A poem a day keeps the psychiatrist away, according to Nicholas Albery, the Director of the Institute of Social Inventions. To prove his point he has edited this wide-ranging and attractive anthology of poems whose only link is that one of them, he suggests, should be learnt by heart every single day of the year.
It all adds up to a literary calendar. "Words" appears on 11 February, the anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death in 1963. "Anthem for Doomed Youth" is set down for 25 September, the day in 1917 that Wilfred Owen sent the poem to his mother. "Byzantium" ap p ears under 30 April because it was when the idea occurred to Yeats in 1930. And, naturally enough, 31 December is the time to learn Burns's "Auld Lang Syne".
Celebrate 9 August, Philip Larkin's birthday, by memorising his "Days". It contains three of his most haunting lines - and, more to the point, there are only ten altogether to burden your brain cells with. Even better is 18 October : just four lines of William Blake. 20 October is a black day: Tennyson's "Ulysses" is a wonderful account of the returned traveller wondering sadly: is this it? but it runs to two whole pages. So does Christopher Smart's lunatic hymn of praise to his cat Jeoffry on 24 September.
The day Thomas Gray died in 1771, 30 July, is greeted by the full three pages of his "Elegy". Downloading it into the brain cells may well take you until 21 October, when you will encounter another humdinger, Coleridge's "Kubla Khan". This is one of the ten poems I once tried to learn for homework. Three more appear in the anthology. The other six were, Heaven help us, in Latin or Greek.Reuse content