Exploring Poetry

I have called this resource page “Exploring Poetry” for a good reason: when we look at and talk about poetry all we are really doing is exploring.

This is not like, for instance, mathematics where there is only one right answer.

Poetry is about personal interpretation, what the poem says to you. Readers can differ greatly in their interpretations, and sometimes even experts disagree about what a particular poem means.

I have suffered from mental illness for many years, and I have always found poetry helpful and therapeutic.

A little bit like music, poetry can nudge your mind into a different zone, it can lift your spirits and provoke thought.

Indeed, a poem you enjoy often delights you or makes you think about something in a new way.

I hope that the poetry you encounter here is helpful for you too, whatever stage you are at with your personal recovery.

Broadly speaking, a poem is a literary composition using patterned language, given intensity by the use of such as rhyme and rhythm (though it does not necessarily use either of these devices).

One way to think about poetry is “painting with words”. The poet arranges words on a page like a painter arranges oil on a canvas.

And like a painting, it may be obvious what the poet is representing or explaining with his words – but equally the poem may be difficult and abstract, leaving you unsure of what the poem is meant to be about.

You may enjoy the sounds and rhythm of the words without being certain of their meaning.

However, it would be a misconception to say that most poetry is hard to understand, and I hope you shall find much of the poetry we look at accessible and fairly straightforward.

Poetry is the rythmical creation of beauty in words.

-Edgar Allan Poe

Here is a famous poem – This is Just to Say – by an American poet, William Carlos Williams, first published in 1934:

This is Just to Say

This is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

I wanted to begin with this poem to emphasise that poetry can be about anything at all. It can be about the simplest thing, and does not need to rhyme or do anything sophisticated, nor does it have to be profound or intellectually challenging.

Below you can find some audio files in which I read out a poem and then talk a little about it. Please remember the interpretations I give are personal and by no means definitive. You may disagree with my interpretation – but however you react I hope that you enjoy them!

War Photographer


The Jaguar

Mid Term Break

The Man He Killed


Take one home for the kiddies

Hope is the thing with feathers

The Lake of Innisfree

To the Sea

In Mrs Ticher's Class

A Child's Sleep