This publication complements the landmark BBC series 'My Life in Verse', making our official tie-in anthology available as a paperback. It includes poetry from Yeats, Tennyson, Blake, Larkin, E. E. Cummings, Don Paterson, Roald Dahl, Benjamin Zephaniah and many more.
Within the anthology are poems chosen by actress Sheila Hancock exploring human relationships, most poignantly the death of her husband John Thaw; comic Robert Webb has selected the modern verse that inspires him; musician Cerys Matthews celebrates the rich verse of Wales, Ireland and Scotland; and writer Malorie Blackman chooses the rich variety of multicultural poetry that has spoken to her.
Life in Verse: Journeys through Poetry (ed. Alexis Kirschbaum)
– from Modern Life / Robert Webb
On a Midsummer Eve / Thomas Hardy
I idly cut a parsley stalk,
And blew therein towards the moon;
I had not thought what ghosts would walk
With shivering footsteps to my tune.
I went and knelt, and scooped my hand
As if to drink, into the brook,
And a faint figure seemed to stand
Above me, with the bygone look.
I lipped rough rhymes of chance, not choice,
I thought not what my words might be;
There came into my ear a voice
That turned a tenderer verse for me.
– from Searching for a Voice / Malorie Blackman
London / William Blake
I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear
How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appals,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh,
Runs in blood down Palace walls
But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the marriage hearse
– from Love and Loss / Sheila Hancock
To Autumn / John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting carelessly on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep.
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they/
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too –
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river shadows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.