Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Poetry quiz

Poetry quiz: can you match these first lines to their poem titles?

Many of us have memorized a poem in our day—and may even be able to call it quickly to mind right now. However, even if it’s difficult to recall at will the verses you had recited carefully in school, often all it takes is the first line or two for the entire poem to come […]

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Remembering the language of Seamus Heaney

When Seamus Heaney’s death was announced last year the prevailing mood was one of sadness; a feeling that the world had not only lost a great poet but a kind and humane man. Thinking about Heaney, as we near what would have been his 75th birthday, I was prompted to revisit his first full-length collection […]

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Everyday expressions and their poetic origins

albatross

Our impression of “poetic” language as distinct from “everyday” language is unsurprising. At first glance, the flourishes of ornate, pre-1900 verse seem incompatible with common speech, either by virtue of their conspicuously high diction or the maudlin matters they seemingly address. One might hesitate, for instance, to liken a romantic interest to a lovely and […]

You Can Say That Again: On Poetry Reading(s)

You Can Say That Again: On Poetry Reading(s)

Invite someone to a poetry reading and, even in today’s verse-enlightened times, they’ll generally say ‘No, you’re alright’ – meaning ‘I would rather shoot myself.’ And you understand because you know how it can be, trapped in the audience of a bad reading. Now and then people are obliged to faint and the whole row helps […]

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A limerick competition for Mother’s Day: win an iPod Touch

A limerick competition for Mother’s Day

The appreciation for limericks, such as Edward Lear’s nonsense verses, is well-documented here on the OxfordWords blog. As is an appreciation for mothers.  Since Mother’s Day and Limerick Day coincide this year in the US, what better way to celebrate both than with a mom-themed limerick competition? (The competition is, of course, open worldwide.) How […]

The old masters – Poetry by Heart

The old masters - Poetry by Heart

I recently watched Andrew Graham Dixon’s enthralling new programme on the BBC, ‘High Art of the Low Countries’. His analysis of Breughel’s Landscape with the fall of Icarus was masterful, and as I watched, and listened, I became aware of Auden’s poem, ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, reassembling in my memory, even before part of it was […]

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Keeping it in mind – Poetry By Heart

Keeping it in Mind - Poetry by Heart

Writing West Midlands was delighted to be asked to run a Teachers’ Days as part of the Poetry By Heart competition. As Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands, and as a reader of poetry for many years, I had a particular interest in the process of memorizing poetry and of speaking it from memory. I […]

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Wordsworth

What is the worth of words?

7 April marked 243 years since William Wordsworth was born. The very name of this most appropriately named poet embodies his concern for language: what is the true worth of words? As we raise a glass to celebrate the birth of this mock humorously self-styled ‘simple water-drinking bard’ (who, let’s not forget, has written what […]

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