Waking to the wind gusting the trees outside the window, I thought of Christina Rossetti.

The wind is like a great spirit. It is not just imagination that it stirs something in us. In children too. They never sit calmly in school when a wind gets up.

The Rossetti lines in my mind were: ‘Who has seen the wind? / Neither you nor I’ and the last line of the stanza ‘The wind is passing by’. I had invented line three and somehow arrived at ‘But when the light moves in the leaves’. The poet’s original line is much better ‘But when the trees bow down their heads’.

On Christina Rossetti’s Wikipedia page it says she she is ‘perhaps best known for her long poem ‘Goblin Market’, her love poem ‘Remember’ and for the words of the carol ‘In the bleak midwinter’.  But I think ‘Birthday’ (‘My heart is like a singing bird’) must rank high among remembered poems.  And I just found ‘Uphill’ which I had forgotten I knew and loved, but now I know it certainly influenced at least one poem I wrote myself. Then there is ‘Twice’ which I had also forgotten but shouldn’t have. I must go back to Christina Rossetti, though perhaps a ‘Selected’ is best. In the complete poems you get lost somewhere in misery and religiosity – or at least I did when I was last immersed.

But she has done that magic thing that some poets do – planted a snatch of lines I can’t and won’t forget: the earworm. Enough always to bring me back. I will be saying this poem inside my head all day, like it or lump it. Thank you, you compilers of so-called ‘children’s poems’, in which I must first have found this lyric by Christina Rossetti. Without you, I doubt I would be writing this blog right now. Or remembering the lines that lead me to other lines that lead me everywhere I happily go.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.





Week one of the July submissions window is over already.

I’ve read and returned 30 manuscripts. More will arrive tomorrow, and some are still sitting in my box.

So far the standard has been high. This both delights and alarms me: I can’t meet the demand. I can only work with a tiny number of these poets to make a publication.

However, many of them will find other routes to readers. Some, I am sure, will go on to win one of the pamphlet competitions.

I look for poems that connect instantly. I want the magical thing, the almost-impossible-to-describe visceral recognition, an intuitive grasp of meaning even where the surface is puzzling or obscure.

Sometimes, there’s a snag that interrupts the connection, a little thing easily fixed. (It’s easier to describe flaws in poems than put them right.)

One of these is the habit of opening a poem ‘I remember’. Sometimes it’s not the first line – but it finds its way in there, and often it’s repeated. (One poet this week wrote ‘I’ve not forgotten’ – much stronger.)

Most poems are, I think, made from memories. If they’re also written in the first person, the reader assumes the memory belongs to the poet.

So you can present the memory without ‘I remember’. It’s the difference between

I remember the sweet scent of honeysuckle in the rain


The scent of honeysuckle in the rain was sweet

Of course, the phrase ‘I remember’ evokes a number of older poems that we also remember (I remember ‘I remember’), as well that seductive emotion: nostalgia. The sound of the word ‘remember’ is as cosy as an old armchair.

For additional protection from the infection of ‘I remember’, vaccinate yourself by writing an instant ‘I remember’ poem with an online generator.

Then why not revisit the famous ‘remember’ poems which are subconsciously leading you to echo them?

For example, there’s good old Thomas Hood’s I remember, I remember? It’s a sweet but sentimental piece and I would probably weep over it after my third glass of wine.

Or Hilaire Belloc’s Tarantella – not at all sentimental: ‘Do you remember an Inn, Miranda, Do you remember an Inn?’ (While writing this blog I found the most extraordinary YouTube clip of Belloc singing this! I had no idea this existed, or that Belloc could sing. Some would say, of course, that he couldn’t.)

And of course, mistress of the ultimate emotive pang, there’s Christina Rossetti with the ‘funeral poem’: ‘Remember me when I am gone away’. Note that she goes for the imperative. Rossetti was no wimp.

The two words ‘I remember’ instantly summon love and loss, with the emphasis on the latter. But after using them to get the poem going, swiftly excise the phrase. Show no mercy. ‘I remember’ is scaffolding for a building that will stand stronger without it.