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Poems to Live Your Life By – Book review

Poems to Live Your Life By chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell.
(Published September 2018).

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Poems to Live Your Life By is a collection of poems selected by Chris Riddell. The book is divided into eight different sections (Musings, Youth, Family, Love, Imaginings, Nature, War, and Endings) and every poem is brought to life by Riddell’s artwork. It includes poems from William Shakespeare, Kate Tempest, Brian Patten, Carol Ann Duffy, Wilfred Owen, Emily Dickinson, Neil Gaiman, and many others.

Let’s be honest, this book is already worth buying simply for its gorgeous cover. The dark blue (almost purple) hardcover with the gold and rose gold drawings looks absolutely beautiful. If you are as much of a sucker for aesthetically pleasing covers as I am, you’ll love putting this book on display in your home.

But it has got more going for it than just the cover. This is such as broad selection of poetry that there’s something in it for everyone. Even if you’ve had enough of Shakespeare comparing someone to a summer’s day, you might still like Patten’s bittersweet The Minister for Exams, Duffy’s achingly beautiful Valentine, or Gaiman’s brilliant Orphee inspired by the myth of Orpheus.

I find poetry to be incredibly powerful. It can fill you with any kind of emotion. It can make you feel sad or happy, or fill you with wonder, or make you get lost in another world or in your own thoughts.
Some excerpts of Poems to Live Your Life By that spoke to me:

“Question 1. Describe the taste of the Moon.
It tastes like Creation I wrote,
it has the flavour of starlight.”
– The Minister for Exams – Brian Patten

“Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever – or else swoon to death.”
– Bright Star – John Keats

“I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
– He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven – W.B. Yeats

“The clocks whispered time which they caught in their gears
They crept and they chattered, they chimed and they chewed.
She fed them on minutes. The old ones ate years.”
– Witch Work – Neil Gaiman

“Every hour wounds, the last one kills.”
– Orphee – Neil Gaiman

I enjoyed the sections Love and Imaginings the most and the poems that stood out to me were The Minister for Exams, Sonnet 18, Valentine, Witch Work, and Orphee.
Nature and War, the sections with the least amount of poems, didn’t resonate with me as much as the others did (although Dulce et Decorum Est will always be a gem).

Chris Riddell is a master illustrator and his drawings breathe life into the poems. I particularly liked the illustrations of the creatures and the father and son accompanying Jabberwocky that filled up the pages.

This is the perfect book for anyone getting into poetry or anyone who already loves poetry and it would also make for a good present. The only thing that stops me from giving this the full 5 out of 5 stars is that I simply didn’t enjoy every single one of the poems. But the wide variety that caters to everyone’s tastes and the stunning artwork definitely earn it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review can also be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2593093931

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