Poems on the theme of 'Reimagining Wordsworth'

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The Birthwaite Bards are a group of poets established two years ago with Harriet Fraser of the Wordsworth Trust, who led bi-weekly sessions where up to eight retired poets and writers were guided to develop their interests and skills.  Kathleen McEgan has been a part of this continuing group. She hails from Liverpool.
Following the theme of re-imagining Wordsworth, Kathleen wrote this poem inspired by The Solitary Reaper. She also made a solo excursion to Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum, and was quite moved by her experience. This resulted in the other two poems that follow. Harriet Fraser said of these:
“I like Kathy’s style and always when I read her poems I hear in my head her own voice speaking them. They are honest and matter of fact, and have a good rhythm. So to Kathy I say brilliant bravo and keep writing!
A Day in Grasmere made me smile because I thought that Wordsworth, perhaps, might have done the same – if the sun is shining why go inside when there is so much to see outside? And I was touched by Solitude: it’s honest and also challenges stereotypical views and assumptions.”

Solitude

(Inspired by The Solitary Reaper by Wordsworth)
I never think of single as just oneness
But to other people it may look like loneliness
However for me after twenty three years married
It is merely my past I have carried
From a maiden to a wife, a happy being
To become the dreaded widow
Singing a song of single mind
The position I am in is what we find
One cannot predict what happens in time
I am now alone but getting on fine
People may not know that alone,
I now relax and feel at home
Surrounded by people who are alike

A Day In Grasmere

Today I went for a ride on the 555
The day was clear and bright
And the daffodils in Grasmere
Were a lovely sight
The visit to the village was good
Stop at Wordsworth Trust? I should!
But I decided to go there next time
As the weather had changed to rain from sunshine
The scenic view of the Easdales
Was so pleasant in the vale
Another beautiful mountain view
I have actually climbed a few.

Visit to Dove Cottage

I followed my day trip up
And returned to Grasmere
This time I went to Dove Cottage
Where Wordsworth once lived
It was actually his family home
And the chair he sat on
Looked just like a throne
It was once a small inn
For travelers too
His manuscripts
And those of his sister
Were there for all to see
And no one was more impressed than me
Kathleen McEgan May 2016
 

15.07.2018

The enigma of Coleridge

by Edward Platten   When the American poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, travelled to Great Britain, he met the two poets whose collaborative work Lyrical Ballads has been said to have begun a new age of poetry. The Romantic movement, though it can also be said to have started a while before, certainly rose to prominence […]

Read More
28.06.2018

Re-imagining the Wordsworths III: A host of daffodils, a host of words

by Lucy Stone   ‘It feels as if you’re, when you speak it, as if you’re dancing and swaying in the wind, as if the daffodils were’, one year ten pupil from Keswick School observed, when asked how she felt reading I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud for the sound project Re-Imagining the Wordsworths, a collaboration […]

Read More
14.06.2018

Keats and Constable in Hampstead: Could they have met?

by Don Oldham In the summer of 1819 a moderately successful landscape painter and his ailing wife took a small cottage in Hampstead, then a village to the north of London. The couple were looking for more amenable summer surroundings than their house in Charlotte Street, central London offered, hoping this would contribute to an […]

Read More
04.06.2018

'A deep Romantic chasm': exploring the valley where Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan

by Peter Fiennes   It interests me, the idea that the spirit of a person lingers in a place long after they are gone. You can feel them in their homes, soon after they’ve died (or after they’ve left – we don’t have to kill them off…), although you could say that what we’re sensing […]

Read More
17.05.2018

The Byron effect

by Miranda Seymour Any study of the lives of Lord Byron’s wife and daughter points towards one inescapable conclusion: the enduring power of Byron’s personality. Annabella Milbanke married Byron in January 1815. Ada, born towards the end of their first turbulent year as a married couple, was only a few weeks old when Lady Byron […]

Read More
01.05.2018

Spring shoots and green peas: the Wordsworths and their kitchen garden

by Gareth Evans Following six months of settled living with his sister Dorothy, one May morning William Wordsworth left Dove Cottage with his brother John to walk through Yorkshire.  Separated from her brothers in early childhood only to be permanently reunited as adults, an understandably emotional Dorothy found ways of coping with what was clearly […]

Read More
16.04.2018

The Gravestone of John Keats: Romancing the Stone

by Ian Reynolds   John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five on February 23rd, 1821 and is buried at the Cemitero Acattolico—the so-called Protestant Cemetery in Rome (1). Two years later, in the early spring of 1823 his gravestone with epitaph was finally laid at his burial site. (2) Much has been documented about Keats’s […]

Read More
07.04.2018

The winners of the 2018 Wordsworth birthday poem competition

We had another wonderful set of entries this year, on the subject of ‘The child is father of the man’.  We’d like to thank Fiona Sampson, the poet and acclaimed author of The Girl who Wrote Frankenstein, for being this year’s judge, and for very kindly donating two copies of her book to the winner […]

Read More

Another Solitary Reaper

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The Parkhill Poets are a group of writers who meet together every week at Copeland Occupational and Social Centre (COSC) in Maryport, a social and day care centre for adults with physical disabilities. Over the past 10 years they have enjoyed each other’s company, shared their ideas and experience and written poetry both individually and collaboratively.
Together with ‘COSC and the Wordsworth Trust’s highly committed staff, the group have recently begun re-imagining Wordsworth’s own poetry, beginning with The Solitary Reaper. Their poem brings Wordsworth’s evocative character into the present day, all the while echoing the original. You can read Wordsworth’s original by clicking here (it will open in a new window).
This poem is the first of several to be written by creative writing groups the Wordsworth Trust works with. Each will be taking his poetry as a starting point for their own inspiration, imagining new ways “to see, to think and to feel”.

Another Solitary Reaper

A dry day for cutting,
Make hay while the sun shines,
The wettest spot in England
Here in Borradul –
Not fit for a tramp.
Taking the coast road,
Stopping off at Allonby, at Mawbra,
Finding his regular haunts,
Working for his meals,
Following the signs – good crack –
Coming back year after year.
Wintering in Ireland,
Harvesting in the Lakes.
Preferring his own company,
Barns to houses, animals to people.
Free to roam, everywhere his home.
Not twining about the weather,
A bit of John Roberts for his britches,
A twinkle in his eye.
Seeing him in our mind’s eye
But no longer on the road.
Parkhill Poets, 18 April 2016

15.07.2018

The enigma of Coleridge

by Edward Platten   When the American poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, travelled to Great Britain, he met the two poets whose collaborative work Lyrical Ballads has been said to have begun a new age of poetry. The Romantic movement, though it can also be said to have started a while before, certainly rose to prominence […]

Read More
28.06.2018

Re-imagining the Wordsworths III: A host of daffodils, a host of words

by Lucy Stone   ‘It feels as if you’re, when you speak it, as if you’re dancing and swaying in the wind, as if the daffodils were’, one year ten pupil from Keswick School observed, when asked how she felt reading I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud for the sound project Re-Imagining the Wordsworths, a collaboration […]

Read More
14.06.2018

Keats and Constable in Hampstead: Could they have met?

by Don Oldham In the summer of 1819 a moderately successful landscape painter and his ailing wife took a small cottage in Hampstead, then a village to the north of London. The couple were looking for more amenable summer surroundings than their house in Charlotte Street, central London offered, hoping this would contribute to an […]

Read More
04.06.2018

'A deep Romantic chasm': exploring the valley where Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan

by Peter Fiennes   It interests me, the idea that the spirit of a person lingers in a place long after they are gone. You can feel them in their homes, soon after they’ve died (or after they’ve left – we don’t have to kill them off…), although you could say that what we’re sensing […]

Read More
17.05.2018

The Byron effect

by Miranda Seymour Any study of the lives of Lord Byron’s wife and daughter points towards one inescapable conclusion: the enduring power of Byron’s personality. Annabella Milbanke married Byron in January 1815. Ada, born towards the end of their first turbulent year as a married couple, was only a few weeks old when Lady Byron […]

Read More
01.05.2018

Spring shoots and green peas: the Wordsworths and their kitchen garden

by Gareth Evans Following six months of settled living with his sister Dorothy, one May morning William Wordsworth left Dove Cottage with his brother John to walk through Yorkshire.  Separated from her brothers in early childhood only to be permanently reunited as adults, an understandably emotional Dorothy found ways of coping with what was clearly […]

Read More
16.04.2018

The Gravestone of John Keats: Romancing the Stone

by Ian Reynolds   John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five on February 23rd, 1821 and is buried at the Cemitero Acattolico—the so-called Protestant Cemetery in Rome (1). Two years later, in the early spring of 1823 his gravestone with epitaph was finally laid at his burial site. (2) Much has been documented about Keats’s […]

Read More
07.04.2018

The winners of the 2018 Wordsworth birthday poem competition

We had another wonderful set of entries this year, on the subject of ‘The child is father of the man’.  We’d like to thank Fiona Sampson, the poet and acclaimed author of The Girl who Wrote Frankenstein, for being this year’s judge, and for very kindly donating two copies of her book to the winner […]

Read More

The Wordsworth birthday poetry competition

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We’ve never run a competition like this on the blog before and we’ll definitely do it again, because we’ve been delighted at how many people have sent us their work. There are some really lovely short pieces here, and some very creative explorations of Wordsworth himself, the Lakes he loved, and the themes that inspire and animate his own poetry.
You can read a selection below (incidentally we did have some other good entries, but they were more than the 140-word limit, so we weren’t able to include them).
Many of our poets have been moved – as Wordsworth was – by the transition of the seasons, from Hannah Comer’s evocation of the ‘chilled remains’ of winter, to Aviva Flyax’s image of the ‘sap of living thought… frozen hard as stone’, to Catherine Godlewsky‘s description of a long spring afternoon when ‘time melts away in birdsong, light and long’, and Caroline Gill‘s poem about nesting birds, whose title is taken from a phrase in Wordsworth’s poem Why art thou silent! Is thy love a plant.
Adam Neikirk‘s poem moves from ‘frostfruit in the fall’ to ‘the soul in spring’, with a Wordsworthian sense of time and the cycles of the seasons that ‘endure beyond the year’. The theme of time is intimately linked – as it is in Wordsworth – with the idea of childhood: for example, Fiona Salt‘s poem Clouds is addressed to her daughter, urging her not to forget a day of ‘glorious sky’ and clouds that will ‘remember you’.
Many of the poems feature Wordsworth himself: Matthew Black‘s Lakeland Laureate talks of his ‘parchment and pen, a poet’s tools’, and Kim Rooney conjures the ‘wild and old exile/now home’. Two of those included below are modern takes on one of Wordsworth’s central themes in the Lyrical Ballads: the people who work and live on the land, from the shepherd in Annette Skade‘s poem Lamb, to the ‘shadeless men’ Brian Miller describes, native to their own ‘jagged mountain-pass’ and ‘peaks cloud-hid’.
It won’t surprise anyone that daffodils feature strongly, but our poets have done that with both wit and insight. Susan Cartwright Smith‘s poem begins ‘I wandered by the Eden Banks’, and evokes a modern Cumbria recovering from devastating floods, where ‘Daffs like gossips, huddled, packed’ are contrasted with the ‘rubbish still hanging in the trees’. Mike Irons does something similar in a poem that begins ‘I pondered over pad and grid’, and describes how looking at virtual maps can evoke both real landscapes and those of memory, creating ‘rural paths into the past’ that allow him to see ‘once more the child I’d been’. And for sheer virtuosity, we take our hat off to Anthony Etherin, and his poem composed entirely of anagrams of ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’.
You can imagine how tough it was to pick a winner! But in the end we had to go with Adam Neikirk, for To Albion – we especially loved the nod to Coleridge in the final line. And there’s a runner-up prize for Mike Irons, for On First Looking into Virtual Maps.
Well done to both Adam and Mike – please email us so we can arrange to send your prizes, which will be Wordsworth-related books from the shop at Dove Cottage. And a very big thank-you to everyone who entered. It was a great way to celebrate Wordsworth’s birthday!

A selection of the poems
Hannah Comer
Transitions
Spring’s day is longer than the night,
Season awakened by the clock’s extra hour,
Yet undetermined by calendar dates;
Its transitional sigh of warmth,
Life basks in the sun’s mellow rays,
Buds blossoming flowers, trees into leaf,
Arising from Winter’s chilled remains.

Aviva Flyax
The barren Oak and Elm do crack and moan
When whipped by winter’s lashes strong and chill;
Then, bleak intrusive fancies quell my will
To cast them off. The sun’s kind warmth has flown,
And sap of living thought is frozen hard as stone.
The dusty Pine maintains his green attire;
This stoic seems to be a heartless liar —
At least, his secrets are to me unknown.
But all aglow with flame beneath the snow,
Small Hawthorn, leafless, shows a different way:
Through winter’s night her candles brightly play;
Her hands’ sweet fruit can quell the heart’s dull woe;
Her berry raiment’s scarlet strong and gay.
And she shall laugh till winter’s latest day!

Matthew Black
Lakeland Laureate
A thousand shades of green
Nature’s intricate patchwork
Surveying the glorious scene
O’er a regal lakeland cirque
He called this place his home
Traversed its geological jewels
Freedom to muse and to roam
Parchment and pen, a poet’s tools

Susan Cartwright Smith
I wandered by the Eden Banks
Welly-booted, footings free.
Three months earlier giving thanks
That floods had not discovered me.
Daffs protrude the silty screes
With rubbish still hanging in the trees.
The wind still whips their golden tresses,
Spring a promise that they bear.
And still we Carliols weather stresses
Girdled by our river fair.
Every raindrop watched, implored,
The careless goddess sleeps once more.
The marker from 2005
Is shadowed by December ‘15
That mother, Nature, cruel, alive –
Reminds us we are specks, unseen.
We pull with tides, we are reflected,
A borrowed planet, we should respect it.
But spring unfolds: the sight is thrilling
Daffs like gossips, huddled, packed.
The Nile-like Eden’s bounty spilling
New life where the deluge sacked.
The Phoenix City the Nation sees,
While daffodils are dancing in the breeze.

Mike Irons
On First Looking into Virtual Maps
I pondered over pad and grid ,
Hovering like a hawk in flight ,
About to swoop and dart amid
My long-lost byways of delight.
And diving down, my eyes so keen,
I saw once more the child I’d been.
Upon the mount I ran my days,
Our youthful flock roamed field and wood,
Down the hill where, to my amaze,
An empty, lonely house now stood.
Taking wing , I left the alley ,
Soaring far across the valley.
A new and greener land I found
And rural paths into the past.
Down sylvan lanes with scarce a sound,
My paper-sack and I skipped past.
So many moons since I did play
‘Midst oaks and beeches far away.

Adam Neikirk
To Albion
The gentle look of frostfruit in the fall,
The furze-flower on its shelf of golden heath,
The aster, bound up in a circle wreath,
And rose ensconced in overshadowed hall,
In a season that endures beyond the year
Describe new weather come in summer late;
The soul in spring, and sure convince of fate,
Whose sounds make pictures on the inner-ear:
As if the apex of imagined pleasure
No single sense could hold or entertain;
But being all of what we cannot measure,
An echo weaved of past and passionate pain,
Gazed sage-like into time’s ambivalence,
Strode o’er the lane, and hopped the infinite fence.

Fiona Salt
Clouds
My little girl, remember today.
When the glorious sky stops spinning
and the clouds are castles no more
Remember this day as endless
you’re the compass my girl, be sure!
Remember today as Beauty
Yes, your hands are stubbornly grubby
and your knees a black and blue hue
your cornfield hair – wild and unruly
but your mind, it’s boundless and new.
Take on this world my glorious girl
Keep on spinning through.
Even when there is darkness, know
those clouds remember you.

Annette Skade
Lamb
Slumped against the farmhouse wall,
a newborn lamb on his small lap,
bottle beside him dripping milk,
head still bowed with the effort
to coax the weak creature to drink,
but slack, the life drained out of him.
He shifted an inch at our footsteps,
cradled the lolling muzzle,
forced words out. “He took a sup!
He took a sup!” His father’s hands
unfolded, took away the scrap,
freed him to raise his eyes-
not to heaven; he just couldn’t bear
to look on earth, see familiar things
so changed. He couldn’t save,
no matter what we’d told him,
no matter how hard he tried,
no matter how much loved.

Catherine Godlewsky
At An Afternoon Lawn Party
Lying, lazy, on the grass in springtime,
Time melts away in birdsong, light and long;
In voices, babbling from flushed lips unseen;
In daffodils, drowning in a young sun’s sweet kiss;
In the eye that gazes, hungry, at the scene
To feast on such delights and retire, nourishéd.

Kim Rooney
The Revolutionary
You’d understand
why I’d leave
hills, unbroken water
those daffodils
to forge
A brokered stand
high above the Thames
shorn of its fields, yet
rising
And still
be unsurprised
at my returning;
a wild and old exile
now home.

Brian Miller
An Image of an Incan Ruin and its Surroundings
A man unmourned stood free in the blank sun
eyeing a flight of endless Peru steps
never before, never again to thrive
as best, as full, as loved as they had been,
greets me with cold hands under plastic eyes,
telling how he was raised one of a caste,
the ripples of industry, shadeless men,
living to crack, strain, crunch, in vain,
to bring cilantro-scented jade-comfort
to the home in, but not, their own, one made
to feed warm to grave-seekers tattered bone
over jagged mountain-pass, peaks cloud-hid,
over dry white sweat that staying on lasts,
over worn river bridge, from which plummets
thought of purple orchids to wall-stems linked,
daughters of green ridges in mist, the last
vestige of an Arcadian life tinged
ever by the presence of one stone kiss
of a native world there no more.

Anthony Etherin
Anagram-Triolet for Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud…
All lay worn. I seduced an ode,
a lucid yarn no seed allowed.
I wandered lonely. As a cloud,
alone in duel, delays a crowd,
I answer you, “All land decode!”
I wandered lonely as a cloud…
All lay. Worn, I seduced an ode.

Caroline Gill
A Forsaken Bird’s-Nest
These twigs that nestled last year’s eggs look bare
without their recent covering of snow:
a blush of blossom sweeps its gentle fire
across the churchyard path of dappled dew.
The Blackbird and the Robin chant their songs
and line their bills with clumps of moss or leaf.
But they have other plans: the old nest clings
to twisted branches, still bereft of life.
The church is open: Easter Day has dawned.
A bell is rung and people start to flock.
The service ends and hidden eggs are found:
their sugar-coated shells begin to crack.
A shadow falls as peals of laughter rise:
the empty nest is bursting with surprise.

15.07.2018

The enigma of Coleridge

by Edward Platten   When the American poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, travelled to Great Britain, he met the two poets whose collaborative work Lyrical Ballads has been said to have begun a new age of poetry. The Romantic movement, though it can also be said to have started a while before, certainly rose to prominence […]

Read More
28.06.2018

Re-imagining the Wordsworths III: A host of daffodils, a host of words

by Lucy Stone   ‘It feels as if you’re, when you speak it, as if you’re dancing and swaying in the wind, as if the daffodils were’, one year ten pupil from Keswick School observed, when asked how she felt reading I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud for the sound project Re-Imagining the Wordsworths, a collaboration […]

Read More
14.06.2018

Keats and Constable in Hampstead: Could they have met?

by Don Oldham In the summer of 1819 a moderately successful landscape painter and his ailing wife took a small cottage in Hampstead, then a village to the north of London. The couple were looking for more amenable summer surroundings than their house in Charlotte Street, central London offered, hoping this would contribute to an […]

Read More
04.06.2018

'A deep Romantic chasm': exploring the valley where Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan

by Peter Fiennes   It interests me, the idea that the spirit of a person lingers in a place long after they are gone. You can feel them in their homes, soon after they’ve died (or after they’ve left – we don’t have to kill them off…), although you could say that what we’re sensing […]

Read More
17.05.2018

The Byron effect

by Miranda Seymour Any study of the lives of Lord Byron’s wife and daughter points towards one inescapable conclusion: the enduring power of Byron’s personality. Annabella Milbanke married Byron in January 1815. Ada, born towards the end of their first turbulent year as a married couple, was only a few weeks old when Lady Byron […]

Read More
01.05.2018

Spring shoots and green peas: the Wordsworths and their kitchen garden

by Gareth Evans Following six months of settled living with his sister Dorothy, one May morning William Wordsworth left Dove Cottage with his brother John to walk through Yorkshire.  Separated from her brothers in early childhood only to be permanently reunited as adults, an understandably emotional Dorothy found ways of coping with what was clearly […]

Read More
16.04.2018

The Gravestone of John Keats: Romancing the Stone

by Ian Reynolds   John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five on February 23rd, 1821 and is buried at the Cemitero Acattolico—the so-called Protestant Cemetery in Rome (1). Two years later, in the early spring of 1823 his gravestone with epitaph was finally laid at his burial site. (2) Much has been documented about Keats’s […]

Read More
07.04.2018

The winners of the 2018 Wordsworth birthday poem competition

We had another wonderful set of entries this year, on the subject of ‘The child is father of the man’.  We’d like to thank Fiona Sampson, the poet and acclaimed author of The Girl who Wrote Frankenstein, for being this year’s judge, and for very kindly donating two copies of her book to the winner […]

Read More
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