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I recently read a wonderful post about the power and importance of poetry, citing a particular example that had literally changed the reader’s outlook on life.

http://reachingforpicchu.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/how-chicago-poems-changed-my-life/

Inspired by the post, I made a promise…that I would post a top ten of my favourite poems…not realising how challenging, if deliciously indulgent and enjoyable, that would be.

But I like a good challenge, and I LOVE poetry, so here’s my top ten … which applies today, and which is likely to grow and change and morph by the day as new poems and poets enter my life and share their unique gifts with me. What I notice though, is how the poems I truly love have burrowed deep into the centre of my soul and come with a whole story and picture surrounding them – where I was when I read them, what I saw, heard, felt as I drank in those words for the first time…

So here’s my top ten, but not in any particular order…that’s asking too much:-)

I’m going to begin with a couple from childhood first, poems I can still recite with great joy and playful celebration even now – precious because they introduced me to the power and beauty of poetry.

When a Knight Won his Spurs (the Allan Ahlberg version)

http://community.tes.co.uk/tes_personal/f/35/p/524/710369.aspx

Naughty, funny, memorable (because I know the melody of the hymn version too…)…and just darn clever! Ahlberg is a master, and Please Mrs Butler is another fave, but When A Knight takes the biscuit.

Here’s a taste, but follow the link for the whole thing…

When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old,
He was – ‘Face the front, David Briggs, what have you been told?’
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his – ‘Hey!
Is that a ball I can see? Put – it – a – way.’

The King’s Breakfast by A.A. Milne

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/241532

Classic! Just CLASSIC!!! A.A. Milne can truly do no wrong…and here’s a taste…

The King asked the Queen    
The Queen, and
     The Queen asked
     The Dairymaid:
     “Could we have some butter for
     The Royal slice of bread?”
     The Queen asked
     The Dairymaid,
     The Dairymaid
     Said, “Certainly,
     I’ll go and tell
     The cow
     Now
     Before she goes to bed.”
Be a Butterfly by Grace Nichols
I was introduced to this as part of my A Level English course, and it’s been precious to me ever since – which is saying something, because there’s nothing can take the magic out of poetry for me quicker than having to analyse it to death. But this, takes full control of my heart strings and breathes hope into me deeply…

Don’t be a kyatta-pilla
Be a butterfly
old preacher screamed
to illustrate his sermon
of Jesus and the higher life

rivulets of well-earned

sweat sliding down
his muscly mahogany face
in the half-empty school church
we sat shaking with muffling
laughter
watching our mother trying to save
herself from joining the wave

What If by Benjamin Zephaniah

http://www.rightsandwrongs.co.uk/poetry-books-and-culture/46-general/15457-poetry-books-a-culture-q-what-if-q-benjamin-zephaniah

For the me that likes to occasionally don a political hat…inspired of course by Kipling’s If. Here’s a taste:

If you can keep your money when governments about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust your neighbour when they trust not you
And they be very nosy too;
If you can await the warm delights of summer
Then summer comes and goes with sun not seen,
And pay so much for drinking water
Knowing that the water is unclean.

If I Should Have a Daughter by Sarah Kay

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com//?s=wow&search=Go

I called my post about this poem ‘Wow’ – featured on TED, you MUST check this young woman out…spoken word at its most powerful and best.

Ok, now this is getting tricky – only five spots left.

The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

http://www.davidpbrown.co.uk/poetry/oriah-mountain-dreamer.html

This poem surely needs NO introduction you all know it…right? Here’s a taste:

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

Sestina of the Tramp-Royal by Rudyard Kipling

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176147

it’s a stanza near the end that gets me…

It’s like a book, I think, this bloomin’ world,   
Which you can read and care for just so long,   
But presently you feel that you will die   
Unless you get the page you’re readin’ done,   
An’ turn another—likely not so good;   
But what you’re after is to turn ’em all.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/invictus/

A favourite of Nelson Mandela, helped to get him through his 20 years plus imprisoned on Robben Island – that’s a pretty serious recommendation:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

Leaving and Leaving You by Sophie Hannah

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/leaving-and-leaving-you/

So human, so bitter sweet…here’s a taste:

When I leave you postcode and your commuting station,
When I left undone all the things we planned to do
You may feel you have been left by association
But there is leaving and leaving you.

Ouch, this is hard, I have five at least on my hand written potentials list, but just one place left…ok, deep breath, here goes:

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623#sthash.XYSS4WS2.dpuf

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623

For the woman in me – utterly soul stirring. Here’s a taste:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

but still, like dust, I rise

You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623#sthash.XYSS4WS2.dpufSo folks, that’s my current top ten, hope you enjoyed them, and let me know if any of them make it into your own most precious poems…
You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623#sthash.XYSS4WS2.dpuf
You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623#sthash.XYSS4WS2.dpuf
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