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Poetry appreciation

DORSET: World Poets - William Wordsworth

Date: Thursday 7 December, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Price: £10, with informal buffet dinner afterwards £25 inc.
Venue address:
Sladers Yard, West Bay Road, West Bay, Bridport, Dorset DT6 4RN

Publicity material for this event says:

William Wordsworth has come to be thought of as Wordsworthy, as though he were always the older man with a face like a sober civic gentleman who just happened to have a decent poem about daffodils, and an odd-looking closeness to his sister, in his distant past.

Such is the crassness and impoverishment of feeding on perversely selected crumbs from biography's sumptuous table and then not reading the life, let alone the poetry, at all, as those who have done both know.

That Wordsworth comes across as less glamorous (whatever that means) than his Romantic duo partner Coleridge may be true, if, accidentally or on purpose, you use contemporary values as a measure of true worth.

The true worth of Wordsworth, which can be grasped by seeing him as a man of action, is often simply ignored. His record as man and poet until at least his mid-thirties is captivating. At the ages of 20 and 22, he was twice in France during the Revolution, was politically active, and fathered a love-child. Before he was 30, he had become at least half of the driving force and vigorous inspiration for the greatest revolution in poetry that England has ever known, and helped Coleridge get started on his 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. That his sister Dorothy helped Wordsworth write and live and be is beyond doubt.

On the page he is a man of elemental and fertile stamina: his vast autobiographical masterpiece The Prelude is one of the most beautiful, engrossing, accomplished, sustained, expansive and invigorating poems in our, or any other, language. It is among the finest examples ever of the grace-giving power of nature, the recoverable buried treasure of memory, and the utterly engaging companionability of commentary as he makes space for us to walk beside him.

The Prelude's accounts of crossing the Alps and climbing Snowdon make it so much harder for us not to go and do them both for ourselves, and look sharp about it. His famous stealing of a boat under cover of night and taking it out on a lake is pretty contagious too:

Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore.
It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light.

What happened next is one of the most deliciously haunting moments in all poetry.

Wordsworth's absolute devotion to his beloved Lake District is a luminous celebration of the vital spirit of place and how to express deep gratitude for belonging there. What is more, Wordsworth's at-first-sight-formidable output is embraceable as we walk and climb, stop, look, listen, breathe and feel with him everywhere he goes; and that very act of being in his company empowers the heart and mind to be newly in the world and in our own remembrances more fully than ever before.

01308 459511

Event website


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