aloud. I am hoping that her attention span will lengthen soon. Currently her focus fades about the third or fourth verse but regardless, I will still continue to joyously articulate and share with her and my reluctant husband, my favourite poems.


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