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#NaturesPoets: what place inspires your poetry?

To celebrate the start of Lancaster University’s free online course “William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place,” we’re challenging you to write a poem inspired by your favourite place.

The lake at Grasmere - one of William Wordsworth's sources of inspiration

Wordsworth transformed English poetry, initiating the Romantic movement in Britain, which was all about self-expression, identity and place – in short, appreciating the world around you.

So we’re challenging you, as well as poets and creative writers, to write a Romantic poem based on a place that inspires you. You can then:

  • share a picture of the place, along with the poem it inspired, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #NaturesPoets;
  • or leave your poem as a comment below, along with a link to a picture of the place that inspired it.

Try your hand at Wordsworth’s own writing techniques

Writing poems on the spot is by no means easy, so to help, we asked Sally Bushell, Professor of Romantic and Victorian Literature at Lancaster University – one of the world’s leading scholars of how poems are written – about Wordsworth’s owning writing techniques:

The lake at Grasmere - one of William Wordsworth's sources of inspiration

As a Romantic poet, Wordsworth took interest in the world around him and our engagement with it.  He celebrated the power of the mind to internalise the natural world and be strengthened by it. His poetry asserts the power of a subjective, individual response to the world.

Still, even Wordsworth had trouble starting his writing, so he developed various techniques and strategies that helped him. From studying his notebooks and reading his sister Dorothy’s journals, we know about some of the techniques he used to release his creativity. These include:

  1. Returning to his favourite places around Grasmere (pictured above), where he lived, to write. Wordsworth liked a private space, where he could pace up and down as he wrote his poetry.
  2. Writing poems on the spot, in a direct response to the natural world.
  3. Drawing on accounts of characters and scenes in Dorothy’s journals.
  4. Starting a new poem by using a piece already written somewhere else.
  5. Copying out and revising an old poem as a way of kick-starting a new poem.
  6. Writing in the back of the notebook rather than the front.
  7. Working on something other than the poem he was meant to be writing.
  8. Sharing his writing with his best friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Five tips for writing poetry about place

And here are five tips from Sally, to help you write your own poetry about place:

  1. Be specific: accurate details of place – and of, for example, the flowers and plants that grow in that place – will make a big difference to your writing.
  2. Visit it: go to the place you want to write about and write on the spot (or make notes on the spot and write the poem later). You will see and hear things you did not anticipate or predict, and this will help to relieve your creativity.
  3. Make every word count: poetry differs from the novel mainly in this way. Every word should be exactly the right word for what you are trying to say, be as concise as possible.
  4. Focus on the core message of your poem: what is it you really want to convey about this place? Why is it of value to you? Ensure you have communicated the power of your own subjective response.
  5. Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect: this is a romantic myth! All great writers revise and rework their poems considerably.

Now you know how to write a Romantic poem, visit your favourite place, and share a picture of it and the poem it inspires using #NaturesPoets. Or to learn more, join the free online course, “William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place.”

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Comments (80)

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  • Shanté

    Cobble stone roads composed of love notes
    Chipped ancient buildings that cry for the souls lost of words: of your beauty
    Hills that barely touch the sky, rather they squeeze you tightly with love.
    Love language is spoken with such conviction it can cause chills so vicious your heart can stop beating
    Passion is present
    Love ever-lasting.

  • Lisa Saffron

    A poem inspired by Wordsworth’s poem Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour.
    On the steep and lofty cliffs reaching for the sky
    above Tintern Abbey along the River Wye
    you composed a poem that sweetly tells me why
    it’s in Nature where I walk.

    “O sylvan Wye! My spirit turned to thee!”
    These are your words and they have set me free.
    Your elevated thoughts have taught me how to be
    in Nature where I walk.

    I too have felt the Presence,
    the sublime and deepening sense,
    of joy, of light, of bliss intense,
    in Nature where I walk.

    I sense it by the River Wye,
    in the setting sun, the thick grey sky,
    in the woods, the meadows, the herons that fly
    in Nature where I walk.

    All that I behold on this green earth
    lifts me from gloom to a sense of worth.
    This is my home, my dwelling, my berth.
    it’s in Nature where I walk.

    Here I have found the guardian of my heart,
    here the anchor where pure thoughts start,
    here the nurse of my most inspired art
    here, in Nature where I walk.

    When in fear or pain or grief I’ve drowned
    in my mind I recall the harmonious sound
    and the beautiful forms that I have fo

  • Merrilyn McElderry

    A star is constant in the sky,
    It never asks the how? othewhy?
    It sparkles with its holy light,
    To shine in darkness, full and bright.

    I sit here in the boat right now,
    The sky above with lighted brow,
    It seems to beckon me to rise,
    And follow pathways through the skies.

    The frogs are singing right along,
    While sitting here, with you, a song,
    The water laps, against the hull,
    In cadence with the longing call.

    I wish to fly toward light right now,
    And leave the din and empty bow,
    Of weary worldly thoughts behind,
    And race with timeless mists sublime.

    But lo, familiar sounds below,
    They fashion straps of worlds I know,
    So I remain a gazing seeker mere,
    And whisper a prayer that only frogs will hear.