Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Postcard 32: Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
'From Bolton's old monastic tower
The bells ring loud with gladsome power...'
William Wordsworth
Wordsworth was inspired to write his poem, 'The White Doe of Rylstone', as a result of his visit to Bolton Abbey. A revised draft of the poem, with textual alterations in the handwriting of Mary Wordsworth, the poet's wife, was bought by The Wordsworth Trust in 2007 for £9000. Poets struggle with the issue of revision: it was Paul Valéry (1871 - 1945) who wrote that 'a poem is never finished, only abandoned'. Wordsworth's poem was drafted initially in 1807/1808. The revisions were made post-publication, prior to the second edition of 1820.

It would be very interesting to know your views or personal revision policies. Do you feel that your poems continue to evolve post-publication or is there a point at which the words 'set' for better or worse?

On a different note, Australian poet, Emma Jones, is to be the next Poet in Residence for the Wordsworth Trust.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Postcard 31: Brontë and Plath

Top: Haworth, the moorland path (left) to Top Withens
Middle: Parson's Field adjoining the Brontë Parsonage
Bottom: The moor

I have been thoroughly enjoying the BBC4 series on a Monday evening, 'A Poet's Guide to Britain' by Owen Sheers, Poet in Residence at the Poetry Archive. In the first programme, Sheers tackled the subject of Wordsworth on Westminster Bridge; and in the second programme, the influence of the Brontë family and their landscape upon Sylvia Plath. The third programme, this evening, was about the well-loved poet from Orkney, George Mackay Brown.

I have blogged before about Haworth, but the programme opened new horizons for me. Sheers was considering the poem, 'Wuthering Heights' by Sylvia Plath, and it was fascinating to see what shadowings of Emily
Brontë one could detect in the later poet's lines. Plath, however, herself a newcomer to Yorkshire, was not content to relive the Brontë experience. Sheers showed us how she took what she found and made it her own.

My middle photograph shows a corner of Parson's Field in the sprawling
Brontë Meadow at the rear of the Haworth Parsonage. The dry-stone walling was erected in 1957 when the Brontë Society bought the land. The other areas of walling in the vicinity date from the 16th and 17th centuries and were used to mark the boundaries of the strips of field known as 'Long Roods'. Parson's Field was originally known as Over Long Roid: both 'roid' and 'rood' are Scandinavian terms for a woodland clearance.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Postcard 30: Westminster and Wordsworth

We enjoyed the first episode of A Poet's Guide to Britain presented by Owen Sheers (Monday BBC4 8.30pm). Sheers explored the story behind the famous lines ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ by William Wordsworth. He took us on a journey to the Lakes and over to France, demonstrating how pivotal and symbolic the bridge was in terms of spanning the different aspects of Wordsworth's life. Sheers is due to explore the poem 'Wuthering Heights' by Sylvia Plath in the next episode.
  • Advice from Wordsworth to Southey sells for over £8000