My first experiences of poetry happened early in childhood.  My maternal grandfather wrote a poem for me each year to commemorate my birthday.  It would be penned carefully on the back of his birthday card.  I am sad today that I did not keep these special tokens of his love.

My first poetry book was A Child’s Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson.  A beautiful blue leather bound copy with gilded page edges was presented to me at Primary School as an Attainment Prize.  I was nine years old.  Again it reinforced the idea that poetry was something precious.  I began to write my own poems.  I recall a gem that began with the lines, “I was playing in the dairy/when I first saw the fairy”!

At the age of sixteen I was initiated into contemporary poetry (together with sex) by my Glaswegian boyfriend.  He introduced me to the music and poems of Leonard Cohen.  As a Christmas present he bought me a little book of his poetry and I still have the battered copy on my bookshelf.  Cohen’s poetry is often overlooked as he is best known for his songs.  I like his short poems which seem to have a mysterious  double meaning.  Here is one of my favourites called I Heard of a Man:-

I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.
If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips.
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside the door.


I read Cohen’s romantic and political poems over and over again, learning some of them by heart.  At the time I had no idea poetry would become such a vital element of my life as it is now.  For me, poetry is therapeutic but more importantly, a way to communicate difficult emotions and experiences to others.

What were your first tastes of poetry?  Were they positive or negative?  Did you learn poems by rote in the classroom?  Or did your parents read to you?  Do you remember your first ever poetry book?  I would love to hear how you were initiated into the wonderful world of poetry.




And here is a YouTube video of Leonard Cohen singing one of his most famous and poetic songs:-

4 thoughts on “Initiation

  1. You had an interesting introduction to poetry. A good solid foundation. My love was out of curiosity, and couldn’t let go of the rhyms and lines that I came across. I like the shated Cohen’s short poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I chose songs to learn for the guitar, I also picked many by Leonard Cohen. My step-brother, who passed away, was almost fanatical in his devotion to Cohen, he was familiar with the poetry (I myself don’t care for poetry so much). My brother wrote poetry in his early teenage years, even though he was in a gang of juvenile delinquents. He probably thought it was a good way to attract girls, and he was right. A few years ago, I injured my hand severely and had to give up the guitar. After Leonard Cohen died, on November 7 2016, I had a really bad feeling about the outcome of the election on November 8. Besides, 2016 was pretty much wrecked after Bowie passed away on January 10.

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    1. Sorry about your hand. You must miss your guitar. Yes, sometimes I think all my best heroes are dead and it’s a bad omen. 2016 was a terrible year. Bowie’s death really upset me. I have a photo of him above the table where I write. He was an inspiration. Mind you 2020 is an even worst year. I hope you get rid of Trump in the US that would be one good thing to come out of the Pandemic. We have our own version of Trump in UK with Johnson.


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