I have just finished reading a selection of Christina Rossetti’s poems and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them. They were reasonably simple to read and understand, Rossetti’s use of rhyme often giving them a sing-song quality. Yet despite their apparent simplicity, almost all of the poems were deep, moving and powerful. Reading them felt like getting to know the poet herself, as most of her work returned to the same themes: Rossetti’s relationship with God and the pain she suffered in love. Here are some of my personal favourites:
1. Goblin Market – probably Rossetti’s most famous work, this is a must-read. It tells the story of a girl who is led astray by goblins selling their dangerous wares, but is ultimately redeemed by the love of her sister. The irregular rhyme scheme masterfully reflects the calls of market sellers.
2. Monna Innominata – this ‘sonnet of sonnets’ is comprised of fourteen sonnets tracing the course of a relationship, each of which is a beautiful poem in its own right.
3. ‘No, Thank You, John’ – this charming poem is the author’s polite but definite rejection of a potential lover.
4. In An Artist’s Studio – a poignant sonnet describing one man’s immortalisation of his lover in art.
5. The Hour and the Ghost – I liked the clever, chilling ending of this poem, which is narrated from the perspectives of three different people (‘Bride’, ‘Bridegroom’ and ‘Ghost’).
6. Maude Clare – this poem, which is comprised mainly of conversation, is sassy and surprising to the very last line.
7. Winter: My Secret – a playful poem using the motif of seasons to represent the narrator’s willingness to open up to her lover.