I can remember once doing an exam as a school student. I sat at my desk in a hall, staring at a poem about underpants. I just didn’t get it. I totally believed that I wouldn’t understand the poem, even before I clapped eyes on it. So I was going to fail, regardless of the poem.
But I do remember liking poems when I was little. There was one in particular, and I can’t help but put it here for you. It’s by the wonderful A A Milne. I feel a little sorry for the beetle. But when I was a child I wanted a beetle of my own, just like Alexander. Much to my parents’ dismay I kept frogs in my pockets instead.
Now I’m grown up I have learned to love and appreciate classical poetry. But I also have a strong hankering for rhyming poetry. I loved to read Dr Seuss aloud to my nieces and nephews. And, of course, I can remember watching Pam Ayres on television, performing her poems. I especially loved ‘Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth’. My mother would often recite this loudly around the house, pulling the same sort of faces that Pam Ayres would. Performing poetry like this is such a great way to break down the barriers for those of us who find poetry daunting.
Australia has a rich history of poetry, from the likes of C J Dennis through to one of our most famous modern poets, Les Murray. In our latest issue of Good Reading we begin what will be a regular feature on poetry, and we’re starting by exploring performance poetry. This art form has been growing in popularity over the last few years, and it’s helping our poets to share their work in a way that not only entertains but also helps those of us who are a little poetry phobic – like me – to relax, listen, understand, and just enjoy the words.
And Baxter, who’s finally decided that visitors are allowed in the house (providing they don’t try to eat any of our food).
by A A MILNE
I found a little beetle, so that beetle was his name,
And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.
I put him in a matchbox, and I kept him all the day …
And Nanny let my beetle out
Yes, Nanny let my beetle out
She went and let my beetle out
And beetle ran away.
She said she didn’t mean it, and I never said she did,
She said she wanted matches, and she just took off the lid
She said that she was sorry, but it’s difficult to catch
An excited sort of beetle you’ve mistaken for a match.
She said that she was sorry, and I really mustn’t mind
As there’s lots and lots of beetles which she’s certain we could find
If we looked about the garden for the holes where beetles hid
And we’d get another matchbox, and write BEETLE on the lid.
We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
‘A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!’
It was Alexander Beetle I’m as certain as can be
And he had a sort of look as if he thought it might be ME,
And he had a kind of look as if he thought he ought to say:
‘I’m very, very sorry that I tried to run away.’
And Nanny’s very sorry too, for you know what she did,
And she’s writing ALEXANDER very blackly on the lid,
So Nan and me are friends, because it’s difficult to catch
An excited Alexander you’ve mistaken for a match.