Poetry society


I am minding my own business, putting out some rubbish, when it happens. An elderly man I know, a neighbour, appears out of nowhere, speaking to me. He is 83 if he is a day. He is well turned out, as he always is, full head of hair, silver, swept back in a matinée idol kind of way. He is wearing a pale summer jacket and crisp white shirt.

As usual, he doesn’t bother with small-talk; he just goes straight in: ‘I’ve just been reading some poetry you know.’

‘How marvellous,’ I say.

‘Shakespeare,’ he says, before I can ask him what it was. ‘The Sonnets you know.’

‘Which one?’

He begins quoting the poem: ”Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate. / Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, /And summer’s lease hath all-”

He knows the words that come next, but he stops short of uttering them. ‘It’s bloody good you know. Shakespeare. I’m going for a walk with him now.’

He pulls a small red book out of his jacket pocket. ‘Number 18 I think you’ll find,’ he says. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,’ he says. ‘What’s it all mean?’

‘It means,’ I say. Then it is my turn to stop, suddenly aware that he might not be asking me about the poem.

”Summer’s lease,” he says. ‘Bloody marvellous.’

‘Marvellous,’ I agree.

‘And those ‘darling buds of May’. I love those. Fantastic. Nobody’s writing like that now,’ he says.

‘No one was then,’ I say.

My neighbour looks at me. For a second we have become an impromptu poetry society, right here on the street, on this sunny summer’s day. ”Hath all too short a date,” he says. ‘You should read him too, you know. You should.’ And with that he wriggles the book back into his pocket, and sets off down the road for his walk with Shakespeare.

”The darling buds of May,” he calls out, over his shoulder. ‘Bloody marvellous!’ he says again. ‘Sonnet 18,’ he says, in case I forget.




  1. Anthony – your anecdote reminds me of two ladies (Irish sisters) who were regular attenders at the local social club we used to use.
    They knew I taught English back then, and were reminiscing about their own times in school and how many of the nuns who taught them “just invented sins”.
    However they were able to reel off from memory great chunks of classic poetry reliant on rhyme and regular metre.
    When any poem sinks its teeth into you, it often cannot be shaken off, even after a lifetime. They did not analyse why these chunks had “stuck”, but plainly got great comfort from them.
    Oh, and I thought it may please you that I have just ordered you book Lifesaving Poems as well as a Gerard Benson collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a fantastic anecdote, thank you. The more I hear stories like this the more I realise I am not alone in thinking of poetry the way I do. Thank you for ordering nephew book, and for saying so. I do hope you enjoy it. It’s very personal. With good wishes, Anthony


  2. Dear Anthony,
    I love it when a poem steps up and saves the day. Just recently a friend was having problems with a colleague at work and I sent her the sonnet, # XXIX. “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes / I all alone beweep my outcaste state,. It has always been one of my favourites, and I was pleased when it helped her put things in perspective. Shakespeare must have had quite the life, as he is able to write about so many of the twists and turns in all the human states. So glad the older gentleman could find joy in “the darling buds of May.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Quite the life indeed. ‘Yes, that’s it!’ in line after line. I love your anecdote. That’s Lifesaving indeed. As ever, Anthony


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