Poet in Residence

From time to time a poet is in residence at the Poetry Archive, talking about poetry with anyone who wants to join in the conversation. You are welcome to explore our archive of past residencies and read some of the lively and varied discussions you'll find there.

John Mole

In addition to writing poetry for both children and adults, John Mole (b. 1941) is an accomplished jazz clarinettist, and has been known to combine poetry and jazz with other poet-musicians such as Roy Fisher and John Lucas. He has...

The House that Jack and Others Built

John Mole - 28 March 2006

My own version of the rhyme was written in the early stages of the war in Iraq, and is probably the most 'political' of the poems in which I adapt traditional childhood rhymes. What I hope I succeed in doing is to raise serious issues in a form which might not be expected to do so, and to surprise the reader who might have been expecting mere playfulness. On other occasions I have taken nursery games, counting rhymes and snatches of childhood lore as the template for poems, not least because I am firmly of the opinion that these are where, for many of us, a love of poetry begins.

Taking it to Heart

John Mole - 22 March 2006

At school in the 1950s we were required to learn long passages from Shakespeare and Milton for homework then next day we had to go round the class. Someone would be told to start and then, after a few lines, the teacher would point to someone else who would be expected to continue, and so on. This is not a method I would advocate but, along with learning quotations for exams, I can't deny that it provided me with an anthology of extracts which I still find myself drawing upon in various situations.

Voices Being Various

John Mole - 17 March 2006

Tony Harrison has pointed out that we really begin to hear Wordsworth's voice when we realise that for him, brought up in the Lake District, 'matter' and 'water' would have been full rhymes, and if you listen on the archive to Patricia Beer from the West Country you'll hear how distinctive her Devonian accent is and how it informs the cadences of her writing. She once wrote an interesting essay in which she explained that 'all poets, major and minor, write, as Eliot pointed out, in terms of their own voices.

How do we know that this is a poem?

John Mole - 5 March 2006

After presenting the class with various poems, the teacher attempts a summing-up: 'They aren't all in iambic pentameters, they are not all in stanzas: some rhyme, some do not, some have no discernable structure at all on first sight, and yet we have accepted them as poems. We may not have liked them all - some of you haven't liked ANY - but we have never doubted their claim to be poetry. Now we have to ask ourselves, how do we know that this is a poem?. . . Dermot?' 'Sir? It says Ted Hughes at the bottom.'

What a load of nonsense!

John Mole - 23 February 2006

The line between nonsense verse and great poetry is sometimes a very thin or even an invisible one. Edward Lear's 'The Owl and the Pussy Cat' and 'The Jumblies', for example, seem to me to be full of a deep, yearning emotion as well as eccentric humour. Sheer ( or mere? ) wordplay can also be a delight and an end in itself: the songs of Winnie the Pooh, the picture book texts of Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss himself of course, and so many rhymes by Anonymous. Then for older readers there are some fine European surrealists to be found in translation.

Red Boots and an exclamation mark!

John Mole - 30 January 2006

I love Kit Wright's 'Red Boots On' because it's a real high-kicker, full of colour and, above all, jazzy syncopation. As Kit says in his Archive introduction, those boots are a sort of 'filmic image of happiness' and the whole poem becomes its own soundtrack, dancing along with carefree abandon. Charles Causley's 'Timothy Winters' is full of energetic bounce and optimism in spite of his hard life. Look at that wonderful image - 'his hair is an exclamation mark'. It's almost as if Timothy has stepped out of the pages of a comic like 'The Dandy' or 'The Beano'.

Glossary term

Rhyme Scheme

The way a poem's rhymes are arranged.

A tour of the Archive with Mark Grist

Over the years I’ve become increasingly interested in the lyrical nature of poetry. I find that the more I’ve taken...

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