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Photo: Stocksy

BREATHING SPACE

Reading a poem a day will make you see the world differently

Allie Esiri is a firm believer in the power of poetry to give meaning to both the mundane and the celebratory. If you haven’t picked up a volume of poetry since school, this is the perfect place to start

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By Allie Esiri on

Great poems make us more human. They introduce us to new ways of seeing the world. Poetry transports us and forces us to imagine what it might be like to be someone or somewhere completely different. Poetry can be there in time of need – it can help us, save us, hit us in the stomach and make us feel we are not alone. In distraught times, we can find truth, comfort and hope in poetry; in happy times, we turn to poetry to help us express our joy.

Poetry transports us and forces us to imagine what it might be like to be someone or somewhere completely different

My new anthology, A Poem For Every Day Of The Year, contains poems for each and every day of the year. Poetry is there for the everyday, for the little things in life and for the big moments, too – many of us turn to poetry for births, weddings and funerals, perhaps because poetry, as Wordsworth put it, is “felt along the heart”. The great poets manage to express what most of us struggle to be able to put in words. Or, as Coleridge wrote, prose might be the best words, but poetry is “the best words in the best order”.

Poem for a wedding:

'My heart has made its mind up' by Wendy Cope

My heart has made its mind up
And I'm afraid it's you.
Whatever you've got lined up,

My heart has made its mind up
And if you can't be signed up
This year, next year will do.
My heart has made its mind up
And I'm afraid it's you.

Poem for a funeral:

'A Summing Up' by Charles Mackay

I have lived and I have loved;
I have waked and I have slept;
I have sung and I have danced;
I have smiled and I have wept;
I have won and wasted treasure;
I have had my fill of pleasure;
And all of these things were weariness,
And some of them were dreariness,
And all of these things, but two things,
Were emptiness and pain:
And Love – it was the best of them;
And Sleep – worth all the rest of them.

Poem for a birth:

'Infant Joy’ by William Blake

I have no name
I am but two days old.—
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name,
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee;
Thou dost smile.
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.

Poem to send to a friend/teenager/child who has been down:

‘The Land of Blue’, Laura Mucha

Across the valley, it waits for you,
a place they call The Land of Blue.

It’s far and near, it’s strange yet known –
and in this land, you’ll feel alone,
you might feel tears roll down your cheek,
you might feel wobbly, weary, weak.

I know this won’t sound fun to you –
it’s not – this is The Land of Blue.
It’s blue – not gold or tangerine,
it’s dark – not light, not bright or clean.

It’s blue – and when you leave, you'll see
the crackly branches of the tree,
the golden skies, the purring cat,
the piercing eyes, the feathered hat
and all the other things that come
when you escape from feeling glum.

Across the valley, it waits for you,
a place they call The Land of Blue
and going there will help you know
how others feel when they feel low.

To write in a card:

‘The Pleasures of Friendship’ by Stevie Smith

The pleasures of friendship are exquisite,
How pleasant to go to a friend on a visit!
I go to my friend, we walk on the grass,
And the hours and moments like minutes pass.

A Poem For Every Day Of The Year edited by Allie Esiri is published by Pan Macmillan in hardback, priced £16.99

@AllieEsiri

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Breathing Space
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