Monday, 21 March 2011

Poems Prayers and other things that Denver Liked (Saravanan Mani)

So here we have the Top10 poems that I would like to use for a literature class. I am going to include the poem, a link to it and a short write up to it. Thought of posting the whole poem, but that's just trolling. So... Lezz Dew eett!!!

10. Tyger, 1794 - William Blake
The man who created a trend quarter of a century before it really became the in-thing features on my list. This is a simple poem that carries a profound meaning. It is evocative in its imagery and it impressed me nearly a decade ago and it continues to impress me today! This poem is suited for children from Sec 2 & 3.

Call me didactic, but this poem with its clearcut narrative and positive message is something that could be used to teach children about values of life. Introducing them to one of the most influential poets of the 20th century is not a bad coincidence. This poem is well suited for children from Sec 1 & 2.

8. Count That Day Lost, 1879, George Eliot
We have the first woman poet in our top ten, ladies and gentlemen. Breaking in at number 8 is the versatile Mary Evans who speaks in simple verse, telling people to basically be nice. Isn't that a good message to deliver to children from sec 1 & 2? I thought so too.

Dylan Thomas' villanelle about his father's passing figures highly in our list for its strong expressive quality and the deep rooted sentiment behind the poem. And of course I am gonna feature the guy who inspired Robert Zimmerman into the legend that he is today. If you ask what, it is not meant for you. The poem, is meant for my sec 2 & 3 children.

6. Imagine, 1971, John Lennon
John Lennon was a cultural phenomenon. He had vision, one must admit, even if we do not exactly agree upon the direction or even the nature of that vision. However, it can be argued that no other writer showcased collective feeling of an age as vocally and emphatically as John Lennon did. For this reason, this trippy song features at number 6 meant for the supposedly mature sec 4 kids.

5. On His Blindness, 1652-55, John Milton
There are poems and there are are poems. Milton, some say, is the greatest English poet that has wielded the pen. That is not my view. But this poem stands out in its powerful brevity as a lament and a rant, not just regarding blindness but about genius as a gift and a curse. And still, this poem is accessible to sec 2 & 3.

4. O Captain, my Captain, 1865, Walt Whitman
Now, I think Dead Poets' Society, despite the strong message and the enjoyable screenplay, is an average film at best with a predictable plot and expected characters (I am gonna get a lot of heat for this, aren't I?). However, in case my children ever want to get on a bench and recite in my honor, they should at least know the right song, ain't it so? That is why my sec 3 & 4 kids will have a long, hard look at this poem.

3. La Belle dame sans Merci, 1820, John Keats
Like Mr T said, "I pity the fool who thought I'll leave this out." This poem has a solid narrative, multiple levels of meaning, excellent images and reasonably strong form. Why, my dear Watson, would I not put this so high up the order? You tell me. Suited for Sec 3 & 4.

2. Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare
Let me take a moment to come to terms with the fact that I, despite my protests, am traditional romantic. Hate it. But it is so! A simple poem, with strong poetic merit and emotional impact, Shakespeare shows that he cares in this poem and that is good enough for me. So it is for Sec 3 & 4 students.

Before I go on to reveal the #1 on our list, I must say, that after quite a bit of looking around, there are just way too many good poems and poets that have been unjustly knocked off the list. I cannot even go to the classic defense of this being "MY" list and this is "MY" preference. Another day and another time, I probably will come up with something completely different. Who knows. I don't. The poems do not represent the many ages of English literature well, nor does it challenge the limits of what "English" literature is. So, take a moment to consider all the others who have not been featured on any lists; but still are worth their weight in gold.

1. Blowin' In the Wind, 1963, Bob Dylan
If there is one song, one writer who can justify knocking out legends and poems from other eras, it is this song FOR ME! Not only because it directed my first step at writing a (terrible) play for the stage, but also because of it remaining relevant after nearly fifty years of being written. It is traditionally seen as a protest song, but it questions the nature of human condition on the whole. I think for this reason, this is a poem that would speak to youngsters in sec 4.

Now you have seen the list; you can complain all you want. I would too, had this been by someone else. So, here's a shoutout to those who'll make it in any list by anyone but just not this list at this day and time: Hughes, Plath (nudge, nudge, irony), Gunn, Larkin, Tagore, Angelou, Coleridge, Kerouac, Donne, (Langston) Hughes, Bradstreet, Owen, Byron, The Brownings, Duffy, Gray, Wordsworth, The Beatles, Tennyson, Shelley, Marlowe, Rich, Rossettis, Burns, Dickinson, Emerson, Ginsberg, Tagore, Poe, Stevens, Sexton, Marvell, Walker, Giovanni, Leonard Cohen and Homer (no, the other one). I am sure I have left out a lot of others.

cheers to all!


  1. Oops, what a coincidence I chose Dylan Thomas too!! By the way, I really like 'On His Blindness' by Milton. Great top 10 sarav. x

  2. I've got the Wallace you let down. AND Shelley AND Tennyson. By the way, "the Brownings" sounds like a machine gun company.

    Double thumbs up for Dylan... Bob Dylan!