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01 March 2021

Posted by Tabby Hayward

WHEN I HAVE FEARS - KEATS, ILLNESS AND POETRY

14 attending

This week, our
writing was inspired by the latest challenge from the Young Poets Network -
poems inspired by illness, health, self-care and Keats, in honour of the
bicentenary of Keats' death.

We began by looking at Keats' sonnet, 'When I have fears that I may cease to be':

When I have fears
that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Using this as a jumping off point, we wrote our own ‘When I have fears’ poems, based around responses
to the pandemic!

When I have fears
that…  
I may have forgotten how to socialise
with people/ 
the pandemic is going on forever / if I have to do one more Zoom call I’m going to… / I’m going to have another lockdown birthday!

Come up with
fear(s) and how you’d respond to them – e.g. then I bake cupcakes/watch my
favourite TV show/have a cup of tea/FaceTime my friends/family/take the dog for
a walk – ADD IN DESCRIPTIVE DETAIL

ENDING – ‘Till’…
Until what? What would make you feel better? How do you feel when you relax
again/feel more positive/able to face the world again?!

Doesn’t have to
rhyme – doesn’t have to be a sonnet – doesn’t have to be serious!

After sharing some brilliant poems (including some incredible sonnets written by Thomas and Clare,
in flawless iambic pentameter and perfect rhyme schemes, in just 15 minutes!)
we moved on to looking at some other poems about heath and illness, including ‘Self-portrait
as medicines’, ‘Half-empty’ and ‘Nightingale Pledge’, all by the fantastic
Romalyn Ante, ‘Small Miracles’ by the wonderful Malika Booker (winner of the
Forward Prize for best single poem in 2020!) and the deeply moving and powerful
‘On Nurses’ by Roger Robinson.

Based on these poems, I gave the young writers a series of possible prompts (below) and they set
to work! There were some wonderful poems shared, which I really hope will be
submitted to the competition!

Poem Prompts:

How to take care of
yourself in a pandemic
! (inspired by Half-Empty)

Instructions (e.g.
Turn off the news)
Indications (feeling sad/anxious)
Cautions (don’t operate heavy machinery/overwork yourself!)
Metaphorical medication (take one large hot chocolate on FaceTime to your best
friend, twice weekly!) 
Side effects? (balance with a long walk/don’t forget to clean your teeth!)

Self portrait as…
Medicines?
The government’s public health announcements? The lockdown tier
system?  Wearing a face mask? Social
distance markers?

On Nurses – poem of
celebration for nurses/doctors/care workers/counsellors/ therapists/NHS
staff/support bubble/hospital cleaners/paramedics etc

The Little Miracles – what are you
grateful for? When the world shrinks/when different things become more/less
important? What little miracles have you experiences this year/in times of
difficult health?

Pledge Poem (inspired
by Nightingale Pledge) –
what do you pledge to do? (e.g. being there for a
friend in need/helping out a relative/being kinder to yourself/taking things
one day at a time/not sweating the small stuff/spending more time with family
and friends when all this is over?)

After some beautiful
sharing, and enthusiastic responses from the whole group, we also got a privileged
first reading of the first page of Safir, Kira and Jaimes’ ongoing project of
an ‘upturned’ retelling of the Cinderella story, continued from last week’s
fairytale flashfiction, and starring, of course, Dumpster Diver Dan as the fairy
godmother! The team had written a seriously impressive 11 pages between them
since last week, and we were thrilled to hear the first page read by Safir and
Kira in the workshop – can’t wait for the next instalment next week! We’re also
told it’s now being adapted into a movie script…

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