Archives for posts with tag: Philip Larkin


We kick off the One Page Poetry Circle fall program with Commemoration Poetry, also called occasional poetry, which is composed for a particular occasion or after a significant event. Commemoration poems are frequently written to celebrate weddings and to enhance funerals, military victories, defeats and anniversaries. Early British poets often received patronage for writing commemoration verse and the Poet Laureate of England was originally appointed for the purpose of writing verse for significant national occasions, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Many people believe that Alfred Austin may have been the worst Poet Laureate as he commemorated the illness of the Prince of Wales with these lines, “Across the wires the electric message came, He is no better, he is much the same.”

Similar lines by Philip Larkin, erected at a memorial planter in Queen Square Gardens on the occasion of Elizabeth II’s 1977 Silver Jubilee, have an intriguing backstory:

In times when nothing stood
But worsened, or grew strange,
There was one constant good:
She did not change

Elizabeth Alexander read her commemoration poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” at the inauguration of Barack Obama as President in 2009 in a tradition that includes Robert Frost celebrating the inauguration of President Kennedy (1961), and Maya Angelou (1993) and Miller Williams (1997) celebrating Bill Clinton’s inaugurations.

Commemoration poems, although often lyric, can also take the form of elegy, epithalamion and ode. These are poems written for a public and often performed before an audience, which distinguishes them from any poem that may be written for an occasion. One of the most famous World War I commemoration poems is “For the Fallen” by Robert Laurence Binyon, which contains this familiar verse:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

In “Old South Meeting House,” a 2016 poem commissioned by the Academy of American Poets, January Gill O’Neil chose to commemorate a historical church now dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers along Boston’s Freedom Trail, “At this time of political divides, I wanted to end on a note of hope”:

In praise and dissent.
We draw breath from brick. Ignite the fire in us.
Speak to us:
the language is hope.

Do you have a commemorate poem you especially like? We invite you to post it on this blog and tell us why you liked it. Let’s hear from you.

To add a comment or post a poem, just click on the little speech balloon near the headline of this post.

~Abigail Burnham Bloom and AnnaLee Wilson

One Page Poetry Circle

September 12, 2017
NYPL St. Agnes Branch, 444 Amsterdam Ave.
5:30 -6:30 PM.

One Page Poetry Circle sponsored by the New York Public Library is open to all. St. Agnes Branch Library is handicap accessible. 

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The One Page Poetry Circle met on May 9th to discuss Poetry and Theft. We had a great turnout for our last program of the spring season.

Abigail opened our discussion with two poems, “Jenny Kiss’d Me” by Leigh Hunt, which employs the metaphor of time as a thief, and John MilSafe_Open_Emptyton’s “Sonnet 7,” in which Abigail believes she has found the origin of the metaphor. “How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,/Stol’n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!” We were impressed by Milton’s concern about how little he had accomplished by the age of 23 and how much he would eventually accomplish.

Roger read Wendy Videlock’s poem “Disarmed,” in which a mother views the evidence of her son’s stolen snacks as he sleeps, “how could I be uncharmed by this,/your secret world, your happy mess?”

Phil read “The Thieves” by Robert Graves which describes lovers who thieve, reciprocally, from each other, “After, when they disentwine/You from me and yours from mine,/Neither can be certain who/Was that I whose mine was you.”

Hazel and Terry brought the same poem, something that seldom happens, and examined in different ways Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 99”: “The forward violet thus did I chide:/Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,/If not from my love’s breath?”

Ken read Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”: “‘There must be some way out of here,’/Said the joker to the thief/‘There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief’” and we discussed different interpretations of who the joker and the thief represent and what the song means.

Elizabeth spoke about the theft of a civilization, something experienced by the Hmong people. She brought with her a piece of tapestry that tells (if we knew how to read it) the history of one family and a poem by Mai Der Vang “Cipher Song”: “It’s come to this. We hide the stories/on our sleeves, patchwork of cotton veins.”

Linda read “Ralph Rhodes,” a selection from the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters: “And you look up, and there’s your Theft,/Who waited until your head was gray,/And your heart skipped beats to say to you:/The game is ended./I’ve called for you.”

Salomé read “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson, a poem describing a man who was rich and respected, “So on we worked, and waited for the light,/And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;/And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,/Went home and put a bullet through his head.”

Gail read Philip Larkin’s “Home Is So Sad,”

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft
And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

Karen read two poems from an anthology used to teach children that describe, as in the Larkin poem above, the emptiness in a home. “There Are Four Chairs Round the Table” by John Foster begins, “There are four chairs round the table,/Where we sit down for our tea./But now we only set places/For Mum, for Terry and me.” One of the authors in this anthology said he writes poetry because: “A. When you didn’t follow teacher’s directions to write a poem, you got the cane. B. Later, I thought that girls would realize what a sensitive and wonderful human being I was. They did not. C. Now, to entertain children.”

Stan read the work of a Cherokee poet, Santee Frazier, “The Robbery” which begins, “Red ambulance flicker, curbstone, wheels, a gurney. Down the breezeway a baby, crying out among the gawk-mouthed heads./Knifed, sliced, the man bleeding through the gauze and onto his belly.”

AnnaLee closed the circle with “The Stealing Poems” by Robert Adamson, which compares the act of theft with sex:

It’s the way you feel
as you do it
it’s not good
or bad or anything
and you lose
the feeling as soon as
it’s over
it’s like sex a lot
that’s why when you steal
when you’re a kid
it’s so strange
because you haven’t got sex
to compare it to

Have a wonderful summer and we will see you in the fall. And remember to blog with us at onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com. Don’t be shy.

Fall 2017 Schedule:
September 12: Poetry and Commemoration
October 17: Poetry and Punctuation
November 14: Poetry and Power
December 12: Poetry and Windows

Abigail Burnham Bloom and
AnnaLee Wilson

The One Page Poetry Circle is sponsored by the New York Public Library and is open to all. St. Agnes Branch Library is handicap accessible.