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English Poetry: A Little Taster

Updated on August 19, 2017
FrancesSpiegel profile image

Frances enjoys reading poetry and literature of every genre. She particularly enjoys historical fiction.

Verses of Every Type - Humorous, Sad, Sublime

English poetry has class. This lens will explore everything from British historical poets to contemporary verse makers such as William Shakespeare, Keats and Tennyson or 21st-century poets such as Judy Karbritz and Benjamin Zephaniah. What did they write about, what style of verse did they use? Your opinions are welcome.

Jewish Poet Judy Karbritz - Have I Got a Poem for You!

Judy Karbritz, author of Have I Got a Poem for You! is a Jewish humorist based in London, UK. Her poetry explores all aspects of life, from a Jewish angle, but you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate it.

Judy says: "Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." Perhaps she's right! I can only say that this is a book I return to frequently. She explains her motives in the opening stanza of a poem entitled "I Write Not about Daffodils":

I write not about daffodils

Or flowers blooming in the Spring

My subjects range from cooking meals

To joys and tsaurus families bring.

Almost every reader discovers a little gem they can relate to. If you've ever struggled with weight loss this one Fat-All Attraction will appeal. The opening verse says:

For most of my life

do you know what I've hated?

The way that my weight

has fluctuated

I've looked like a mountain

and then a beanpole

That's the yo-yo method

of girth control

I think my favourite has to be After the Shul is Over (sung to the tune of After the Ball is Over). Regular synagogue-goers will recognise this scene:

After the shul is over

Just as the final yawn

Jostling to reach the Kiddush

Before the food has gone

Many a diet's broken

By wine, plava and kichel

Many the fish ball that's vanished

After the shul

The Poems of William Shakespeare

Of course, if you're exploring English poets you cannot ignore Shakespeare's sonnets. Personally, I think his sonnets rank among some of the world's finest and most beautiful poetry. When we talk about Shakespeare many people think of Sonnet 18 which opens with the line "Shall I compare thee to a Summers day?" or perhaps this stanza spoken by Ariel in The Tempest (Act I, scene II):

Full fathom five thy Father lies,

Of his bones are Corrall made:

Those are pearles that were his eies,

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a Sea-change

Into something rich, and strange:

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell [Burthen: ding dong.]

Harke now I heare them ding-dong bell.

The Tempest

Benjamin Zephaniah - the Children's Poet

I've looked at just four poets but there are so many hundreds more to enjoy such as W. H. Auden, Edward Fairfax, Percy Bysshe Shelley or modern-day poets such as Benjamin Zephaniah often referred to as 'the children's poet'. (Dr Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah).

He's a great favourite with my grand-daughter who likes to recite the opening verse of Everybody is doing it. It's a brilliant poem for teaching children about styles of dance and where they come from.

In Hawaii they Hula

They Tango in Argentina

They Reggae in Jamaica

And they Rumba down in Cuba

In Trinidad and Tobago

They do the Calypso

And in Spain the Spanish

They really do Flamenco


Zephaniah's first book of poetry for children entitled Talking Turkeys sold out so quickly that an emergency reprint was made after just six weeks!

Just a Little Taster

This is merely a minute taster of the joys to be found in English poetry. As you explore the pathway which leads from the medieval era to the 21st century you will discover medieval songs, hymns and amusing satires as well as odes, elegies, sonnets and ballads.

© 2009 Frances Spiegel

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