National Poetry Day: My Ten Favourite Poems


“We’re all of us poets, but we don’t all know it.”

I have always loved to read poetry, a private passion that came to me by way of my mother (a prodigious reader).

From laughing my head off to Pam Ayres on the telly, through teenage tears with Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, to the famous Victorian poems forever seared into my memory at school, via the unexpectedly sexy French poems of my ‘A’ levels, after the collected works of Pablo Neruda and W.H. Auden from those films were read aloud in bed, to when my husband’s favourite poem was read aloud at our wedding… poetry has been a constant.

I even live next-door-but-one to a poet. (No frilly white shirt to mark him out as one, alas. Nowadays, they look just like you and me.)

In honour of National Poetry Day here, in no particular order, are extracts from my ten favourite poems.

If you want to read more, head down to your local library or independent bookshop: they’re full of good poetry!

100 dreaming all day long, by Deborah Mason (

Alicante, Jacques Prevert
Une orange sur la table
Ta robe sur le tapis
Et toi dans mon lit
Doux présent du présent
Fraîcheur de la nuit
Chaleur de ma vie.

He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven, W.B. Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

She Walks in Beauty, Like the Night, George Gordon Lord Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

A Subaltern’s Love Song, John Betjeman
Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth, Pam Ayres
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the dangers beneath
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

My Last Duchess, Robert Browning
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Anthem For Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti
‘We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?’
‘Come buy,’ call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
‘Oh,’ cried Lizzie, ‘Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.’
Lizzie covered up her eyes,
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered like the restless brook:
‘Look, Lizzie, look’

And To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss
But all that I’ve noticed, Except my own feet
Was a horse and a wagon on Mulberry Street.
That’s nothing to tell of,
That won’t do, of course….
Just a broken-down wagon
That’s drawn by a horse.
That can’t be my story. That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a ZEBRA was pulling that cart!
And that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Featured image: January, by Deborah Mason (all art available to buy here)


Are Tiny Plays The New Theatre?

Deborah Mason’s Tiny Play Festival 2012 was an absolute triumph

A capacity crowd packed out the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall Friday night for Deborah Mason‘s Tiny Play Festival 2012. (The venue for pre- and post-theatre drinks and food was The Black Dog pub opposite, which delivered possibly the nicest service anywhere in London on a rainy Friday night.)

The inaugural Tiny Play Festival was a first for actor/producer/director Deborah with her festival organiser hat on, and was also a first for many of the featured writers (myself included).

Each of the 22 (count ’em) very short — c. 100 words or fewer — plays was fully staged with actors, props and scenery. The actors did a fantastic job with the source material, and Deborah’s inventive staging was the well-deserved hit of the night.

The scenery consisted of rolls of paper with a backdrop for each play painted on in black. So simple and so very effective. Two helpers rolled/unrolled the paper like an old-fashioned blackboard.

The subjects ranged from the Wild West to Adam and Eve via Social Media status updates. Mostly humorous, they received an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd.

Deborah closed the Festival with an improv showstopper. The audience wrote words or snatches of phrases on cards, and  the actors picked two cards each. While they worked out how they’d run them together to make another Tiny Play, Deborah asked the crowd to choose a setting.

“Can you tell what is is yet?”

The crowd’s first choice for the setting was Tooting Lido (runner-up: “on a massive cheesepuff”), which Deborah then painted in a real Take Hart moment.

As a nod to the youngest audience members, the scene even included a massive cheesepuff in the lifeguard’s chair.

At only £7 per ticket, Tiny Play Festival was a brilliant night out. The crowd ranged in age from about 8 to 80. People were engaged, excited and entertained. A number of local small businesses made some money and attracted new customers.

We’re trying to persuade Deborah to make Tiny Play Festival a regular event, so come on Arts Council, give the woman another grant! This could be the new face of theatre in London.

Is Tiny the new black?

The Guardian and Oxford University Press are currently running a Very Short Film Competition, in which students are invited to submit 60-second films.

Microblogging continues to gain momentum, with novels being written via Twitter and Facebook. Although  none have yet made any serious money, they continue to proliferate.

Over on Twitter, the Old Vic promoted its New Voices and 24 Hour Plays programmes with popular games like the 24-word Twitter play. So, could Tiny Plays be the new theatre? Stay tuned to find out.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

Tiny Play Festival: A Showcase of New Writing for the Stage

A showcase of jewels, a tasting menu of amuse-bouches, a cabinet of miniatures…

UPDATE: Deborah Mason’s Tiny Play Festival has been awarded a richly deserved Arts Council Grant. Massive congratulations to Deborah. Onwards and upwards to greatness!

Tiny Play Festival presents the best in new writing for the stage, with a selection of short (very short, approximately 100 words long) plays.

These tiny plays will be fully performed — not just read, not just read out, but really performed, with lights, costumes, actors, scenery, maybe even sound effects and music — always with passion.

Tiny Play Festival is the brainchild of Deborah Mason, who was interested in the idea of a super-short-form play of 100 words being an art form in itself, not a snippet or extract from something else.

According to Mason, Tiny Play “provides new writers with an achievable target and aim, and the 100-word constraint itself helps with creativity. For more established writers it provides a break from the meisterwork and an opportunity to be playful.

“We have 11 writers,” she added, “some of whom have never written before, some who write professionally, and some who teach writing.”

Tiny Play Festival will feature 22 plays on a wide variety of subjects in quite different styles, from the Wild West to a bus on the Walworth Road, from Adam and Eve to Social Media status updates.

There will also be an opportunity for the audience to create their own play and engage with the work more directly in bringing that to life and seeing it performed “instantly” on the night.

Tiny Play Festival takes place on: Friday 28 September, 7.30pm, The Tea House Theatre, 139 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HL.

Tickets cost £7 and are available on the door.

Come and support new drama! More information from: @tvclaw or

Tiny Play flyer – v2 A6 (1)

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw