FamousFaves

My stylized spin on poems that inspire me

A rhyming poem about spending one's whole life travelling to and from work; design and typography by poet Ross A Adamson

The Commuter from Poems and Sketches by E.B. White

This astute poem was first published in Poems and Sketches of E.B. White in 1981. It succinctly sums up the lives of those who spend their waking hours in thrall to employers who couldn’t care less about them.

Having done the Central London bus-train-tube commute back in the day, albeit fairly briefly, I appreciate what an ordeal city commuting can be for those of us that aren’t wired that way.

E.B. White, by all accounts a shy, pensive and reclusive soul, would surely have hated the commuter lifestyle in the years before he settled into his own groove as an author.

Sharing those sentiments entirely, I have been inspired to write poetry about soul-destroying commuting, compliant drudgery and oppresive wage-slavery.

My poems Bus, The Vacuum Age, Weekend Warrior, Autopilot, The Life Supreme and 101 Ways to Waste Your Life touch on these themes and are included in my Modern Madness poetry collection, available in paperback and ebook.

The Commuter

Commuter — one who spends his life In riding to and from his wife; A man who shaves and takes a train, And then rides back to shave again.

An illustrated poem about wasted time by George Villiers: Methinks I see the wanton hours flee and, as they pass, turn back and laugh at me.

A rhyming quote by George Villiers

This succinct rhyming couplet about regretting wasted time really strikes a chord with me.

As a notorious Restoration rake and a prominent member of the Merry Gang, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham certainly knew a thing or two about idling and debauchery.

In terms of loafing, overindulgence and hell-raising, I can't hold a candle to George Villiers, but I’ve seen my fair share of pubs, clubs and parties.

I’ve frittered away too much time in questionable company. I’ve swung the lead when I should’ve been working. I’ve lazed about aimlessly when I could’ve been productive or creative or both.

I’ve procrastinated, been disorganised and inefficient, and squandered a ton of time and energy on pursuits that amounted to nothing.

And don’t even get me started on video games, social media and internet time-wasting – it’s almost as if the primary purpose of the microchip was to turn us all into square-eyed loser-zombies.

Anyway, the older I get, the more I regret those ‘wanton hours’ and wish I could live them again. But those hours are gone forever and the joke is very much on me.

I guess Villiers was right: however you waste it, time always has the last laugh.

Wanton Hours

Methinks I see the wanton hours flee And, as they pass, turn back and laugh at me.

Two stanzas from Nirvana's song Stay Away with artistic arrangement and typographical design by poet Ross Adamson

Lyrics from Stay Away by Nirvana

These raw and wry lyrics are from Stay Away by Nirvana, from their stellar 1991 album Nevermind.

I reckon Cobain's lyrics have aged just as well as the band's music, and I love listening to them just as much as I did back then – maybe even more.

Who knows what dark musical magic this genre-defining group might have concocted had Kurt lived on.

Then again, plenty of musicians have made shitty records well past their sell-by date. Maybe it really is better to burn out than to fade away... 🤔 🎸🤘

Stay Away

Monkey see, monkey do Rather be dead than cool Every line ends in rhyme Less is more, love is blind Give an inch, take a smile Fashion shits, fashion style Blow it out, keep it in Have to have poison skin

The first verse of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe styled by poet Ross Adamson as part of his Famous Faves collection where he curates and illustrates poems that inspire him.

The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

The famous first stanza of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. Poe was a master of macabre and few poets have matched his sinister eloquence. Read this poem on your own by candlelight and spinal chills are guaranteed.

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door — Only this, and nothing more.”

The best-known verse from the poem A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; design and typography by poet Ross A Adamson.

Footprints on the sands of time...

My favourite quatrain from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's A Psalm of Life, one of the first poems I learnt to recite by heart.

I empathise with the yearning to leave something of note behind when my days are done; to say, “I was here. That was me.”

Despite the poem's vaporous religious undertones (more a sign of the time than anything else, methinks), it speaks truth to all of us.

A Psalm of Life

Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time.

The final stanza of the poem Suicide in the Trenches by war poet Siegfried Sassoon; design and typography by Ross A Adamson.

A tribute to Sassoon's emotive war poem

Above is the last verse of Siegfried Sassoon's Suicide in the Trenches, one of the most powerful pieces of poetry I have ever read.

First published in 1918, this harrowing and hauntingly evocative poem often brings tears to my eyes as I contemplate the horrors that those brave young men suffered in the bloodbaths of World War One.

Hard-hitting, memorable poetry like this ought to serve as a stark deterrent to the kind of waking nightmare that the poor soldiers in Ukraine – and other war-torn nations – are enduring as I write.

But, appallingly, there's always a nefarious warmonger in waiting; an evil arsehole perfectly prepared to put an end to peacetime, extinguish countless precious lives and ensure that history repeats itself in the worst ways possible.

Suicide in the Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy Who grinned at life in empty joy, Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum, With crumps and lice and lack of rum, He put a bullet through his brain. No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye Who cheer when soldier lads march by, Sneak home and pray you’ll never know The hell where youth and laughter go.