Yesterday evening I attended my first meeting of the Blackheath Poetry Society. The BPS meets on the second Monday of every other month, rotating the meetings around various members’ homes. As I had anticipated, I was the youngest there- about 35-40 years younger than everyone else, in fact. Nonetheless, I felt welcomed and not unduly out of place (or perhaps I’m just used to feeling out of place and thus don’t feel uncomfortable about it,) and I do hope to return.
The evening was a pleasant, subdued affair, with about 17 people, most (all, perhaps,) of whom knew each other and some of whom were certainly regulars. Apparently there are about 40 people on the contact list, but the average turnout for each meeting is about 15. This makes for a cozy atmosphere and a poetry-filled few hours, as each person in turn reads one or two poems he or she has selected based on the predetermined theme of the evening.
This time, the theme was ‘Autumn,’ and I was amazed at the variety of poems brought forth. I took note of everything that was read, and will list them below. There was very little redundancy of even the poets selected, and a number of names I wasn’t familiar with.
The BPS is, for the most part, a poetry appreciation group, so most poems read are classic or traditional works, usually by long-dead authors you’ve studied in school. However members are welcome to read their own works if relevant to the theme of the evening, and I read my poem ‘Monarch Sunset’ after we went around the room once (during which I read ‘Autumn’ by John Clare; I’d also brought ‘Autumn Even-Song’ by George Meredith).
The reading, which lasted for about an hour, was followed by tea and biscuits and friendly conversation.
Here is the list of poems that were selected and read (or, in some cases not read but mentioned) by various BPS members. Apologies if I spell any names wrong, etc. I’ve tried to find electronic copies of all of the poems, but in the cases in which I can’t, I’ve tried to add information about the poem or poet instead. Finally (disclaimer!) I haven’t thoroughly checked these versions, so if anyone objects and wants to recommend a different version (if one is incorrect etc,) please let me know.
Tennyson: (early poems: ‘A spirit haunts the year’s last hours’): Song
Elizabeth Jennings: Song at the Beginning of Autumn
Keats: Ode to Autumn
Shelley: Ode to the West Wind
Yeats: Wild Swans at Coole
Douglas Dunn: Leaving Dundee (about the poet)
Paul Verlaine: The Song of Autumn (a difficult translation; read first in English, then in it’s original French)
Emily Dickinson: Autumn
Dante: Autumn Song
Thomas Hood: Autumn
Lawrence Binyon: The Burning of the Leaves
Browning: By the Fire-Side
Shelley: Autumn: A Dirge
Gay Clifford: Autumn
Victoria Sackville-West: Autumn, Angelis
William W. Campbell: An October Evening
James Thompson: The Autumnal Moon
Ruth Bidgood: Into the Wind
R.S. Thomas: A Day in Autumn
Eleanor Farjeon: For Autumn
A.H. Clough: Autumn
Dylan Thomas: Poem in October, The Owl
Though not a tried-and-true classic, here is my poem, which will be published in my book Darwin’s Microscope (Flambard Press, February 2009).
One night in August the trees burn November.
The lighthouse spins its cyclops eye to the Atlantic.
The full moon rises ivory in the purple sky,
the sun tilts low on the horizon, sends
its swathe of light simmering across the bay.
But the conflagration is on the peninsula’s trees:
hundreds of monarchs pairing tip to tip,
flecked with dying day,
melting green leaves with copper,
blazing with slow thermal radiance,
pausing on these trees, for this hour,
to gather and merge in flame.