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What poetry did you enjoy as a teenager?

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I'm just wondering what kind of poetry people enjoyed in their younger years, as sometimes I find it hard to think what to recommend to the teeny-weeny's in my library. All that I can think I enjoyed around the late teens was Alice Walker and Seamus Heaney. :confused:

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Cargoes by John Masefield comes to mind as a favourite piece I learnt at school. I still love it too.


One I always remembered as 'The boy stood on the burning deck' which is of course the first line of Casabianca by Felicia Hemans always comes to mind because of its drama and ease of access rhythmically.


And what about Matilda and Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc. I learnt Matilda for a competition when part of the school's Verse Speaking Choir - bet they don't have those nowadays - or do they? :thinking:

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This reminds me of the year that the Higher English exam contained an essay question on "a poem which was relevant to teenagers" - a classic catch-all question, as you just have to argue for the relevance of your chosen poem.

When interviewed for a national newspaper's exam round up, teachers in one school bemoaned the fact that this question didn't suit what they had taught, as "we don't do any poetry which is relevant to teenagers".



Yes, sorry, not helpful. I suspect that a lot of poetry is best enjoyed, by young people, when a skilled teacher helps them to reflect on it. But then, I would say that. Carol Ann Duffy is going down well with kids just now. I used to like Norman McCaig - Assisi is maybe quite accessible. And WW1 poetry? But most of what I can think of needs to be made accessible by good teaching - or requires a thoughtful reader who will read and reflect.

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I liked A A Milne's poetry when I was younger, and Dr Seuss when I was much younger. Then in teenagedom I found Sylvia Plath* and I guess that was that. At school, 'poetry' pretty much meant Dulce Et Decorum Est. The boys in the school I work in have recently enjoyed doing Unto Us by Spike Milligan.


* and Emily Dickinson of course.

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When I was a teenager my favourite was Keats - especially Ode on a Grecian Urn, although these days I'm not so interested and I really can't abide the lines:


"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" - that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.



John Cooper Clarke - perhaps a sign of my rebellious side

Me too! :D

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When I was a teenager my favourite was Keats - especially Ode on a Grecian Urn, although these days I'm not so interested and I really can't abide the lines:


"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" - that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I was a hopeless romantic as a teenager and adored Keats... and still do.


Squirls, do you like the lines better when given the alternate grammar, that puts the second of the inverted commas at the end of the last line, so that the urn seems to be saying the entire two lines to us? I think there was a discussion about it some time ago...


But I like the lines the way you've typed them because there#s a hint of ironz to them that way, with the speaker seeming to acknowledge that we know better.


Could go on about Keats for hours....

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Squirls, do you like the lines better when given the alternate grammar, that puts the second of the inverted commas at the end of the last line, so that the urn seems to be saying the entire two lines to us?

Oh I don't know Kimberley, I didn't know about the alternate grammar and so hadn't thought about it.


I guess I was turned off those lines after reading about Keats complaining that Newton had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow after discovering the prismatic colours. This phrase seemed to be to part of the same way of thinking - i.e. just enjoy the beauty, that's all you need - don't bother to inquire further.

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Thank you for all the suggestions, that will be very helpful for me, some names I know and some I don't!


e.g. I'd forgotten Sylvia Plath completely, when coming up with big names in poetry to have in the collection.


Spike Milligan I have but sadly I don't think kids have heard of him now, something to address!


Whether or not poetry has to be taught to be enjoyed......that is a difficult one! I sometimes think the in depth dissection of a poem takes away some of the fun, it used to make me feel like poems are puzzles to be solved - what did the author really mean? - instead of just reading and responding emotionally, maybe not on 5 different levels but just as valid, IMHO.


This just reminded me of this interview with Roger McGough and his daughter in the Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago. His daughter Izzy said

One time I was in drama class at school and we had to work on a poem written by Dad. We had to write an essay about the author and to interpret what he was saying in the poem, so I just got him to do it. But the teacher interpreted the poem in a completely different way to my dad, who wrote it, so I didn’t get a very good mark!
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As a five-year old, I was fond of reciting a short poem about Buffalo Billy who had a garden accident.


As an 11-year-old I recall reading an Hilaire Beloc item about a polo pony at a school concert.


That just about covers it, I think.


My 4 children all enjoyed a poem called, "When Daddy Fell Into The Pond."

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As a five-year old, I was fond of reciting a short poem about Buffalo Billy who had a garden accident.
I think I have to ask for further details.


The first poem I ever learned, long before my teens, and my party piece for years was A Man of Words. It has remained embedded in my memory long after large sections of poems learned more recently have disappeared beyond recall.


There were some favourite poems in my teens - if I could just remember which :thinking:

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Megustaleer, if you wanted details about the Buffalo Billy poem itself you can't have them, not on a public website. Use your imagination. That was a great poem for 5-year-olds, but when I was a teenager I loved Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, by Harry Graham.

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  • 1 month later...

I remember being very fascinated with Robert Browning in my early adulthood. The Victorian period was a time of flux for poetry since it was largely the age of the novel. Most Victorian poets were highly experimental and people still turned to the Romantics like Wordsworth and Byron, who remained popular. Then along came Browning who alarmed his Victorian readers with psychological – and sometimes psychopathic – realism, wild formal experiments, and harsh-sounding language. But, it is these qualities, however, that make his poems like My Last Duchess so attractive to today’s readers. Read it and you will value the raw power of Browning’s writing more than some of the feel-good flowery Romantic poems.

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Agreed. Browning is a master of the dramatic monologue and could be seen as the harbinger of the modern novel. The interior view is what most of us relish in contemporary fiction - how it feels to be a a gay, a lush, a murderer or just 'an ordinary bloke.'


Footnote. I think the Victorians did like Tennyson more than a bit, though they were chary about 'Maud.'

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  • 3 weeks later...

All the war poetry, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke etc.


Also, I was one of those teenagers who found it hard to fit in, and the following by Edgar Allen Poe really struck a chord with me.




From childhood's hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen

As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow; I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone;

And all I loved, I loved alone.

Then- in my childhood, in the dawn

Of a most stormy life- was drawn

From every depth of good and ill

The mystery which binds me still:

From the torrent, or the fountain,

From the red cliff of the mountain,

From the sun that round me rolled

In its autumn tint of gold,

From the lightning in the sky

As it passed me flying by,

From the thunder and the storm,

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view.


I think many teenagers going through the "nobody understands me!" phase would relate to this poem!


The romantic in me loved Sir Philip Sydney's "The Bargain"


My true love hath my heart and I have his,

By just exchange, one for the other given etc etc

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  • 2 months later...

Aged fourteen,Milton and Dryden rocked my world.

Endless quotes from the text to my Mother who looked on bemused as her second son walked around listening to Motorhead and Classical Music,supporting CND and Greenpeace whilst yearning for a V8 muscle car.

Thankfully I know what I want now.More Shelley and Byron,please.

I think.

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  • 3 months later...

I was quite lucky as my father loved poetry and as a child used to read us silly poems by Lewis Carroll, eg Jabberwocky and The Walrus & The Carpenter. As a teenager I discover Robert Frost (from reading The Outsiders by S E Hinton) and Robert Browning (from reading The Dark Tower by Stephen King). In school we did War Poems of course and that led me onto other poets. My favourite of those became Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfrid Owen - it possibly helped having a Latin teacher in school so we could understand the last line. We also did Shakespeare's plays and I was bought the complete works (by my father), so then discovered his sonnets. I absolutely love Sonnet XXIX, especially the last two lines, and it has remained a firm favourite.


If I had to say which poems I read the most of as a teenager though, it would probably be the War Poems.

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