Dear Upper Sixth,
I was thinking that if you wanted to make your life a little easier, it would be a sensible and brilliant idea to write about a poem for your Further and Independent Reading coursework, as opposed to Dombey and Son.
Lord Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib
Robert Burns, To a Mouse
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market
Philip Larkin, Toads
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
War Poetry – Anything, really, but I was thinking in particular of WW1 poets and the use of natural metaphors, particularly, in poems such as The Falling Leaves (Margaret Postgate-Cole); Spring Offensive (Wilfred Owen); In Flanders Fields (John McCrae) and Spring in War-Time (Edith Nesbitt).
W. S. Merwin, The Last One
Ted Hughes, The Thought Fox
John Donne, To his Coy Mistress
John Keats – any of the narrative poems: Isabella and the Pot of Basil; The Eve of St. Agnes; Lamia; La Belle Dame sans Merci…
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale
Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander
Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market, Cousin Kate
Margaret Atwood, Murder in the Dark
Aesthetics and Value
Anything by any of the Poet Laureates – Ted Hughes, Andrew Motion, Carol Ann Duffy…
Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist
Dylan Thomas, Do not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach
Elizabeth Barratt-Browning, How do I Love Thee?
John Milton, Lycidas (This was referred to by Mark Pattison as ‘the high watermark of English poesy’. It also doubles up as a good intro. to the pastoral genre.)
Benjamin Zephaniah, Dis Poetry
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan (which he wrote in his sleep! (Sort of.) Coleridge himself regarded the poem as more of a ‘psychological curiosity’ than anything of any particular ‘poetic merit.’)
John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn (Keats regarded ‘negative capability’ as the ‘hallmark’ of ‘true’ literature – a concept explored in this ode.)
The following two books are brilliant introductions to poesy, what it is, and how it works, etc.:
Ruth Padel, 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem (ISBN 0-099-42915-2)
Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled (ISBN 978-0-09-950934-9)
And if you’re struggling with the lit. crit. thing, this website is particularly helpful:
How terribly exciting for you.