Carolyn Hitt: Wales is a ‘bard nation’
This year’s summer vacation was therefore a road trip. Definitely not a stay, mind you
In the new normal of tourism, this is a term that seems to apply to any break that does not involve leaving mainland Britain when everyone knows that a good stay is to spend the annual fortnight in the back garden avoiding to brag about the beach Facebook of others.
Armed with an old-fashioned Atlas Big Road AA, a week’s worth of glovebox wine erasers and Thelma & Louise style sunglasses, we made our way to Scotland – via the Lake District to the outward journey and Northumberland and Yorkshire on the return. .
Our route was pretty smooth, but I had expressed a desire to call in Wordsworth on the climb and Brontes on the descent.
Unfortunately, Charlotte, Emily and Anne were already inundated with visitors who had the foresight to book online weeks in advance, so Haworth was banned.
But Dove Cottage was fairly quiet – a pleasant surprise considering the lakes were teeming with vacationers.
We stepped on the doorstep of the humble cottage where Wordsworth and his family lived from 1799 to 1808 and in 20 minutes we booked the tour that takes visitors back in time, complete with sights, sounds and smells reminiscent of over 200 years ago. .
From small moments taken from Wordsworth’s poems and letters, her sister Dorothy’s diaries have been recreated, telling the story of their life there.
As the guide explained, in this time of “simple life and high thought”, the everyday mixed with the extraordinary.
In these small rooms, against the backdrop of domestic turmoil, some of the greatest poems the world has ever known were created. And seeing some of the more mundane family heirlooms kept in the adjacent museum suddenly brought Wordsworth to life as a person and a poet.
Previously he had only existed in my imagination as a great exam subject, but seeing his socks changed everything. A pretty gray pair, with WW embroidered on the side, they were accompanied by an excerpt from Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary: “William is now sitting next to me at 10:30 am. I have been by his side since tea, running on the heel of a stocking, repeating a few of his sonnets to him.
It conjured up a wonderful image. The juxtaposition of mending socks and sonnets was the perfect symbol of what Wordsworth did for poetry. He democratized it for ordinary people. At the time, his writing was considered radical – a shocking contrast to the verses that were in vogue as the 18th century gave way to the 19th.
As the museum’s commentary explained: “His poetry centered on the ideals of love for nature, the power of the imagination and the importance of empathy for others. It was poetry for a new era and its writing still has the power to speak to us today.
In another display case, a rather faded-looking little book with a ring mark on its cover has been described as one of the museum’s “greatest treasures” – William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads with a Few Other Poems 1799.
From fossil footprints to food festivals, the National Museum of Cardiff and the National History Museum of St. Fagans have announced a busy summer of events to keep families entertained during school holidays and through September.
During her visit this summer, Amgueddfa Cymru asks visitors to share their unique and authentic stories on social media using #MyStoryOfWales.
Highlights of the summer schedule include:
* Lily Fossil Print, National Museum Cardiff (free) – See the 220 million year old dinosaur footprint found by four year old Lily at Bendricks Bay. The fossil imprint belongs to a currently unknown herbivorous dinosaur.
* Wales is … Olympics, St Fagans National Museum of History, until October 2, 2021 (free) – see iconic items from Wales’ top Olympians and Paralympians in this new exhibit to mark the Summer Olympics of Tokyo 2020.
* Become Richard Burton, National Museum Cardiff, until October 3, 2021 (free, tickets must be booked in advance with general admission tickets to the museum) – learn the remarkable story of Richard Jenkins, the boy from Pontrhydyfen and Taibach, Port Talbot, became Richard Burton, the international star of the stage and the cinema.
* Summer of Fun, National Museum Cardiff (free) – series of free events from August 7 to 28 run by young people for young people, including Sustainable Fashion & Upcycling workshops and a Dino-Draw Along Paeleoart workshop.
* Amgueddfa Cymru Food Festival, online (free with select paid events) – a week of virtual discussions, classes, cooking demonstrations, music and more from September 6 to 12.
* Entrance to museums is free. However, to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, the museum has had to reduce the number of visitors on site and to manage this, all visitors will need to book a free ticket in advance at museum.wales.
There was a reflection from poet laureate Simon Armitage on its seismic significance: it was first planned. Of course, no one knew at the time that such a modest object would press the reset button of English poetry, that it would become the volume that would keep poetry from sinking into elitism, bring it back into orbit. everyday and accessible to all. “
As Armitage says, it was the poetry of the people. It’s also the title of a program I’m working on right now. It was a moment of happiness. Wordsworth and his socks and his little book that had the biggest impact reminding me that poetry is indeed an art form for everyone and can be integrated into everyday life.
Not that we need to bring it back to Wales, of course. We have always recognized the power of poetry. From Gwerfyl Mechain to Gillian Clarke to Thomases RS and Dylan, we are a bardic nation. Words are so important to the Welsh that they are embedded in our very architecture, as the Wales Millennium Center demonstrates, its stones singing with the inspiring mantra provided by former national poet Gwyneth Lewis.
And how many other countries give poetic achievement an almost sacred meaning? Take the National Eisteddfod, for example. Who wants to win the Booker Prize when you can be crowned, inducted and enlightened by dancers at your feet?
We have a great Bardic Ambassador in Cerys Matthews who has done a lot to demystify poetry.
When she released her album with 10 poets earlier this year – We Come from the Sun – she described how perceptions of poetry’s place in our lives are changing: “Poetry is different right now. It feels like it’s not just an academic endeavor, it’s not just for the establishment, it’s not just for things to be written down, hidden in books, learned by rote or by strength, ”she said, adding:“ The way people react to the world around them, the way young voices and new generations do it – you don’t have to just call it off. poetry. It’s in slogans, in mantras, in songs, in hip hop, slang and spoken word, monologues. I never saw poetry as just a thing on the page.
Poet and performer Clare Potter is another Welsh woman who ensures that poetry reaches the widest possible audience. She will host our People’s Poetry radio show to celebrate National Poetry Day on October 7th.
Clare, who is from Cefn Fforest near Blackwood, will invite people from all walks of life to discuss the poems that are meaningful to them – marking memories, bringing solace and sparking personal or political change.
When I asked her about the approach she will take – and her own experience of poetry as a guide to life – she wrote evocatively of the power of poetry: “We don’t all write poems, nor even read them, but in our lives, when we want to celebrate, commemorate, mourn and galvanize, human beings constantly turn to poetry. Why?
“If no one was watching I would say it’s because poetry is sacred. In a poem, we are in the realm of the psalm, the hymn, the song of the heart, the spell. A poem does something to us, more than the sum of its words and its images; the sounds and the rhythms breathe, resonate with us because it is a living being, a poem, it has a pulse, and like all of us, wants to connect, to be heard and understood, darling.
“Whether or not we regularly buy a Kate Tempest album or go to a Gillian Clarke book launch, most of us remember being in the elementary school hall that reeked of daps. and rubber gymnastic mats, reciting a poem for eisteddfod, or studying war poets and carried into the trenches. And then there were parents like my Aunt Gloria who leaned on the door and urged me to take a break with “What’s the world, so caring” or my mom giving “Rage, rage against the death of the lightweight, ‘a little welly.
“We all have a memory linked to a poem. The truth is, poetry connects us more than we all realize. It is a mirror that reflects back to us the deepest and most difficult to express feelings, perhaps those that we had not even recognized.
We’ve had people once presented shining examples of poems they cherish for personal reasons – from the woman who remembers the Welsh nursery rhyme her minor father used to entertain his fellow coal miners underground to the man who found solace in a particular poem as he struggled. of grief after the sudden death of a young friend.
We have tales of epiphanies and turning points and poems learned by heart like children which take on new resonances in the memory of adults. Stories of inspiration and joy as well as poignant and bitter-sweetness.
And we would like more people to get in touch and share their stories about the poems that touched their lives.
It could be the poem you chose for your wedding or the verse that helped you say goodbye to a loved one. It could be the poem that helped mend a broken heart or seal a new beginning.
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It could be the poem that reminds you of your mother or sums up your child; a poem that reflects a friendship or unearths a childhood memory.
It could be the poem that made you change direction, question your politics, or see the world around you in a new way.
It could be the poem that energizes you when you need a boost, comforts you when you’re depressed, or a poem that just makes you laugh, cry, or think. It could even be a poem you wrote yourself.
We want to celebrate the power of poetry and the role it can play in our daily lives – remember, even Wordsworth could mix sock mending with sonnets – so get in touch.
If you would like to share the personal story of your favorite poem on People’s Poetry, please email [email protected]
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