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A celebration of water in poetry

For World Water Day 2021, Hub members shared their favourite poems that speak to this year's theme of the value of water

22 March 2021

Water bringing people together

‘Water’ is unusual amongst Philip Larkin’s collection. Written in free verse, with no rhyme scheme or regular metre, the poem has a conversational and easy nature about it. Its simple language makes it accessible to all, and as clear as water, reflecting the message that Larkin conveys. If he were to construct a religion, it would be built around the life-giving properties of water, welcoming everyone, and any perspective of water. Water brings us all together by our common need for it. Every language has a word for water, and whilst they may be varied, everyone has a value (and need) for water.

Tom Curtis, one of the Hub's Co-Investigators, reads 'Water' by one of his favourite poets and shares what this poem means to him.

“I particularly like this idea of water as a place, where any angled light would congregate endlessly, a place where many views can congregate in one vessel, with one liquid, which somehow brings us all together.”

The origins of water

For many of us, water is so embedded in our daily lives that it is easy to forget where it has come from – it doesn’t originate from the tap we turn on to fill a glass of water, or the drinking fountain we bend our head to. Of course, for many parts of the world, clean water is not so readily available. In this poem, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson urges us to remember the true source of water and to consider its role in both natural and human history: “… cooling waters clear, forget not the far hills from whence they flow.”  

Caroline Grundy, Hub Manager, reads this poem, inscribed on a water fountain in the town of Hexham, Northumberland (England). 

“Water has a profound effect on the way we respond to our surroundings, urban or rural. Water has shaped the form and fortunes of the towns, cities and landscapes of the North East for centuries, through industry, art and architecture. I am constantly calmed and inspired by the waterscapes of Newcastle and beautiful Northumbria.”

The power of water

In this poem by Dylan Thomas, the speaker takes the reader through a number of scenarios comparing himself to the natural elements. He speaks about a force that has the ability to both destroy life and create or remake it – this power moves the water in rivers just as it moves the blood in his body, revealing the connections between humans and nature. The speaker regularly references water and it’s links to life and vitality, reminding us how we cannot separate ourselves from the forces of nature.

This is a favourite poem of Hub Director, Richard Dawson: “It serves as a beautiful reminder of the creative and destructive power of water and nature, and the connections between people and nature.”

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