Poetry Appreciation

Hate poetry? Come along and find out why you might be wrong. Love poetry? This is the perfect group for you. We enjoy reading and discussing a wide range of poetry and poets. This is not a taught course and you will have the opportunity to lead if you want.

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 well-known is as welcome as the unfamiliar. We can also look at types of poem or the way poets write, things like rhythms and rhymes, lyrics. Equally we can explore subjects, love to hate, war, or landscape. It all depends on what you (plural) offer.

Dates: We meet at Alton Community Centre on these Fridays in 2023-24 (from the Blue Book): Sep 15th, Oct 20th, Nov 10th, Dec:8th, Jan 12th, Feb 9th, Mar 8th, Apr 12th, and May 10th. Please check which room we are in on the Room Board by Reception when you arrive.

Approach: 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 have volunteered to lead. They will choose the poems they want to explore and send copies to me (Steve). I will type them up and email copies to everyone in the group.

The first person will give a brief (5 minute) introduction to the poet/type. We then read each poem once or twice around the group and discuss the poet/type and the poems. After about fifty minutes we will move on to the second poet/type. 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 want to.

At the end of a meeting: We aim to leave 5-10 minutes at the end. Two other 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.

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


A few quotations about poetry, in case they are of interest:

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

Poetry is the music of consciousness – Don Paterson

Sometimes when I write poetry I wonder // if what I’m doing is really writing // my own name over and over // like a kid with a sparkler – Anna Woodford

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

I have a new method of poetry. All you’ve got to do is look over your notebooks and think of anything that comes into your head, especially the miseries. Then arrange lines of two, three or four words each, don’t bother about sentences . . .   – Allen Ginsberg

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

I am of the opinion that we ladies are not apt to be good poets especially if we cant spell – Lady Elizabeth Germain

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

This Piece of Poetry is Meant to do Harm – Song Title by The Ark

Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth – Philip Larkin

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


There are things that a poet should know, said the fox:

1) It is always later than it actually is and

2) Never let a dog help you with a jigsaw puzzle. – Bill Lewis