Poetry Appreciation

Welcome to The Alton U3A Poetry Appreciation group.

We aim to explore poetry in all its forms and styles; there are no set boundaries. Strictly structured styles are as welcome as unstructured; song lyrics are as welcome as those poems which read as prose.

We aim to explore poetry as a way of interpreting of the worlds that we do or don’t live in. There are no set boundaries. Chaucerian poetry is as welcome as the Postmodern, the High Victorian as the Georgian, the Metaphysical as the Romantic. The well-known is as welcome as the unfamiliar. Go with what you love – or hate.


R S Thomas possibly captures our perspective when he writes:

I have seen the sun break through

to illuminate a small field

for a while, and gone my way

and forgotten it. But that was the

pearl of great price, the one field that had

treasure in it. I realise now

that I must give all that I have

to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning

aside like Moses to the miracle

of the lit bush, to a brightness

that seemed as transitory as your youth

once, but is the eternity that awaits you.


Catch the moment – and catch it in the context of the poetry of your life.


We meet at Alton Community Centre on these Fridays in 2021-22 (from the Blue Book): Sep 10th, Oct 8th, Nov 12th, Dec:10th, Jan 14th, Feb 11th, Mar 11th, Apr 8th, and May 13th. Please check which room we are in on the Room Board by Reception when you arrive.


This is not a taught course; it is a collaborative one. Each month we will look at two contrasting poets or “types” of poetry written in (or translated into) English.

Typical meetings:

Two people will each bring along an A4 handout. The first will give a brief (5-10 minute) introduction to the poet/type. We then read each poem once or twice around the group and discuss the poet and the poems. After about forty-five minutes we will have a break for a cup of tea (if wanted) and then we will move on to the second poet/type. If you are not leading, you are encouraged to bring along one or two poems, on an A5 sheet, by the same poet/type to share. You can contribute as much or as little to this as you wish and you certainly do not have to read if you do not wish to.

At the end of a meeting:

We aim to leave 5-10 minutes at the end. Two people volunteer to lead the next month’s half sessions and they choose, at this time, which poets/types they will cover at the next session. You might wish to think about this in advance. Over the course of the year we hope that everyone who wishes to lead will be able to do so at least once. There is absolutely no pressure on you to lead if you do not want to.


Keeping up to date:

I (Steve) am also planning to send an email to everyone enrolled each month so that, if you miss a session, you will know what we will be covering next time.


Whilst this may appear to be quite structured, we are totally at liberty to vary it as we wish.


Poetry is the chiselled marble of language; it’s a paint-spattered canvas – but the poet uses words instead of paint, and the canvas is you. Poetic definitions of poetry kind of spiral in on themselves.                                                  Mark Flanagan

The new American poetry [is] writing whatever comes into your head as it comes, poetry returned to its origin                                                           Jack Kerouac

I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.                                                                                                Bob Dylan

An aroma of holiness still clings to the title ‘poet’, as it does to the titles ‘saint’ and ‘hero’, both of which are properly reserved for the dead.                Robert Graves

Differences between men and women poets are best seen when the poets are bad . . . but neither odd lives nor sex really signify, it is a person’s poems that stand to be judged                                                                                           Stevie Smith

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.             Rita Dove

Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline. You’ve got to go so far so fast in such a small space; you’ve got to burn away all the peripherals.              Sylvia Plath

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.             T.S. Eliot

You probably won’t think it’s any good . . . it’s the sort of poetry you can understand                                                                                                Educating Rita

Poetry is that stuff in books which doesn’t quite reach the margins.            Anon

Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth              Philip Larkin

This Piece of Poetry is Meant to do Harm                                    Song Title

It is now 5 o’clock. We have our haircutter below stairs, William is reading The Leech-Gatherer to him.                                                        Dorothy Wordsworth

Don’t shackle poetry with your definitions.                                    Mark Flanagan


For more information, please contact Steve via our contact page here.