A while ago, I picked up a book of poetry from an antique bookstore. I often browse in secondhand or antique bookstores for hidden gems among the shelves and on this occasion I found a book called ‘Poems of To-day’ which was published by Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd in 1930. It was such a nice book bound in leather with rough-cut pages, even if tainted by what looked to be a coffee mug stain on the front cover. I flicked through to see if I liked the poems, then deciding that I did, bought it for £2.
Usually old books of poetry can be hit or miss. I’m not fond of Iambic rhythms, preferring free verse over blank verse and I find that I often have to dig for poems that I enjoy reading, in old books. But as a former archaeologist, I have to admit this makes the discovery of a good read among the rubble even more satisfying!
As I was sitting down to my morning coffee, I decided to give this good ol’ mildew-ridden book some attention. It happened to fall open at a poem by Robert Bridges called, ‘I never shall love the snow again‘. If you read it, you might think this a melancholic way to start the day, but I thought the poem quite fitting, not with the weather outside (just because I’m a poet doesn’t mean I have to get melodramatic with it all!) but with the mildew on the cover (but because I’m a poet, allow me to get metaphysical with it all!). Anyway, I suppose poetry trends are ephemeral. Rhyming poetry isn’t as popular these days, at least not with small press print journals and ezines that I’ve read – but is still preferred among my young writers in the workshops I run. Of course, the students are honest that the reason for this is because it saves them having to root around for metaphors or meaning – they can simply take the lazy way out of an assignment and throw together a bunch of rhyming words (I always discourage this as much as possible and instead have them experiment with different forms!) Still, as a writer, I think it’s best to read as much as possible and learn something from even the work you don’t like to read. After all, it can help you gain an outside perspective on your own work.