welcome, readers, writers and revellers

This is the blog of Oxford University Poetry Society, where you can get up-to-date news about our upcoming events and poetry readings, dates of poetry workshops, read contributors' poetry, and try a hand at writing your own...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Hello poetic Oxonians!

This term we have a very exciting programme of readings planned:

WEEK 3 (30/10): Paul Farley (winner of Whitbread Award and twice a Forward Prize winner)
WEEK 4 (06/11): Todd Swift
WEEK 5 (13/11): Colette Bryce (winner of the National Poetry Competition in 2003)
WEEK 6 (20/11): Open Mic
WEEK 7 (27/11): Matthew Hollis (poetry editor at Faber and Faber)
WEEK 8 (04/12): Daljit Nagra (author of the acclaimed 'Look We Have Coming to Dover!')

The first of these will take place at Christ Church in Lecture Room 1 (actually a very cosy room despite the name) on Thursday 30th at 8.30pm. Free for members/ £3 to join on the night. Arrive between 8 and 8.30pm to get good seats/soak up the poetic atmosphere (there will be lots of this).


If you want to do some extra clicking, you can watch a video of Paul doing a tour of Tate Liverpool, talking about the Liverpool he grew up in and 1964 as "a pop cultural year zero" here:

or listen to him reading some of his poems at the wonderful Poetry Archive:



Hope you can make it!



Find the event on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=14484989969

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Roses are red, / violets are blue, / some poems rhyme...

My resolution for this term is to write more rhyming poetry. I thought, most of the poems I like most rhyme; so why doesn't the poetry I write? Well the first reason must be that it is so hard. But practice makes better! So that is my task - one poem every week that rhymes.

Trying to write something that rhymed made me realise that this means I have to take a little more account of form. This is something I don't know much about (I'm not an English student so hopefully that partially excuses me). I was therefore wondering if anyone had any suggestions about cool forms that I might try? Preferably fairly short, like less than fifty lines. Please tell me in the comments!

On the subject of forms, I love this self-referential poem (by Anthony Hecht? Or maybe not?), which once caused me a whole summer of attempting to write double dactyl poems:

Dactyls in dimeter,
Verse form with choriambs
(Masculine rhyme):
One sentence (two stanzas)
Challenges poets who
Don't have the time.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

On a Lighter Note...


Monday, 13 October 2008

Peacefulness with death

my friend went to a funeral this weekend of a former friend who committed suicide.

i find words are often inadequate at the best of times, but in this kind of situation, to speak of death or offer consolation in any way - pretty pants really..
but it was in this kind of situation that words first really spoke to me. 12 years ago, my first personal encounter with death, when daisy the dog died and made me feel empty and kind of quiet inside. but our chaplain read out this (poem one) by bishop brent and it was the first time poetry seemed to work.

since then, years later - i have been quite into rumi, and came across a poem under the heading 'grief song, praise song: peacefulness with death' which brought me right back to that brent one. i apologise for adding a more melancholy tone, but maybe this kind of peacefulness at evening time is sometimes nice to speak of.

What is dying?
I am standing on the sea shore.
A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon,
and someone at my side says, 'She is gone'.
Gone where?
Gone from my sight, that is all;
she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her;
and just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'She is gone',
there are others who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up a glad shout, 'There she comes'
- and that is dying.


On the day I die, when I'm being carried
toward the grave, don't weep. Don't say

He's gone! He's gone. Death has nothing
to do with going away. The sun sets and

the moon sets, but they're not gone.
Death is a coming together. The tomb

looks like a prison, but it's really
release into union. The human seed goes

down in the ground like a bucket into
the well where Joseph is. It grows and

comes up full of some unimagined beauty.
Your mouth closes here and immediately

opens with a shout of joy there.



A poem by Saul Williams

i presented
my feminine side
with flowers

she cut the stems
and placed them gently
down my throat

and these tu lips
might soon eclipse
your brightest hopes

Friday, 10 October 2008


Poetry is a personal thing; I've always seen it that way at least. I've never been able to write it without rawness, without some emotion bubbling away, pouring out into the words; pouring out like lifeblood into words, harsh words, beautiful words, words of hope and despair.
In a way, of the poems I've written, my favourite are the ones I would never show anyone, and the ones that no-one would ever really want to read. The ones that wouldn't be any good if judged. Yet I love the poems which are one place, one time, one specific time something ugly and beautifully real flowed out.

I've never understood the impulse to write in that way; why one would want to do it. Poetry is aesthetic, it can't be denied. Argue whatever you like, even the most confessional poet expresses themselves in precise and measured tones, or else there is no joy or pleasure in reading it. Yet I sometimes I write poems which agree with this basic rule in no way.
I think it provides a frame; it lets you control and manipulate primal gale-force winds. It's like turning a scream into clay on a potter's wheel.

I find that cathartic.

Friday, 3 October 2008

The Orange

Dear Reader, welcome to the 'blog of the Oxford University Poetry Society. I thought it would be nice to start by getting all the contributors to post a favourite poem, and some words about it. Let's not worry about copyright problems until we actually start getting sued, eh?

I first read this poem when I was first in love with the first girl I was in love with. I read it before I had ever written any poetry, and after I had read it I wanted to write poetry myself, as well as read everything Wendy Cope had written. No romantic poem has ever felt to me more true to the feeling of being in love than this. This poem says, it is possible to be happy.

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange -
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave -
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

by Wendy Cope, from Serious Concerns (1992)