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10 of the Best Poems about Growing Old

The best poems about ageing

‘I grow old… I grow old…’ So speaks J. Alfred Prufrock in T. S. Eliot’s classic poem. And, indeed, poets have often been drawn to the topic of growing old and approaching one’s winter years. Here are ten of the very finest poems about ageing, from the age of Shakespeare to the current century.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 73. The third of four consecutive sonnets about ageing, this poem, beginning ‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold’, is a firm favourite for anthologists and sonnet fans. The gist of this poem is summed up by Don Paterson in Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets thus: ‘The more decrepit I look, the more you’ll love me, as this reminds you that I’ll be gone before you are’. Read the rest of this entry

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A Very Short Biography of Isabella Whitney

The mysterious life of an early English woman poet

Isabella Whitney is not a familiar name to many readers of poetry, and in many ways this is hardly surprising. But here at Interesting Literature we like to keep one eye out for the curious but overlooked, the obscure but interesting – and the life and work of Isabella Whitney fit the bill, we’d say. In this post we offer a very brief biography of one of the first English female poets.

That said, writing such a biography of someone like Isabella Whitney might be easier said than done, for very little is actually known about her life. We don’t even know when she was born or when she died. She is said to have ‘flourished’ (the ‘fl.’ abbreviation, standing for ‘floruit’ – Latin for ‘he or she flourished’ – is how her dates are usually rendered in biographical sketches of her) in the years 1567-73. Michael Schmidt’s indispensable The Lives Of The Poets, elsewhere a thoroughly detailed biographical introduction to the great and the good of English poetry, has just one paragraph about Whitney. But this is understandable, given the paucity of information about her that we have. Read the rest of this entry

10 of the Best Poems about Mothers

The best poems about motherhood

Looking for a classic poem for Mother’s Day? Look no further. Whilst sentimental rhymes and rather sappy doggerel fills many a Mothering Sunday greetings card, these ten poems represent some of the best statements about mothers and motherhood ever written.

Ann Taylor, ‘My Mother’. Ann’s sister Jane Taylor (1783-1824) is best-remembered for having written the words to the children’s rhyme ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’, but this poem, written by Ann, is also well-known and has been much imitated and parodied. It takes the form of a question-and-answer back-and-forth where the answer is always ‘my mother’.

John Greenleaf Whittier, ‘Tribute to Mother’. In this short poem, the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92) recalls the time when he was a small child and sat beside his mother’s knee. The poet’s mother restrained his ‘selfish moods’ and taught him a ‘chastening love’. Read the rest of this entry