I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud: a review of our William Wordsworth event by Jack Wright.

On Saturday 5th December, Poet in the City hosted a virtual event on the great English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, in the year of his 250th birthday.

Shahidha Bari provided an introduction to Wordsworth’s life and work. The way in which his work, particularly his sonnets, maintain an intimate connection with nature – ‘rocks, and stones, and trees’ – highlight the importance of the world surrounding the poet. Though nature receives particular attention, Wordsworth often thought beyond the subject, with those same rocks, stones and trees serving as a way to make sense of contemporary concerns, including political disillusionment. In 2020, perhaps the reader can reflect upon nature in similar terms – whether it be a way to unpack the difficulties of the everyday or to remain aware of the world in which we live. Nature remains a constant point of attention and nature’s daily effect on us, as well as our own impact on nature, continue to make for important poetic subjects.

Polly Atkin offered a fascinating insight into Wordsworth’s poetry. The emphasis frequently placed on the importance of a connection to nature is as prevalent in Wordsworth’s writing as it is in current government proposals and across social media. The sentience and complexity of nature as both an inspiring force and as a teacher is demonstrated in Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’. This in turn highlights the need for a reciprocal relationship with nature, as opposed to a perspective of nature as our ‘only recognised healthcare system’.
The many-faced qualities of nature, though, and its innate complexity, are important to bear in mind. Nature can be categorised as the rocks, stones and trees surrounding us, and yet also as the virus that has affected our lives this year, and further natural disaster. Wordsworth also experienced loss, such as his brother John, whose death at sea is described in ‘The Prelude’. Wordsworth appreciation of nature is equalled by the way which he demonstrated a profound respect for it.

Poet Pratyusha was the final speaker of the event. She spoke about how, at a young age, Wordsworth’s poetry helped her to begin to see the world around her, though the lack of diversity within nature writing soon became apparent. A number of more recent publications such as Willowherb Review, as well as Pratyusha’s own poetry, demonstrate the way in which the legacy of Wordsworth has continued to influence a wide range of writers, many of whom are interpreting the world around us in refreshingly original ways.

The afternoon event included a number of readings of Wordsworth’s poetry by Anna Madeley, including the titular ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’. Though we may all have been experiencing ‘the bliss of solitude’ in recent months, the event was a great opportunity for lovers of poetry to connect and reflect.