I am fortunate in my siblings - and hope they might think so also, but I'm not going to ask.
My older sister has, over the years, given me books. One, The Maeve Binchey Writers' Club, was a very generous and thoughtful gift to this, her aspiring writer brother.
Early into the new year another arrived. And this took me back (not 'taken aback' you know, though I suppose I might have been in a way).
Back to High School, the final two years of secondary school, as I knew it growing up. It seems there's a demand that the poetry book used for those two years be republished. In the original cover, and using the original typeface.
The typeface, I must admit now, is less pleasing on the eye than I remember it. Though, at the time, I doubt I'd have known a pleasing typeface if it up and hit me in the eye. But, we learn as we grow - or so it is to be hoped.
What I remember about this book is I read it from cover to cover while at school. Anything else I did at school was the bare minimum - this book was worn out by the time I finished with it.
The editor, Augustine Martin, was a magician, able to capture the imagination of school kids - a difficult audience. Decades later, the book survives.
Part of the reason might be the selection of poets - Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickinson, Yeats and many, many more. Twenty-three, or so, in total.
Another part, the 'Explorations' after each poem - though as a student I grew to dislike them for they represented work, effort, they formed the basis of homework.
Yet, for all that, they did give me a framework, an approach to poetry that has remained with me. However, the greatest 'exploration', advice to the reader of poetry, of the entire book arrives a little more than half-way through the book.
It is found after the first poem by Emily Dickinson included in the volume.
Here it is:
"Having read the poem, now read all Emily Dickinson's poems in this book. Don't feel that you have to make 'sense' of them, don't bully them in the hope they will yield up their message in a manner that can be summarised and paraphrased. If you find that you like them, only one thing is required. It can be best expressed by the advice the great Olympic athlete, Jesse Owens, gave to those who wish to be great long-jumpers. His three rules were that you sprint, sprint, and finally sprint. For the word 'sprint' we might here substitute 'read' with equal emphasis and repetition."
I can think of no better advice to anyone reading poetry. I also like, though again I didn't know of it at the time, the "Oxford comma" in the 'sprint, sprint, and finally sprint'.
Anyway, thanks to the generosity of my sister, I'm rediscovering poetry I haven't read in many a long year and, while I cannot claim that 'schooldays were the best days of my life' - how sad that would be - there are fond memories that I'm not unhappy to revisit.
On an entirely different note, above and a little to the right there is now a page dedicated to where my writings might easily be found.