It was a glorious winter’s day for our final meeting this term: Writing Teachers Newcastle spent a rambling morning at the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens. We welcomed a new member and enjoyed a teacherly chat over morning tea before setting off in search of words and ideas to support our choice from a posy of emotions.
We found a space for our tags and photographed their placement to share with the group. Without knowing the exact size of the gardens, we found very different paths that didn’t cross during our half hour walk.
With words such as ecstasy, madness, loathe and surprise, I found it difficult to avoid cliche or pre-determined associations. For example, I headed towards the cacti beds expecting to place ‘loathe’ firmly amongst these plants that I dislike. Instead, I found a form of grevillea that inspired this poem:
Loathe leave me prickled poked pointed at alone.
Having spent some years as a psychiatric nurse, I was pleased with finding a home for the ‘madness’ label. A form of Dryden’s well-known saying arrived in my mind as I walked:
There’s a pleasure in madness that only madmen know.
This guarded banksia became the perfect place to weave in a little madness. When we re-gathered and wrote, I dashed off a series of poems for every photo taken, unable to settle on one particular idea.
I wrote of another image of madness: a tangle of greenery invaded by a large flower
a shock of orange within the green
calls an appraisal, a comment
from outside this space
judgement and decisions
‘you’ll never fit’ ‘can’t belong’
‘just too showy’
It seemed to inform my last piece on the contained and containing banksia. I was intrigued by the meaning of ‘integrifolia’ and became immersed in the online rabbit hole of definitions, facts and scientific explanations. The commonality of this banksia, mixed with the varied forms dependent on environmental conditions, became a seed of inspiration that requires nurturing.
One among the group shared her draft that contained links to an area close to my heart: women, domesticity and the everyday. The expectation and ongoing struggle with mundane chores, relationships and small victories. We suggested that what had been thought of a facile ending would actually be quite solid and provocative.
Our post sharing discussion included different opportunities for using plant tags at school: hidden words or poems for students to ‘discover’, cards inserted into plant tags (where seed packets would be placed) that contain poems or phrases or questions or prose extracts. We thought the narrow copper tags, readily available at a large hardware chain, had a certain glinting, shiny appeal – permanent marker being the writing implement of choice and not the product suggested ballpoint pen. We also thought that small wooden sticks, coloured or plain, would also work for students to hide and find in our playgrounds.