POETRY is a tricky form of writing to get right – but a new anthology aims to both inform and entertain.
With a nod to Shakespeare, Germander Speedwell’s Amid Summer Nights’ Dreams is 66 pages of very readable poems, some glimpses into her life and a nuts-and-bolts breakdown of the syllabic and rhyming patterns of various styles.
As someone whose poetic extent is eight-line rhyming couplets in my wife’s and daughter’s birthday cards, it was illuminating to learn about the haiku, tanka, triolet, clerihew and villanelle, alongside the sonnet loved by the Bard.
This collection, available in Waterstones, even includes two works to fit Twitter’s original 140-character tweet limit.
Describing herself in the third person in the book as “older than she’d like to be”, she adds: “To the great good fortune of the poetry-loving public, most of her output has been mislaid over the years that she and her family moved around the globe behind her military father.”
She told the Herald: “I’ve been doing poetry since I was four but I was very gratified that the first publisher I approached took it up.”
Germander took advantage of the coronavirus lockdowns to find her best work. She said: “The last few months have been a big boon to me. Forced confinement has given me a chance to go through them, because a lot of the poems were written four or five years ago, so I’ve been weeding out the dross and putting in the interesting ones.”
The how-to tips in the book grew out of Germander’s style and her desire to create something for everyone. She said: “I do like to write in a well-known structure like a sonnet because it does keep you corralled and makes it accessible to be enjoyed by readers rather than just other poets.”
Germander retired eight years ago but at one stage of her career she was the personal assistant to the leader of the Greater London Council.
She said: “By the time you get to that level it is a great job. You do all the socialising and all the organising and you get to meet some great people. You helped to keep the flow so people had a good time.
“I was working for Ken Livingstone for a long time and he was actually a really nice chap. They have been there, seen it and done it and don’t need to be nasty anymore.”
Germander credited her parents and school for her love of poetry, and recommended Now We Are Six by A A Milne to inspire my five-year-old.
She said: “It’s brilliant for really fun rhythms. I’m sure she will love it.”