Close up of Conkers with autumn leaves
'Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls'

Charlotte Mendelson certainly makes the case for poetry once it has become part of one’s own experience (“ Poetry probably saved my life”, Life & Arts, October 6).

Conkers for me are Hopkins’ “fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls”. Clearing sticky strings of goosegrass out of the hedge in spring is again Hopkins: “when weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush”. The moon seen through a window is Larkin’s reminder of “the pain/Of being young; that it can’t come again,/But is for others undiminished somewhere”.

That “small familiar pain” of the truth, encountered again through a poem, is intensely comforting, as Carol Ann Duffy recognises in her poem “Prayer” — which is unsurprisingly a national favourite.

Dr Dora Thornton

London EC1, UK

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