Over the past few months I have been approached by several different groups to speak to their members about Poetry. In the past I have usually found a theme, such as Poems and Music of the First World War, Seasons of the Year and so on. But recently I decided on the theme of ‘Nostalgia’. I have started the sessions with asking the audience what were the earliest rhymes they remember from childhood, and of course it is usually Nursery Rhymes.
I have then persuaded them all to join in with, say, Humpty Dumpty, to see if they all remember it correctly. (It was most amusing on one occasion to have a room full of Rotarians out-doing one another with gusto.) After running through a few well-known rhymes, it was cheering that people are only too keen to join in. We then discover rhymes which meant most to them as children and who it was that sang or spoke them. Sometimes it was the rhymes associated with Playground Games such as skipping or ‘dipping’ that came to the surface, and then it is interesting that folk from various parts of the country use slightly different words.
I always had with me my very old well worn ‘The World of Christopher Robin’ and was asked to read poems such as ‘The King’s Breakfast’ or ‘Disobedience’ about James James Morrison Morrison Wetherby George Dupree – one lady even said that she called her son James since she loved the poem as a child.
Moving on to the poems learnt in school was very interesting: almost every group came up with Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, Tennyson’s ‘Lady of Shalott’ or ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’ or ‘Cargoes’. Sometimes I was asked to read a poem so that they could try to remember and join in, which they enjoyed. One book which every group found interesting was my copy of ‘The Nation’s Favourite Poems’ – a BBC publication of 1996 – which lists 100 poems which were chosen by the public and printed in order of preference.
Every time we had a guessing game as to which was the favourite, and amazingly each group got it right – ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling – and of course that led on to which was No. 2 and so on. I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed these sessions and loved the fact that the audiences have been so happy to join in.