Inspired by Art & Soul
9 March 2015
Local poet Sally Flint has won third prize in the Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Prize 2014 with an entry inspired by Art & Soul: Victorians and the Gothic. The poem reflects on the relationship between William Morris, the 19th-century textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist whose work is featured in the exhibition, and his eldest daughter Jenny.
‘I often walk here in the evening hoping to meet my dear father, he was such a sweet companion.’ Jenny Morris
I know he hears rustling of leaves
along the ground, even though
it’s summer and the trees are full.
Sometimes he thunders through the house
and garden when he can’t find the right word
to end a poem, or pigment to dye cloth.
Soon he’ll quiz the nurse again,
tell her she must call him the moment
my face whitens – before I fall.
He will keep me close and at home,
no matter what convention says.
I frequently pray for him. He tastes
metal before a storm, catches sight
of colours others don’t see.
Father knows beyond the mind’s eye
patterns play tricks. When the world turns
black, somewhere sun warms earth.
Beauty is never perfect. I am not mad.
Jenny developed epilepsy in her teens after a boating accident. William Morris was determined she should be looked after at home, continue her education and engagement with the arts during a time when sufferers were institutionalised or hidden away. Researchers debate if Morris also suffered ‘petit-mals’, or minor fits, and that the ‘Brotherhood’ were sympathetic to his ‘rages’. Family and friendships were important to Morris. Therefore he empathised and felt immense sadness at his daughter’s debilitating condition. The poem is written from Jenny’s point of view.
Dr. Sally Flint is a published, award-winning writer and editor of Riptide. She teaches and lectures in creative writing and also runs workshops in the community and schools.