Entry - Poetic Republic Poetry Prize 2014

The Garden of Eternal Spring

by John Keenan

It’s a mystery, Dad,

how you turned your back on caution

and entered this Persian night garden,

 

ten foot by five foot six

from Bowman’s of Camden Town,

perhaps Mum led you by the hand.

 

Four golden rivers spilled

from an ornate pool and threaded

through dark fields of deep piled blue

 

watering persimmon and pomegranate

under whose branches strolled

exotic birds, fierce lions and the shy deer.

 

For 1001 nights, I sailed the indigo

with Sinbad or lost myself

with forty thieves among the weaving vines

 

and later, after Mum died

and your world shrivelled

to the size of a studio flat,

 

you kindly gave the rug to us

so our kids could creep

with terror through Grimms’ woods,

 

pit wits with the likes of Loki,

roar across the Trojan plain,

name the birds and the beasts,

 

canoe the amazon with Tintin,

wrestle or play car football,

cypress trees for corner flags.

 

Now it’s worn out and we’re moving house.

I phone you up, Dump it, you say,

there’s no place for sentiment.

 

But I’ll cut one square out for you,

a bird of paradise, a few inches

from a corner where there’s still a bit of spring.

 

 

Added: 19.04.2014

Judges' comments on this poem

20.05.2014

Nice little poem. Good central image of the rug. Just the wrong side of sentimentality, but fun.

20.05.2014

Quite a sad poem. I like the way the rug symbolises the exotic - also the way the father's world shrunk to a studio flat.

24.05.2014

Oh how things have sentimental value! I feel I have travelled every adventure with you. Superb poem!

25.05.2014

Nicely balanced, sharp images, and some sweet lines e.g 'For 1001 nights, I sailed the indigo'. Unlike many other poems this one had a rhythm that didn't falter

25.05.2014

Some good language in this that fit well with the sentiments being expressed

30.05.2014

Really enjoyed this. Taking something so detailed and concrete to weave multiple meanings

02.06.2014

Charming and imaginative.

02.06.2014

Powerfully moving imagery

02.06.2014

perfectly beautiful. seamlessly weaving narrative, images and words. thank you for sharing.

04.06.2014

Lovely imagery, well chosen words. Builds a picture very well. Well done.

04.06.2014

Very touching, I love the metaphorical meaning of the rug, that the times had on it have been like "paradise".

04.06.2014

I like how this poem travels and the idea of sentiment having a shelf life but memories not.

04.06.2014

Richly imaginative - love the idea of this exotic world being seen in a ten foot by five foot six rug by 2 generations of children. Neat ending - the whole poem tells a touching story. Good rhythm & enjambment. Lovely sounds.

04.06.2014

Lovely narrative poem, with beautiful description of the carpet. You can really imagine what it must have looked like and a poignant last stanza.

04.06.2014

Intricately woven verses, with rich contemporary references - this is how poetry is going to be in. Thank you.

05.06.2014

An imaginative poem which captures strong feelings of family - and of times passing irrevocably.

06.06.2014

Sweet

07.06.2014

I enjoyed the passing of time, the child's sense of wonder, the gradual movement away from origins as the poem moved forward. Clever and thoughtful.

07.06.2014

The vividness of a child's memories of an old carpet is beautifully captured; it's a straightforward "story" told with great economy and in plain language but conveying powerfully the beauty of the object and the feelings invoked. The last verse was particularly effective.

08.06.2014

I just love the sheer riot of colour and imagery - all framed within sweet reminiscence. Nice structure and rhythm too.

09.06.2014

A world of fantasy in a rug to be dumped, except a corner where there's still a bit of spring

09.06.2014

Wonderful sentiment in this and the journey we take is on this magic carpet of memories. A part of it, a souvenir, a keepsake that is too valuable to discard.

10.06.2014

Lovely and sentimental, I like the thought of holding on to one last bit of the rug.

10.06.2014

Nice poem about imagination and childhood with a sad thread running through about loss. The rug's pictures are brought to life very well.

11.06.2014

An engaging story woven together with memories of childhood and imaginative symbolism. Good use of line breaks to propel the poem along.

13.06.2014

But I enjoyed the subject matter and the relationships in the poem

19.06.2014

Interesting

19.06.2014

I love the imagery that overlays this beautiful story.

19.06.2014

Nostalgic.

19.06.2014

Very good and unlike the majority of poems it ends with a surprise that fits perfectly

19.06.2014

A lovely poem depicting the wonderment of a child as imagination is stirred by an exotic exception to the more typical mundane objects of the family home. It ends beautifully with bewiderment that such a treasure be dumped, and yet a bit of Spring is saved.

19.06.2014

A good concept and a nice read.

19.06.2014

filled with emotion of those sweet sad memories, loed this poem.

19.06.2014

Very moving narrative and simply and effectively relayed. Love the cutting of the square with a bird of paradise - a poem within a poem.

19.06.2014

Gracefully written. I loved it.

19.06.2014

I really like the story within a story - the generations of the carpet. So many curious lovely images, as oriental carpets have.I love ,the last stanza.

19.06.2014

A very musical and visual poem. Sense of an old life. A graceful conclusion.

19.06.2014

An beautiful exploration of grief and memory

19.06.2014

Such an imaginative poem. I love it. Lines like "and your world shrivelled to the size of a studio flat" so simple yet so full of impact. Well done.

19.06.2014

I like the way the settings mix - from Camden Town to someplace far more exotic. Also about letting go - I guess we all have to do it eventually, rightly or wrongly.

19.06.2014

So much is evocative this year. This poem, a rich delve into the exotic geography and adventure in a carpet. Sometimes on settees and in wall patterns too.

19.06.2014

A love story of the best sort. I really enjoyed the imagery and the kindness

19.06.2014

Very visual -love the last stanza.

19.06.2014

Some lovely detail. Deft handling of loss.

19.06.2014

I related to this: the magic of childhood memory redrawn through discovered artifacts. The writer both recognises the power yet zones in on the pain of the adult world which often steam rolls fantasy with too much reason. Powerful.

19.06.2014

I love this poem. What a fantastic understanding of language and how it works this poet has! It is moving and exceptionally skilled at once - excellent.

19.06.2014

charming, uplifting, vivid

19.06.2014

Brave choice of an unlikely subject and you tackled it lightly with a variety of carefully chosen sub-plots. Simple but effective. Not my favourite poem throughout the judging process, but the stand out contender in the final twelve on offer. (Hope you win so you can afford a new rug.)

19.06.2014

Good execution of a poetic concept.

19.06.2014

This reads well, telling the story with word combinations that fit snugly. A story of life told through a carpet that spans time. Sentiments, nostalgia both told with feeling

19.06.2014

The rug as a metaphor for life is breathtaking. Very poignant and restorative.

19.06.2014

Well done

19.06.2014

A poem of sentiment which is, fortunately, not over-indulgent, for it speaks from the position of maturity.

19.06.2014

Interesting story

19.06.2014

Enchanting and adventurous yet tinged with melancholy and sadness of days lost. The mention of children and adventure keeps this above gloom. Very enjoyable read.

19.06.2014

Lovely, flowing & cleverly constructed effort with imaginative & subtle imagery & analogy throughout in a gentle £ sensitive narrative. 'World shriveled to the size of a studio flat' evoked physical & logistical colour & 'terror through Grimm's woods' was a clever play on the fairy-tale masters.

19.06.2014

Again, beautiful and moving.

19.06.2014

This poem creates the view of a children's process of imagination and how the normal things become such adventures with fictional or historical figures that we all remember acting as, or journeying alongside. It brings back to the reader the innocence and oft yearning for such things again as adults

19.06.2014

So much sentiment conveyed through a rug ; the childhood games, and household memories, as well as loss and hope. Very clever.

19.06.2014

A treasure of a poem, so evocative of a happy childhood.

19.06.2014

warm and loving peace of work.

19.06.2014

Great contrast between the "father" who inspired imagination with his choice of carpet and the "father" who thinks differently at the end.

19.06.2014

A beautiful poem with so much rolled up in the carpet.

19.06.2014

Interesting images and weaving of narrative.

19.06.2014

love it, broad and poignant.

19.06.2014

Beautifully captures the bittersweetness of ageing.

20.06.2014

a nice quiet poem, softly sentimental and filled with love, glad the last little bit of spring remained in tact

20.06.2014

Proof that in poetry there is room for sentiment.

20.06.2014

Great metaphor.

20.06.2014

Dad and the old rug got worn out together: But he still had his tiny corner of home and there was still a "bit of spring" on a patch of the rug.A hugely affecting evocation of the ending of life made joyful by memories of stories

20.06.2014

This really deserves to be in the final twelve. I commented in the rounds, so shan't repeat myself again, but I love this. The rug is such a clever anchor for the story you tell so beautifully. Well done.

20.06.2014

I like how the fond memories are built up in this piece linking different generations.

20.06.2014

Very descriptive, I love the way that this poem tells a story. Its amazing and true to life, how an object can carry so much sentiment that it passes through generations. Very well written and there were a few lines that really stood out. Overall a great read.

20.06.2014

Please refer to the comment I made on this poem at an earlier stage.

20.06.2014

I enjoyed the story of this

21.06.2014

I like this - the imagination making the Persian so much more than a rug. For me, it is not about grief, but about the cycle of life - always children, always 'still a bit of spring', always imagination to bring adventure into the house.

21.06.2014

I love the story this poem tells. Life goes on, but not without honoring and remembering lovingly the past and salvaging a precious memory of that to carry into the future.

21.06.2014

Very special: vivid images and strong feelings.

21.06.2014

A lovely use of language in depicting the journeys taken via the pictures on a Persian carpet. Even with age and loss, a little bit of the beyond remains.

21.06.2014

The ordinary domestic item transformed, by its woven landscape and the poem's title, into an exotic world for children's imaginative play. Loved the contrast of the prosaic opening (the out-of-character purchase from 'Bowman's of Camden Town') followed by lush poetic descriptions of the scenic rug.

21.06.2014

This is a beautiful poem which combines rich, graphic description of the rug with the personality of the father barely sketched but definitely there. Moving and artful.

22.06.2014

Beautifully description of an end of era rug/quilt, that had been made by a mother years back for her children, and then passed on her death to children's children. Writer's father reminded me, a little of my own father who has taken to his room and cut himself off too.

22.06.2014

Absolutely beautiful. I couldn't find any room for improvement.

22.06.2014

This is a very beautifully written story, I think you should go in more that direction then poetry, this could have bee the short story!

23.06.2014

Nicely written, very easy to visualise!

23.06.2014

Hurrah! So glad this heart-warming poem found its way into the final twelve, as it was my top choice in round 2. It deserves first place for its imaginative theme, beauty of writing & effortless rhythm. The 3-line stanzas work so well & I love the ending!

23.06.2014

Beautifully constructed,a welcome absence of unnecessary adjectives and a great last three lines

23.06.2014

Strikes the right tone - reminiscent without being sentimental. Good use of language, imagery, cadence etc with an interesting and inventive narrative built into it.

23.06.2014

Amazing what you can make out of a 10'x5'6" Persian carpet!

23.06.2014

Like the last verse

24.06.2014

An enjoyable poem that unfortunately assumed too many obvious references. A captivating narration nonetheless.

24.06.2014

Poignant

24.06.2014

Beautifully written, well constructed and moving poem.

24.06.2014

If it could talk?

24.06.2014

A slow revelation which unwraps the blanket and rewraps it around the reader. A complete picture and meaning behind an object encapsulating a childhood and more.

24.06.2014

Great poem about father-son relationship through the image of the Persian rug, loaded with memories of a sweet past gone. The end manages to convey emotions without falling into the sentimental.

24.06.2014

Wonderful poem, with a lot of feeling in it!

24.06.2014

I'm a sucker for punchy endings and I like your final stanza. The way it contrasts with the previous harsher lines but ties in with the spirit of the rest of the stanzas is most effective and (no other word for it) pleasing.

25.06.2014

A beautifully sentimental piece on eternal hope, strength, and the rekindling of faith.

26.06.2014

I am moving house, at the moment, and trying to cram the echoes of my life into unimaginably small boxes. Is there really no room for sentimentality? I keep being told the same but it just makes me grumpy. A small corner, kept for later, will recreate the whole in one's mind.

26.06.2014

Sweet and enchanting with a peek into the life of the author.

26.06.2014

a charming poem about the imagination of a child

26.06.2014

Very nice three line stanza structure and a good use of language. I am particularly fond of the line 'perhaps Mum led you by the hand'. A really lovely poem.

27.06.2014

Beautiful.

27.06.2014

Lovely to enter the world of childhood playing in the rugs golden rivers

27.06.2014

This is a wonderful remembering poem in a story telling style with short 3 line verses -- each with great recalling clarity.

27.06.2014

First few stanzas are fun, the rest is very emotional

27.06.2014

Sounds cool.

28.06.2014

I love the way the author has bought such adventure and excitement from the imagination that came from seeing the rug in different ways...

28.06.2014

This was a poem of family, sentiment, grief, imagination and loyalty told through the generations, firstly as a child, an adult and a parent. A poem where a play rug denotes attachment and changing times but always carries memories to treasure

28.06.2014

Sentimental and nostalgic poem, written with fantasy and imagination.

28.06.2014

This felt like a magic carpet ride on memories! LovelyT

28.06.2014

A beautiful sentiment displayed simply and with meaning.

29.06.2014

The carpet as entry into another world/field of memory is an interesting poetic conceit

29.06.2014

Beautifully nostalgic writing with a wealth of rich and exotic description and a poignancy when contrasted with the Dad's reduced lifestyle and circumstances. The last stanza is at once sad yet hopeful.I'm sure many people will identify with the sentiments.

29.06.2014

Aching sense of loss

29.06.2014

Great poem "Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known".

29.06.2014

This suggests that the children don't know what their younger father was like-"a mystery". The exotic rug seems incongruous. This poem shows the pessimistic effects of time passing-"shrivelled" and "dump it" yet there is still a spark in the last verse with the preservation of the square of carpet.

30.06.2014

still one of my favourites in the competition. really good piece.

30.06.2014

Really sweet sentiment. Makes a little bit of your world come alive

30.06.2014

Really beautiful.

30.06.2014

Cleverly avoids sentimentality. A good story.

30.06.2014

Lovely imagery that paints a picture of family relations with imagination and delight.

30.06.2014

I have chosen this as my favourite poem because it reminds me of what poetry really is: the magic of the imagination, the celebration of dreams, the expression of powerful feeling. There is an air of wonder throughout that makes the last two stanzas all the more powerful. A lovely and warm poem.

30.06.2014

Nice that canoe with tintin, i like it.

30.06.2014

Lovely poem. I'd lose 'no room for sentiment', it's already implied. I really enjoyed this

30.06.2014

The history of a rug, all that work put into Persian rugs and we rarely give them a thought. It's a platform for the story of lives "...so our kids could creep with terror through Grimms’ woods" I loved this line, such a bright image.

30.06.2014

A sweet reminiscence and comment on the desire to hold onto something of the past.

30.06.2014

This magic rug is providing continuity between the writer's and her children's happy memories of childhood. While parents get old and die, and rugs need to be dumped, the fairy tales we tell our children will survive in their hearts, preserving a "bit of spring" until the very end and beyond.

30.06.2014

Not knowing what Bowman's of Camden was threw me on the first read, but the mist slowly cleared, and this is a moving poem which most of us can relate to - childhood and the sadness of the passage of time.

30.06.2014

I love this poem. I love the vivid description of what the rug represented to different family members and later its representation of the past. This is a very beautiful poem.

30.06.2014

Family history in a poem, describing relationships and the passing of time which changes everything. Poignant.

30.06.2014

I like the slow revelation of what it is that's the subject and the way one item is shown to be so meaningful across the generations. In the penultimate stanza, it would be better if "there's no place for sentiment" was the narrator's thought, not the father's voice.

30.06.2014

This brought back some fond yet cramped memories of London. Very good.

30.06.2014

The Persian rug induces memories of fabled adventures in the child's mind and the memories of the past. The rug is almost a metaphor for life itself. Symbolised by the cutting of a corner for the father to retain - still a bit of spring.

30.06.2014

I love the rug 'reveal' in this poem because it puts us directly into the mind of a child. This enchanting world wasn't just a rug because it was so real in the mind of the child. Of course there is place for sentiment, that is the point of the poem!! And what wonderful sentimentality it is...

30.06.2014

Such a touchingly nostalgic poem - and about a rug of all things! My favourite!

30.06.2014

Just love this.

30.06.2014

Third choice

30.06.2014

I love the descriptions pertaining to the adventures of the rug

01.07.2014

A sweet poem and one that captures well the significance that objects can have for us through life - but especially during childhood.

01.07.2014

This poem caught my attention due to the many references to other literary works. The author incorporated the ideas well to make a poignant statement

01.07.2014

Lovely images.

01.07.2014

There's a beauty and a sadness that runs throughout this poem. The composition is powerful enough to give you a real sense of the story behind the rug. I particularly like the contrasting sense of hope that the final stanza, particularly the final line, exudes.

01.07.2014

Good poem that takes us on a magic carpet ride across generations and leaves us with a measured note of nostalgic hope for the future against the past's voice of cynical reality.

01.07.2014

I love the ambiguous beginning, which becomes clear half-way through when we are told of the "rug", bringing the rest of the tale into perspective. Our treasures are our memories.

01.07.2014

An imaginatively poignant poem which captures strong feelings of family - and of times passing irrevocably.

01.07.2014

All the mystery & imagination of childhood on the floor. Lovely colour, imagery and energy with the lingering knowledge that worlds shrink & change. Keep that bird of paradise

01.07.2014

Loved this immediately. A special rug was a feature of my childhood in my family home, so it really struck a chord. The tercet form works so well here and the writing is so beautifully controlled overall. You convey so much in so little, with apparent ease. Delightful.

01.07.2014

Very visual. The rug acts as a central point around which cohere aspects of the father, family relationships and the world of imagination. It works well and conveys the poet's love for his father without sentimentality.

01.07.2014

Magic carpet indeed. I grew up with the like and those myths and legends. Sweet, but not sickly. A quibble. I'd end verse 5 "exotic birds, fierce lions and shy deer".

01.07.2014

I like the idea behind this poem and also like the description of the carpet itself, with its 'four golden rivers' and 'dark fields of deep piled blue'. Most of all I like the last stanza, with its 'bird of paradise' and the double meanings of 'spring': referring to the season and the springy pile.

01.07.2014

Took a second and third reading for this poem to really grab me, but once it did I loved it. Very strong and sad conclusion. It's amazing how I feel able to picture the whole rug through this piece of writing.

01.07.2014

I love this sentimental poem about a large rug and can imagine the years of fun and pride of place it could have in a home. It's well-described. I like the compromise of cutting a square to keep before discarding it.

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