Cellarostian Poetry

I came across this interesting article from the Spectator:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/04/what-ive-learned-reciting-poems-in-the-street/

This was seven months into my career as a poetry performer. During that time I’d memorised 150 poems and taken them to the streets. I recited to young and old, black and white, male and female, in East Anglia and London. Rejection is my most common experience. ‘Do you have a favourite poem?’ I ask and most often all this elicits is a ‘Sorry’ or ‘You’re asking the wrong person, mate.’ I’ve had a few more menacing responses but I’m yet to be assaulted.

Somehow, though, provided I don’t forget my lines, I earn money. My rate works out at around £12 an hour — considerably more than the minimum wage. When I’m successful, my performances are appreciated like a magic trick. People are shocked and gratified if I can recite the poem they name. I can now do all the most popular ones: Kipling’s ‘If —’, Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’ (‘Stop all the clocks…’), Larkin’s ‘This Be The Verse’, Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, Poe’s ‘The Raven’, Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’. I built this list up slowly over months of practice simply by asking. If three people mentioned the same poem on three separate occasions, I learnt it.

So, Cellarostians, do you have a favorite poem? What is the Cellar-Door poetical canon?

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8 thoughts on “Cellarostian Poetry

  1. Robert Frost’s “The Death of a Hired Man” has had the most impact on me, I would say. It’s sobering when it comes to the 8th Commandment.

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  2. “The Curator” by Millar Williams
    “The Figured Wheel” by Robert Pinsky
    “Digging” by Seamus Heaney
    “The Destruction of Sennacherib” by Lord Byron
    “The Fool’s Prayer” by Edward Roland Sill
    “The Man He Killed” by Thomas Hardy
    “Jesse James”
    “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke

    A start anyway…

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  3. Original post reminds me of the anecdotes about Russian poet Joseph Brodsky making his Columbia graduate students memorize thousands of lines of poetry for his class, and the general rebellion to it each semester. He had been banished on an enforced exile to the Arctic by the government and had basically subsisted on the memorized poetry in his own mind. He wanted the students to have the poetry they studied as part of the very fabric of their person.

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