A 'How-Not-To-Style-Your-Life' Guide

Sunday, 1 May 2016

10 Poems You Need To Read

I've always been a tad sceptical when it comes to compiling lists of my 'favourite' things. I have quite a fickle personality and my tastes have an annoying habit of erratically changing more often than I'd like. In all honesty, this is one of the reasons why I can't bring myself to get a tattoo, because I know it'd only take me a matter of weeks before I'd want to change it!

A few weeks ago, however, my friend Yvette uploaded a YouTube video where she talked all about her top ten favourite movies and it really got me thinking about what I'd include on my list. As I drafted and redrafted, I started to realise the extent of the sentimentality that I've superimposed onto art and literature over the years. So, instead of writing a list of my favourite what-have-you, I thought I'd share a few of the things that, as a 19 year old on the cusp of adulthood, really resonate with me.

Poetry is by far my favourite aspect of literature, so it seems like an appropriate way to start this 'mini-series' of posts, if you will. So, in no particular order (kind of), here are ten poems that I'd recommend you give a gander!

1. Tulips - Sylvia Plath (read here)
When I say 'no particular order', this is the only exception. My love for Sylvia Plath is a well documented fact both on and off the internet, so I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that this is how I chose to start this list. Plath is my favourite writer and 'Tulips' is potentially my favourite poem of all time. Ariel is my go-to collection of poetry and 'Tulips' resonates with me like nothing else I've ever read.

Favourite line: "I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions."

2. Giving Up Smoking - Wendy Cope
Cope is the master of parody as well as capturing all facets of human emotion through her unparalleled wit and humour. 'Giving Up Smoking' is the kind of poem that you will memorise instantly and never forget, as well as being guaranteed to resonate with any smoker, past or present.

Favourite line: The entire bloody poem, there are only eight to choose from.

3. Rules and Regulations - Lewis Carroll (read here)
This has to be one of the most satisfying poems I have ever read aloud. Carroll's mastery of the English language truly knows no bounds, from the nonsense of 'Jabberwocky' to his command of rhyme in this poem.

Favourite line: "Shut doors behind you, / (Don't slam them, mind you.)"

4. Pygmalion's Bride - Carol Ann Duffy (read here)
'Pygmalion's Bride' still holds the title of being the best poem about faking an orgasm that I have ever read. ...Granted, I haven't read that many, but I can't imagine many poems come close to trumping this one. The collection that this poem is taken from, The World's Wife, is fantastic and is a must-read for anyone who wrote off Duffy as a pain in the arse that had to be dealt with at GCSE. Duffy is hands down one of the most accomplished poets of our time.

Favourite line: "My heart was ice, was glass"

5. Sonnet 130 'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun' - William Shakespeare (read here)
It wouldn't be an English student's list of good poems without a bit of Shakespeare, now would it? Whilst most favour 'shall I compare thee to an overrated poem?', the rejection of idealised love in favour of loving someone faults and all in sonnet 130 is a far more powerful sentiment, in my eyes.

Favourite line: "I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound"

6. i like my body when it is with your - E.E. Cummings
In my opinion, this poem perfectly captures the beauty and fragility of love and intimacy. There's really nothing more that I can say on the matter.

Favourite line: "i like kissing this and that of you"

7. Life Story - Tennessee Williams (read here)
This poem, to me, is almost like a sequel to 'i like my body when it is with your'. Once the initial romance and innocence fades, you can't help but notice the innate selfishness behind our base desires. That, and the ending of this poem is fantastic.

Favourite line: The ending, which I won't spoil.

8. Love Songs in Age - Philip Larkin (read here)
To quote Kyla La Grange, "Larkin is the master in this poetry of fear", and it was this lyric that first led me to his poetry. Larkin is the king of pessimism, and if you're familiar with 'This Be The Verse', that won't come as a surprise. 'Love Songs in Age' captures the poignant transience of love as well as the power that music has in capturing our emotions throughout our lives.

Favourite line: "the unfailing sense of being young / Spread out like a spring-woken tree"

9. Porphyria's Lover - Robert Browning (read here)
'Porphyria's Lover', to me, is the kind of poem that you read in school and never truly understand until you revisit it a few years later. The standard process of reading this poem tends to go something like "Okay, okay, cool, yes, oka-wait WHAT?! WHERE DID THAT COME FROM. Seriously?! Oh look it's over."

Favourite line: "I listened with heart fit to break"

10. Dover Beach - Matthew Arnold (read here)
This final poem is an homage to my truly wonderful A-level English teacher who is the reason that I'm studying English at university. This is her favourite poem and I'll never forget when she read it aloud to our class and said how she wanted to read it at her wedding but was told by her husband and friends that it was slightly unsuitable. Thank you for incomparably shaping my life, Gabi. I really owe you one.

And that makes ten! All of these poems really mean something to me and I really hope you guys enjoy a few of them too. Thank you so much for reading and be sure to tell me what your favourite poems are in the comments below!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Plath's poems are wonderful! :)

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  4. I have followed your poem recommendations Oliver I must admit I have never been disappointed I will definitely check this poems out and recommend a couple of friends to read this poems.

  5. I was surfing net and fortunately came across this site and found very interesting stuff here. Its really fun to read. I enjoyed a lot. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information.Read This Guide

  6. I am definitely going to read these poems once I get some time. For now I am busy with providing the best ERP software in UAE. Excited to read these.

  7. I love this book, Rules and Regulations. Thank you for adding this to the list. But, I just started doing online e commerce business training and it just can’t let me do the things I love. I miss sitting on my balcony, watching sunsets while reading intriguing books.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.


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