The Wednesday Wondering: Making Love on a Bus at Lunchtime

Today, March 26th, marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of the American poet and writer, Robert Frost.  This was my inspiration for a Wondering ‘Poetry Corner’.  (My inspiration for the title came from much closer to home, as you’ll find out if you read on…)

I wasn’t very impressed with poetry at school.  I couldn’t see the point of all that in depth analysis, picking the bones out of every word and trying to second guess what the poet actually meant, then spewing it all out on paper for the examiner to take pot shots at.  It wasn’t until some years later that I discovered poetry for myself and began a collection of favourites which I typed out on an old manual typewriter.  One of these was ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ by Robert Frost.  I love the simplicity of the language and the down to earth quality of his poems.  It was Frost, of course, who famously said: ‘No tears in the writer; no tears in the reader’.  What better maxim do we need to remind us to raise the emotional stakes in our writing?

I asked the Write Romantics:  What is your favourite poem?  Perhaps it’s a Shakespeare sonnet, a nineteenth century romantic poem, a haiku, or a hilarious ode by Pam Ayres; the choice is endless, but if there isn’t a poem you love, perhaps because you were put off poetry at school, tell us about that instead, or even, dare I say it, give us one of your own.

The WRs came up with these answers:  (Jo’s given us a special treat – you’ll find it at the end)


I went on a writing weekend once where poems were touched on and I mentioned that I liked John Cooper Clarke and Wendy Cope’s poems because they were humorous. I received such sneers from the two tutors there that I was really hurt, cos I thought they were good. So I wouldn’t dare to suggest that one of their poems was worth a look (oh, okay then: I Married a Monster from out of Space and Evidently Chicken Town, and Wendy Cope’s, Loss which is only four lines, berating not so much the disappearance of her man but that he took the corkscrew as well!)

But the two poems that stick in my mind is: At Lunchtime by Roger McGough. It’s about people making love on a bus at lunchtime because someone said it was ok as the world was going to end. The other one is: In Flanders Fields by John McCrae who was in the first world war (I’m guessing most people know this poem). Coincidently, as I googled it because I couldn’t remember the poets name, I came across another very good poem by Roger McGough called the Square Dance, which is a parody of John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields. Well I never!


My favourite poem is ‘He wishes for the clothes of Heaven’ by W.B. Yeats.  It is hugely romantic and beautiful and I can’t help but feel that only an Irishman (or woman) could have written it. I adore the last line ‘Tread softly because you tread on my dreams’.  Supposedly Yeats wrote the poem for Maud Gonne, a beautiful English woman who he was hopelessly in love with for many years.  She really didn’t tread softly on his dreams as she turned down his many proposals and eventually (and unhappily) married someone else.


Hmmm. Tricky. I don’t tend to read poetry. I like the amusing stuff a la Pam Ayres (very talented woman) and I don’t understand the other stuff. To me, poetry should rhyme! Other than the famous “I wish I’d looked after my teeth” I couldn’t specifically name anything Pam has written so I’ll instead say a poem from my childhood. In junior school, we looked at The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. The lesson was all about what words mean and how words can be made up but you can still understand what they mean by the sound or the context. I must have been about 8 or 9 and I still remember this lesson in detail. I was so enthralled that I went away and learned the poem. Thirty two years later, I can still recite it word for word and I still think it’s magical! A particular favourite word from it is “mimsy”. How wonderful is that?


We did a module on poetry as part of my masters and it was heavy going. I don’t think my talents lie in poetry, put it that way! It’s so much harder to write poetry than we think, with so few words to capture a moment or tell a tale. During that module we listened to a couple of Pam Ayres poems and I admire her extraordinary talent. Her voice as a narrator works so well too and brings her poems to life by adding emotions behind them.


Having posed the question, I found it difficult to answer as I’m liking poetry more and more these days so my list of favourites is growing.  John Betjeman has to be my top poet, for the stories he tells through his verses of ordinary people doing ordinary things, like a boy going to a Christmas party and feeling nervous about it, or a family taking their annual trip to the seaside in an old banger.  It’s hard to describe but to me his poetry feels so truthful and relevant.  These are the first lines of ‘A Subaltern’s Love-Song’:

Miss J Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun…

…which is just about all you need to know to be able to ‘see’ her.

If I have to go for one, it would be ‘Death in Leamington’.  It might be about death but it’s not sad.  Betjeman is writing about death as a normal, everyday part of life, and it’s just lovely.  This is one of the verses:

And Nurse came in with the tea-things
Breast high ‘mid the stands and chairs
But Nurse was alone with her own little soul
And the things were alone with theirs.


I’m afraid I don’t like poetry, it’s not to say I don’t admire some poems and I do appreciate listening to poems that fellow writers have written. But it has always been one of my least favourite things and the thought of writing one fills me with fear. I have a friend who does write some very funny poems and these are excellent but it’s not something I would choose to write or read for pleasure myself.


My favourite poems are those which make you go, ‘aaahhh,’ at the end, not those that we studied at school, the hard, serious ones though I love anything by Thomas Hardy. To me those by Pam Ayres, Jenny Joseph and even Roald Dahl are just much more fun. I could really never take to T. S. Elliott. My favourite is by a certain member of the Write Romantics, it cheerful, sweet, and just great fun!


My favourite poet, stemming from my childhood, is probably Spike Milligan.  He could be genuinely laugh out loud funny with one poem and then write a touching ode to love in the next.  There are lots of other poets that I admire and some of the World War 1 poets, like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, wrote such hauntingly sad poetry that I have never forgotten it.  I still love Spike best though and here are links to a couple of examples to illustrate my point:

I Must Go Down To The Sea Again

If I Could Write Words

And here’s my attempt at an ode:

Ode To The Write Romantics

I sent a ROMNA email to find myself a friend,
another romance writer, just as round the bend.
We started up a blog and found ourselves a host,
convinced we’d soon be breakfasting on caviar and toast.

But a hundred million bloggers are looking for a deal,
so we had to find some other friends to widen our appeal.
Now we dream of a hunky assistant, to address our every whim,
good luck to the bloke who gets the job, they’ll be nine of us and him!

See what I mean about a treat?  Thanks, Jo, it’s brilliant!  Such a variety of replies here; I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I have, and please feel free to add your own contribution.  We’d love to read it.

March is nearly over, which means this is my last Wondering for a while.  Next week the hot seat will be occupied by the lovely Helen Phifer, author of The Ghost House.



15 thoughts on “The Wednesday Wondering: Making Love on a Bus at Lunchtime

  1. I’d forgotten a poem my husband and I used to quote at each other when we first met. We used to see how far we could get before we forgot the words and would just end ‘la,la,! It’s actually a lovely poem by Samuel Coleridge but I think he’d been on the wacky baccy when he wrote it. It’s ‘Kubla Khan’ and it starts: In Xanado did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree, where Alph the sacred river ran, through caverns measureless to man, Down to a sunless sea.Phew at least I can remember that much!

  2. Thanks Deirdre for a really interesting wondering this week…Pam Ayres has such a unique talent I think.
    And thank you Jo for the poem, it’s awesome and so sweet. I love it!

    Helen R x

  3. Without thinking about it too much I’d have said I’m not really a poetry person, but then when this question came up I suddenly thought of a few possible candidates and realised that I actually do like it – it’s all the dissection and interpretation and pulling each poem to pieces and trying to find meanings and study the form that I hate.
    I remember at primary school reading “The Lion and Albert” which was really funny and stuck with me since I was seven. We also read “A Smuggler’s Song” by Rudyard Kipling which I adored because it seemed so exciting and thrilling, even though at seven I wasn’t too sure what a smuggler actually was!
    I love The Sick Rose by William Blake, The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, and La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Keats, all of which I studied at college.
    A poem by Anne Bradstreet “Before the birth of one of her children” moved me to tears. Jenny Joseph’s “When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” makes me smile.
    “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth has a special place in my heart because when I was little my dad used to quote it to me all the time. I think it was possibly the only poem he ever knew 🙂 Always stayed with me and I still think of him when the daffodils appear…
    I love “If” by Rudyard Kipling, and the poems of John Betjeman (agree about “Death in Leamington” and I loved “Christmas”, too!) Also the bitter beauty of the Welsh poet RS Thomas…
    I think the sonnets of Shakespeare are beautiful. I did have to dissect them for the OU but even so, they stayed with me and I do think they are amazing and extraordinary. So I guess, in spite of my teachers’ best efforts, I did come away with a love and appreciation of poetry, after all. Writing it is another matter entirely! Loved your poem, Jo! Don’t think I’ll be entering any poetry competitions any time soon! 🙂

    • Ha ha Sharon! I loved your “I don’t normally like poetry but …” kind of response! Must check out some of those poems. The Lady of Shalott reminds me of Anne of Green Gables. I can’t remember if it’s in the book as well but it’s certainly in the wonderful tv series where Anne is laid out in a boat reciting it … and the boat sinks! Fabulous! x

  4. Fab post, Deirdre and a brilliant month by you on the blog altogether. Very much look forward to Helen P’s stint and already looking forward to when it’s your turn again 🙂 xx

  5. What a brilliant post and I love that little ode by Jo!!! Its is everything I love in a poem, heartwarming and fun! Reading through the other posts reminded me of other poetry that I love, ‘If’ By Rudyard Kipling, anything by Spike Milligan, Tennyson, Blake, the war poets. I had to read ‘The Waste Land’ by TS Elliott for ‘A’ level and just hated it.
    One of the perks of growing older is not having to be told by someone else what to read for any exam again and now I can re-read the stuff I like and ignore what I don;t like! xx

  6. Another fantastic post, Deirdre! I’ve really enjoyed reading about everyone’s poetry favourites. Like Lynne said it’s made me think of other poems that I like. Betjeman was a clever chap wasn’t he? That ability to sum up a person with that one perfect image and they rhyme as well – genius!
    Jo’s poem is just fab – you have a really talent for verse my friend! 🙂 xxx

  7. Oh Jo, you are ridiculously talented! Loved the Ode!

    Deirdre, what a great end to your month as ‘Wonderer in Residence’! And you’ve achieved something great; I short(ish) answer from me!!! Poems aren’t massively my thing but I loved reading about what everyone else had to say and clicking on Jo’s links. Really liked the 1st Spike Milligan one; simplicity and humour 🙂 x

  8. Jackie – those tutors undoubtedly were jealous of Cooper Clark’s and Wendy Cope’s popularity – and sales. Love that Frost poem too. Sea Fever by John Masefield is wonderful: ‘I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky … ‘ Robert Louis Stevenson’s Lamplighter poem is too.

  9. I love so many poems (and poets) that it’s difficult to choose but since Thomas Hardy is my literary hero and Lynne said she liked his poetry, I thought I’d choose one that has always moved me. It’s a bit sombre –
    the old family home, the ghosts, regrets for having turned away to what were less important things – but it has a message worth thinking about, particularly in today’s frenetic world.

    The Self-Unseeing

    Here is the ancient floor,
    Footworn and hollowed and thin,
    Here was the former door
    Where the dead feet walked in.

    She sat here in her chair,
    Smiling into the fire;
    He who played stood there,
    Bowing it higher and higher.

    Childlike, I danced in a dream;
    Blessings emblazoned that day;
    Everything glowed with a gleam;
    Yet we were looking away!

    • Hi Maureen, thanks for that beautiful poem. I’d never heard it before. Whenever poetry has been touched on in a creative writing class, people have tended to sneer at poems that rhyme, but many favourites cited here do just that. It’s the snobbery factor at work again, I imagine!

  10. I found I like the poets most of you like, thanks for reminding me. I also love writing poetry, just for myself. It really concentrates my mind on writing. It has to be with pen and paper just to start then I play with it on the computer for ages, never satisfied.

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