Tuesday poem – The great lover (of lists)


These I have loved:

White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,

Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, færy dust;

Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust

Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;

Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;

And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;

And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,

Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;

Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon

Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss

Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is

Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen

Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;

The benison of hot water; furs to touch;

The good smell of old clothes; and other such — -

The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,

Hair’s fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers

About dead leaves and last year’s ferns. . . .

It took re-discovering this poem by Rupert Brooke (and I’ve given only an excerpt from the full long poem above) to be reminded  of two things. The first was a sudden and potent memory of sitting in a classroom at Takapuna Grammar listening to my friend Jan Lyon read it aloud. I had one of those sudden memory flashes – with the smell of the classroom, dust and old books and sweaty socks, in a kind of counterpoint to the revelatory pleasure of hearing that poem’s precise and luxurious imagery for the first time. And the second was realising just how much I love lists!

There are quite a few list poems that I love. There’s Wallace Stevens’s 13 Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird - here’s my favourite fifth way to remind you of it:-

V I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of inflections

Or the beauty of innuendoes,

The blackbird whistling

Or just after.

There’s Elspeth Thompson’s Twenty Blessings, of which these are the last three:

May the company be less for your leaving.

May you walk alone beneath the stars.

May your embers still glow in the morning.

And there’s Charles Causley’s Ten Types of Hospital Visitors. The first type “…enters wearing the neon armour/of virtue…”; the second “… a melancholy splurge/ Of theological colours;/ Taps heavily about like a healthy vulture/Distributing deep=frozen hope…”

And the poem ends with: “The tenth visitor/ is not usually named.”

It’s not only poetic lists I love: all lists charm me, including, I have to confess, my own.  Here’s this morning’s fresh Monday morning list, divided as always into two parts (obsessive? moi?).

I love lists like Michael Pollan’s book of Food Rules (Rule Two: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food”). And there are Billy Wilder’s Screen Writing Tips which include gems for any writer to treasure (Rule Five: “The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer”).

I dunno why I love ‘em so much: maybe it’s no more than seeking the illusion of control in some form. Just about any form, to be honest, although I hasten to add that I draw the line way before raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. But lists give me pleasure, and clearly they gave Rupert Brooke pleasure too.  For all I know – and hope – there are other Tuesday Poem bloggers and readers who share this as well.

7 Responses to “Tuesday poem – The great lover (of lists)”

  1. harvey mcqueen Says:


    I too like lists. I have an anthology coming out shortly of NZ poems I’ve liked, I’ve called it ‘These I have loved’. I’m delighted to see Brooke’s lines used elsewhere.


  2. admin Says:

    Harvey, I love the idea of your anthology. Can you let me know the publisher so I can more easily track it down from London?

  3. Frances Thomas Says:

    ‘Pied Beauty’ by Hopkins is another lovely list poem. Mmm – now I’ve remembered it, I’ll have to dash off and read it!


  4. admin Says:

    Yes of course! Me too!

  5. Jane Says:

    By golly, two of our mother’s favorite poets: Hopkins and Brooke. This takes me back 50 plus years. thankyou for the beautiful blogs– I always read ‘em ! lots of love -Jane

  6. Dania Bookwalter Says:

    Quite so.

  7. Lin Says:

    I am genuinely delighted to glance at this blog posts which carries tons of valuable
    information, thanks for providing these information.

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