What is English Poetry?

poetry3I put this piece of Lewis Carroll poetry from Through The looking Glass at the beginning  because the opening lines remind me of exactly what I am doing by creating this web-site at this time~ but the subjects are somewhat different!

‘The time has come the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — And ships  — And sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

And what is Love and what is Grace?
And how may they save the human race.

This one has been with me since I was child and still powerfully calls me!

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and to the sky.
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking.

I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call that may not be denied.
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying
And the flung spray and the blown spume and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the sea again, to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull’s way, the whale’s way where the wind blows like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a fellow rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over

John Masefield, OM, English Poet Laureate (1930 -1967)

 The sea belongs to whoever sits by the shore.
Louis Dudet, 1967

 Next, is part of one that my father used to quote repeatedly and thus had a significant bearing on how I would live my life. Now, mercifully, I have released that early conditioning.

The poem, entitled simply If is quite long and was written in 1895 by 1907 Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling. It is still considered to be the British poem since it symbolizes the beliefs of how Englishmen at that time should live, So I’ve quoted a few lines from the beginning, to set the stage as it were, a couple from later on, and the ending which is the real killer for a small boy anxious to reach man-hood.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too.

This later couplet is set over the doors leading into Wimbledon’s Centre Court: 

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same.

Here, now, is the ending:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son.

 And this saying of Scottish poet Robert Burns suddenly pops into my head:

A man’s a man for a’ that

And here, dated October, 1999, is the first poem that anyone ever wrote just for me.  Maya Heringa was my Tai Chi partner for some ten years before she moved from Ottawa to Nelson, BC. The original of this was surrounded by art-work.

To a dear friend

As we leave our shells behind
On lands so deep and dense
And stream so lightly to the Source
All Beauty, Form and Light

We shall meet again dear friend
In love and joy which surround
The lands, the skies, the stars
That is our home

And as we meet amongst those stars
All Beauty, Form and Grace
We shall smile fulfilled
And say my friend
“What a time we had of it
… on earth …
What a Time we had!”

In 2006, my friend the multi-talented Susan Stenson, who is also a much published poet, put this is in one of her Newsletters, www.bodytalkvictoria.com : 

A Poem for Bill 
Morning, and I remember the moon
above our heads the way the crows
sometimes enter the conversation
right when we need to hear what
they’re saying. Not synchronicity,
but attention. The way a man must
know the dance floor if he wants to be called
a good dancer. A nod, a slight bend in the arm
and the pair floats to the centre of the room.
Bill’s a sailor, a man willing to witness
the world over and over again the way
the wind takes his breath away with his heart.
Each wave, one epiphany after another.
The pain there, too, witnessing, remembering.
After each storm, the sea unravels, waits.
So many voices calling Bill for answers, and
some not calling, but answering, in a language
Bill is willing, ready now, to share.

Next, BC Transit sponsor what they call Poetry in Transit, and that is where, a few years ago, I saw this on a bus. Wouldn’t you just love to meet someone like this, if you haven’t already done so?

I will ride my red motorcycle
Into your heart
Crash land my feelings
All over your doorstep
Fling scented pink flowers
Across your front lawn
Kiss you like pancakes
For breakfast.
~Heidi Greco~

Fifteen years ago this was on a kitchen wall in a friend’s house in Perth, Ontario.

I’ve got the time,
I’ve got time to cry,
I’ve got time to laugh,
I’ve got time to walk,
and I’ve got time to stand and watch.
I’ve got time to bleed.
I’ve got time to heal.
I’ve got time to be there for a friend.
and I’ve got time to give a hug.
I’ve got time to think.
I’ve got time not to.
I’ve got time to feel alone.
and I’ve got time to want to die.
I’ve got time to enjoy and live with laughter.
I’ve got time to dream.
I’ve got time to work.
No one can take away my time.
~ Juliana Gref, Age 14, October 1998 ~

And this one, which touches my soul, came later from a young Swedish friend, Helen Lundgren, whom I met at the 16th International Transpersonal Association conference in Palm Springs in 2004:

Oh beautiful soul, how much you have been missed,
Days and nights I have been waiting for you to show yourself,
How could this have happened?
How could I lose you?
Now, when I feel the closeness again with you,
I do not want to lose one bit of you,
You mean everything to me,
Tell me what you want me to do for you,
Mend your wings….
I do anything for you,
I will go through fire,
I will swim every ocean,
Someone whispered that you are in all things,
Oh, I want to be with you again,
There is nothing else in my world that is more precious,
Oh my wings, oh, my soul.  

Dog teachings

5Rhythms dancer, Rosabel Harris, 2013
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
Take naps.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Be loyal,
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and
nuzzle them gently.

Some years ago I discovered an interesting poet who only used lower-case letters for his name and his poems. This one got my attention as an interesting metaphor for how some humans behave:

when serpents strike for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage —
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age.
when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech owls have not okayed his voice
— and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close.
when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn —  valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude — and march
denounces april as a saboteur
then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until)

And that reminded me of another poem that I found somewhere:

 Tears of a Rose
Even that which is beautiful
Can sometimes bring pain,
So to love from the heart,
Is to invite the rain.
But to reach for the rose,
You must fear not the thorn,
So to love from the soul,
Is to embrace the storm
~Helen Steiner Rice ~

And here is what Charlotte Priest, who served in a coffee shop in the village, shared with me shortly before she left for India in 2011. She is also the person who was instrumental in my Woofing in New Zealand a couple of years ago:

Truth is
what is true to you
but to know that
you must dive
deep deep deep
you must continuously search for
the hidden
the pearl in the shell
the light in the dark
you must continuously change
your perception of reality
you must beg to be broken
you must laugh with abandon
and cry like a crazed wolf at the moon
you must fall into someone’s eyes
and find yourself in their reflection
you must acquire a variety of masks
and guises
yet always stay true to your truth
you must never feel like you’ve found the answer
yet you must believe fervently in what you believe
you must have faith
yet not be blind.
you are to be like a lump of wet clay
at the hands of God
ready to be made and remade
at a whim’s notice
you must fly with the wind
and allow yourself to be carried
and thrown into the fire
and sometimes brought to the light
yet above all you must love
if that is all you do
you must love

Next, from the highly talented sixteen year-old who has spent hours assembling material for this web-site; I am hard pressed to know what she isn’t good at:


“Good morning”
Why is it that I wake up every day,
much to my dismay,
to seize that day and take part in something called impossible,
When the only thing I can think is,
“If the sun is not awake
and moving around like fluid water from a lake,
then why should I be?”
Why do I crawl and crumble out of that
warm safe haven of a place I call the bed where I lay each night,
that showed me, yes, I knew,
I had a dream to follow through,
to inspire, and to force myself to gravel through my weirded ways,
just long enough to see the sun peeking over the horizon,
just awake enough to say
“good morning”
So I lay, still in the shadows of a day,
waiting to be played like records behind an old man’s couch
still waiting for the chance to breathe in that fresh air
we all take for granted.
The circle that life provides us
gives people life and death
like policemen give speeding tickets to people
wanting more than their already dare-devil reality.
Its a game we play,
to wake up every day
and not know whether today is the day you have a chance
to make a difference.
You wait in suspense for something to happen
only to realize that nothing will happen unless you get up,
get dressed,
and set out to succeed like Lewis and Clark
on their greatest day of discovery.
So again,
I ask myself why?
Why the trouble of wondering what could or couldn’t be
in a land of pure possibility
when I could just lay down and sleep with my arms across my chest
like a dead man rests,
not caring about tomorrow.
Then the better part of me,
opens my eyes
and I realize,
I only live to bid the world
“Good Morning”.
~ Kaira Summer Ayer, 2013 ~

Lastly, here is an unattributed poem that I found on the inside cover of a restaurant menu the first time I was in Auckland all those years ago. I think it is a good metaphor for life. And it fits well with the seascape on my Home page.


Day after day, we watch the receding horizon,
alone in the world of water and sky;
by night as stars pass overhead, we see the earth’s rotation;
each dawn the old voyage begins afresh,
each dusk we drag the nameless vessel ashore, and press a foot in
the sand.