Inspired by Keats,gardens, and a poetry workshop by Daljit Nagra

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The peony poem in one of my previous posts inspired me to try out a poetry workshop at Keats’ House during the Keats’ festival. I was also interested to find out that the poet Daljit Nagra was to take over as poet in residence there and was leading this workshop on how to write an ode. I have followed from a distance Daljit Nagra’s progress from an aspiring English teacher in a school I worked at to an inspiring poet and much quoted now from many GCSE anthologies. He is a truly modern British poet and very innovative not just with ideas but also language.

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We attempted a Sapphic ode and this meant we had to be concise and focus on a tight structure. This was to be the slightly longer length of 11 syllables to 3 lines and the fourth line with five. Instead of a more traditional 10 syllable the 11 suggests a more ‘falling’ tragic tone.  We were introduced to terms used for poetic structure but the focus of this ode was to address a person with a sense of absence, loss, time passing.  As an example we were shown a modern ode written with this structure and the example was very moving but also was inspired by a poet I was introduced to when I stayed in Karachi in 1984. Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
We had to go and sit in the garden of Keats house and had about 25 minutes to write a Sapphic style ode! My mind was filled with so many memories of Chris Abbas and her garden in Karachi. It had lovely trees and flowers but also a little white dog, a parrot and a turkey she had been given for Christmas and had kept rather than ate. The dog inspired my Jabbu Jabbu stories. His name was Jabbu and he was a cheeky miniature Samoyed type dog. Chris was a trained artist from the Slade school and she had met her husband, Ghulam Abbas, an Urdu short story writer, in London. They had had three daughters and lived in Karachi but sadly she had recently been widowed. She had invited us to stay with her while I was volunteering to help children learn to read. She had many inspiring artistic ways of helping children draw and trace letters.

All of theses memories were flooding into my mind and I had to cut out so much in order to write an ode to her but the parallel of sitting in an English garden and enjoying time with her in her Karachi garden seemed to be the focus. I was able to feel I finished an ode and reading it out later at the workshop it seemed to work. Now as I reflect on it and have more time to count the syllables accurately I am not so sure! I also feel I want to slightly change the structure by adding just a few more lines! Writing seems to be such a difficult art as there are many ways to express ideas but it needs to feel right or fitting.
The poem isn’t quite ready yet but is an ode to her and her inspiring and diverse garden. In the blog are some pictures of Keat’s house and garden and it is here that he wrote some of his most famous poems in his very short life. The window view is from his upstairs study.

 

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Consider the lilies: Consider the bins! A walk through the mean streets of Manchester!

imageimageConsider the lilies:  Consider the bins!

imageA walk through some Manchester streets to Whitworth park showed an interesting variety of care for the environment. In some key streets there were so many gardens with great  white lilies and other flowers, but certainly the lilies were outstanding. Unfortunately there was also a lot of litter and overflowing bins not far away.  How some people can show so much care and then so nearby there are bins that could be cleared of the rubbish shows the variety of human attitudes there are. It  is not fair on those that take a pride in their surroundings and go the extra mile to grow and water flowers.  Manchester City council has a system similar to North Lincs where the bins are only collected every other week. Well!  Well done to the London Borough of Hounslow that collects and recycles every week. Sad to say the streets here in my local area would be far worse if this was not the case.

Whitworth park was founded by Joseph Whitworth around 1890 and as an industrialist he gave the land and created a park with a boating lake for the people of the city of Manchester. How many corporations are buying prime real estate in cities and  giving it to the people who live there as a green open space ?Are the city planners allowing for more green space as the need for building more homes, bigger schools increases and developers want to gain as much profit as possible from land bought?   Are there any more benevolent capitalists like Joseph Whitworth?

imageThere are charities like the wildlife trusts that buy land for conservation of wildlife and rely on the contributions of ordinary folk.

 

 

Some of the photos show how people in Manchester do care about having gardens and alleyways with flowers, small plots of green, and support for their green spaces. Manchester City Council has recycling bins but could maybe step up to having some of those bins collected more often than twice a week!

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And the symbolism of Lilies? Well, one was Cleanliness!  From a bit of Internet trawling the biblical lilies of the field in Palestine might not have been white; possibly red.  It seems that lilies might have been a very generic term like daisies.  Maybe Jesus was referring to a wide variety of flowers from the Liliaceae family with a variety of colours.

 

So from the sacred insight to the more profane. We humans love to appropriate the world around us. If lilies are used to represent death, loss and funerals they can also be symbolic of birth and reproduction Look carefully inside the lily. White Lilies are supposed to have a pistil like a phallus and be highly erotic. This is from the Greeks who also felt the pollen symbolised fertility. No close up photos at present! Well I was asked to spice up my blog!

Some extracts from internet on Lily symbolism and myth.

Purity, modesty, virginity, majesty, it’s heavenly to be with you. The white lily is linked to Juno, the queen of the gods in Roman mythology, by the story that while nursing her son Hercules, some excess milk fell from the sky creating the group of stars we call the Milky Way, and lilies were created from what milk fell to the earth. The Easter lily is also known as the symbol of the Virgin Mary.

(I have just read  an  intriguing fictional insight into a Mary’s  grief , by Colm Tobin ‘The Testament of Mary’)

 

And from the Tarot, there are three cards which have lilies portrayed in them!  The magician one looked the closest resemblance to white lilies in the background.

I have been told my garden in Spain is surviving my absence while visiting family and friends in the UK.  Thanks to friends there! Maybe I will be back in time to see if my lilies are still in bloom. The wild part will hopefully have had some rain but from now there can be long periods of dry weather.