Whan that aprill with his shoures soote–Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
John had–“Happiness” by A. A. Milne
John had a
John had a
The poems of A A Milne have spread their tendrils through my family.
You say: delphiniums – and I will imagine blue ones, paired with geraniums (red) and a
You say: King John. And most of my family will follow with ‘was not a good man’.
You say: James. And, my brain will say:
James James–“Disobedience” by A. A. Milne
Weatherby George Dupree
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
1979: International Year of the Child. The year I became an aunt (for the first time).
The year I received a copy of I Like This Poem, edited by Kate Webb.
My copy has fallen apart. It has stood me in good stead — with help and inspiration for last-
minute English assignments.
One thing I miss–“Cold Ethyl” by Alice Cooper
Is Cold Ethyl and her skeleton kiss
We met last night
Making love by the refrigerator light
I’m 14. It’s fourth form (a.k.a. Year 10 in Aotearoa New Zealand; 9th grade in US). The
year we ‘rebel’ and try it on.
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.–“The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes
We had a student teacher for English. One that we didn’t like. So, my friend and I said we’d
analyse NSFW songs for our poetry assignment.
And, our actual English teacher (and Head of English) marked the assignments.
It’s also the year I started to speak even less in class. From just a little bit – to barely
opening my mouth.
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,–Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
Poems brought me out.
Poems, and a gentle tutor. Studying ‘The Age of Shakespeare: Poetry’ in my second year of
my BA, and our gentle bear of a tutor would go around the room, asking for a comment on
the poem he has just declaimed. I felt safe enough to challenge myself. To say ONE thing
each week – even the most banal and obvious. And, he didn’t roll his eyes. Not once. Even
when I had psyched myself up to say ‘It’s in iambic pentameter da-DUM da-Dum da-DUM
da-DUM da-DUM.’ I’m sure, on the inside, he was thinking ‘Well, yes. It’s a fucking sonnet!’
From his gentle support, I began to challenge myself – to take jobs that would require me to
talk, to interact.
It was drowsily warm,–“Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack” by Lynley Dodd
with dozens of bees
Through flowers and trees.
Hairy Maclary decided to choose
a space in the shade
for his afternoon
Poetry, as expressed in children’s books and songs, helped pave the way.
Reaching through time and muscle memory, I reconnected to my littler self – sharing the
lessons of preschool TV watching – and the songs and rhymes I learnt so many years ago.
But, where did my home feature? Where were the poets – especially Māori and Pasifika?
A verse, painted on the side of a building, introduced me to Hone Tuwhare.
I can hear you–“Rain” by Hone Tūwhare
making small holes
in the silence
And children’s books introduced me to Joy Cowley’s psalms. Even for an agnostic — these
deeply-rooted Catholic psalms resonate. They are also catholic, in the sense of being
I don’t know what you are going through.–“Grief” by Joy Cowley, from Aotearoa Psalms
I’ve had grief in my life, but this is your grief,
your pain, and I am on the outside.
And now. Now I know more and try to do better. I am working to decolonise my brain and
reactions. As a child of colonisers, I have to unsettle myself. To confront beliefs and thoughts
Hey James,–“250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in New Zealand” by Tusiata Avia, from Savage Coloniser
in the white wig
in that big Endeavour
sailing the blue, blue water
like a big arsehole
F… YOU, BITCH.
I glide out-“Bicycle Ride” by Sonya Sones from Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy
onto the fresh paved road
and pedal hard
until the wind
lifts my hair
off my shoulders
and a trap door
at the back of my skull
letting the gloom
In times of joy. In times of grief. In times of depression – poems etched into my soul, help me
ground myself and find my way through.
And that–“Happiness” by A A Milne
~ Anne, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland / Aotearoa New Zealand.
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Anne is a reader, rather than a writer, with an overwhelming love of children’s picture books. She has been a children’s librarian for many years, and has an MA in English, specializing in pre-1500 material. She has read hardly any classics, unless you count Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales. She blogs regularly at The Madness of Hamsters.