Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! Dear Will Shakespeare, - Poem by Michael Shepherd

Dear Will,

How are things out there?
just thought you'd like to know,
that you're eleventh on the Top Poets list
as of today (though I should mention
that the hittership is 75% from
the New World that you just foresaw
before you 'closed your book'; not
that that's relevant - they speak an
English, isn't that great, which is nearer
to your own sound than the strangled
glottal stops of Cheapside Thames-side these sorry days) ...

So to the list: and so you'll understand
that no offence is meant, etcetera...
top dog today is Sheldon Silverstein -
the sort of oddball who lives down the street
just where the sidewalk ends,
whom your children hang around with all the time -
they loved his poetry when they were kids,
and still love him now they're all grown-up
for what he brought to their childhood - I bet
you wrote some poems like that for your kids
but never got them published? So I know
that though my fellow poets sniff,
you'll grant him - love?

The second is a curious case -
you may know him as Nuftali Basoalto,
we know him now as Pablo Neruda -
and though he wrote in Spanish
(they didn't conquer England but
did rather well on Americ's southern shores)
you'll recognise him even in translation
as a fellow poet, worldwide in his heart...

The third is Maya Angelou - now, no-one
wrote more deeply about women than you did,
and of the human spirit:
so though our fellow poets and critics sniff once more,
she is Woman in Splendour,
Woman as Survivor - so,
remembering your Mistress Quickly and her merry mates,
you'll recognise her instantly for what she is?
majesty - thy name is woman...

The fourth is Langston Hughes - a bit of history here:
the human spirit under great duress,
unvanquished - and if this may oft confine
the poet's wordwide scope, may yet sing loud
the human heart and speak
to generations yet unborn
of spirit tested, hope undimmed
and tears.. and tears...and love.

Emily Dickinson, the fifth - I guess
you may well need to read her twice -
her punctuation's not so - breathless -
as she may seem; neglected in her day,
she speaks out of obscurity to the human heart;
she's earned her place, wouldn't you say?

Robert Frost, the sixth - you may find him
as austere as his wintry and keen-fingered name;
like frost, he touches all the countryside;
secure as Jonson, shall we say, in poetry's ear?

Seventh and ninth - let's put them back together -
frail Sylvia Plath and gaunt Ted Hughes, the star-crossed,
storm-tossed, heart-locked, lovelost lovers -
oh, you who know what passion's spent,
what hearts are wrung, for poetry's salt tears,
admire, despair, their planetary pact
eternal writ among the unrhymed stars...

Which leaves just wild Bukowski, raven Poe
to speak as Marlowe, Webster most of all,
as do your own black tragedies,
of those dark places of the human soul
from which emerges all that's truly clear and bright -

and then yourself...

and there is much to say
of Whitman, Sharpe, Palutsky, Dahl,
all widely read, and following on your heels;
in whom, as you, the heart's as great as this great world itself;
and darkest night smiled on by clearest day;
statistics, poets say, have much, have nothing, yet to answer for -

and so, eternal Will - I wish you God's good day!


Comments about ! Dear Will Shakespeare, by Michael Shepherd

  • (10/6/2007 6:10:00 PM)

    I'm so glad I found this. When I saw the title I wondered what you were up to. A fondly mocking letter to my No 1 bard with some lovely snippets of his work thrown in and some cleverly inserted barbs thrown at some of his fellow contestants. Yes, the top 500 poets page on this site is as silly as John Cleese's funny walks, though sadly, taken seriously by some of the more naive members of the site. What a piece of work is man, eh? love, Allie xxxxxx (Report)Reply

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  • (7/12/2005 6:15:00 PM)

    Michael, is your tongue stuck permanantly to your cheek? This is such fun...and the very thing I think about whenever I see a top list of anything at all. Bravo to you!

    Raynette
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  • (7/4/2005 11:43:00 AM)

    very well put, sir! I really don't know how Poe-taster snuck in there (as a poet, anyhow) ...I've always thought of Maya's work as being more important than the type on the page. I think she wrote some very fine things... 'They Went Home' (for example) ... but Maya's reputation is particularly lofty because of what she stood for and, in her case, that is worth celebrating. I don't think she's one of the finest poets of all time but I think she embraced the mantle of free speech, and fighting the honourable fight and so I won't quibble with the fact that Maya means so much for so many people. Few of us would argue with Ted Hughes, Plath, Dickinson...that may be something nearly all of us could agree upon... I guess William should be awarded the post-life achievement award because while his work was not always fashionable, it was championed after his death by even his laconic rival Jonson (who wasn't always so gracious in Shakespeare's lifetime: 'he knows a little Latin, less Greek' etc.) ...then Shakespeare drifted off the radar until Samuel Johnson and others placed him back on his pedal stool...and William's hardly looked back since the 1750's....and Eliot's hatchet-jobs on his plays seemed to, contrarily, throw William back into the foremost 20th century spotlight...Hazlitt and Coleridge did their bit previously, to glorify the Bard...and now, the man can't put a foot wrong! T'would be a brave person that went against critical opinion of centuries upon the merits of his plays (glorious poetry in there, methinks) ...so, 'Measure for Measure' is a bit 'duff'....how could WS not be number one? that's the big question. Shel Silverstein or Hughes or Dickinson versus Shakespeare? It's almost an embarrassing contest...and 2 of those poets I think are fabulous! W.S. on the Top 500 list: 'Shall I compare thee to a silly display? / thou art less fruitful and illegitimate...' (Report)Reply

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  • (7/4/2005 8:36:00 AM)

    I agree.
    An ambitious poem well executed.
    Bravo mon ami!

    Amicalement votre
    Ronberge
    (Report)Reply

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  • (7/4/2005 7:18:00 AM)

    fascinating idea, Michael! And well executed. (Report)Reply

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  • (7/4/2005 7:11:00 AM)

    Michael, you did it man. This is a masterpiece. (Report)Reply

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  • (7/4/2005 6:32:00 AM)

    This is brilliant, Michael! Really entertaining! (Report)Reply

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Poem Submitted: Monday, July 4, 2005

Poem Edited: Friday, October 5, 2007


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