Yesterday was National Poetry Day, and for once, by glorious coincidence, I didn’t miss it. I didn’t exactly remember (even if the theme of the day was remembrance), but I posted a chunk of William Cowper’s mock-epic, The Task. I think I can claim it.
I don’t often use poetry in lessons. Very very rarely, in fact. Twice, that I recall. There used to be a supplementary lesson on a fairly obscene D.H. Lawrence poem called The Snake in an ancient book called Nexus; and I once put something together on The Tyger (the text of which is posted here) by William Blake.
I tend to think that reading poetry – good poetry – is about as hard as a foreign language can get, and also highly particular, or local, to that language, akin to a dialect or argot. And there are questions of relevancy and declining taste. So, not much poetry. But I know that some of my colleagues favour its use; they would talk about its rhythmic quality, the value of recitation, and the memorability of imagery.
So in honour of English poetry (described by Jorge Luis Borges and one of the two great literatures of the world – he declined to say what the other was), here is the American poet, Allen Ginsberg, doing an extraordinary thing with Blake’s Tyger, to a hurdy-gurdy accompaniment of his own devising.