‘remixed’ version of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s lyrical ballads sheds light on 21st century poverty | Books


A new version of the lyrical ballads of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, reimagined by people who have experienced homelessness, are to be displayed alongside the original.

A leather-bound copy of Refuge from the Ravens: New Lyrical Ballads for the 21st Century, will be presented this afternoon to the Wordsworth Grasmere Archives, a tourist attraction run by the Wordsworth Trust in the former home of the Grasmere poet in the Lake District, by some of those who contributed to the book.

Their work is also part of the Refuge from the Ravens exhibition currently on view at Wordsworth Grasmere, which is a contemporary account of Lyrical Ballads through poetry, art and song. All contributions were made by people with experience of homelessness and other vulnerable people.

The project was led by Julia Grime and poet Phil Davenport, who worked with around 100 people during a series of workshops and street talks in the north of England.

In addition to the workshops, around 30 people involved in the project also took part in four research trips to Wordsworth Grasmere, where they viewed and handled original manuscripts of Lyrical Ballads.

The lyrical ballads were published anonymously by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798; four of the poems were by Coleridge while the others were by Wordsworth. They presented the stories of ordinary people and addressed issues such as homelessness and poverty in poems such as The Female Vagrant, Goody Blake and Harry Gill and Old Man Travelling. A second volume of Lyrical Ballads was published by Wordsworth in 1800.

Jeff Cowton, Senior Curator and Head of Learning at Wordsworth Grasmere, said: “The lyrical ballad poems were meant to humanize the people living around and near them. [Wordsworth].

“With the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth said everyone matters, and that’s what this exhibit says.”

Placing the new version of the poems alongside Wordsworth’s original “privileged the work” created by homeless people, said Grime, who described the New Lyrical Ballads as a “remix” of the original.

Grime said displaying the works next to each other was “kind of saying that something is really broken here and things are going to get really bad if we don’t stop and listen to the voices.” of everyone in society, rather than just prosecuting anyone. shouts the loudest or the one with the most money.

One of the participants in the project, Dom, said that if Wordsworth were alive now he would have spoken “of the cost of living”, as in the poem Goody Blake and Harry Gill, which is about a poor old woman who illegally harvesting a hedge belonging to a wealthy farmer.

Dom said it was “a given” that Wordsworth would have written about homelessness, and was “frustrated that there is so much public will to help people in poverty, and yet it doesn’t. is ever important in politics”.

Another participant, Ric, said participating in the project felt like “taking the work of a famous poet and redefining it for the 21st century to help people grasp the concept” of homelessness.

“Before I started writing, I was afraid to go into my thoughts, my feelings,” Ric said. “Now I feel more comfortable with myself and I know I’ve touched people I’ve never met. I reached them.

Davenport said “poetry dissolves the barriers between people”, and he hoped the exhibit and the poetry would help rid people of “all those judgments we all have and negative stereotypes” about homelessness.

The Refuge from the Ravens exhibition can be seen at Wordsworth Grasmere until 31 December 31. Refuge from the Ravens: New Lyrical Ballads for the 21st Century (£7.95) is published by Oystercatcher press.

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