ODES TO SOLITUDE

Poetry in McGregor Festival: Words in the Garden of the Beloved

By Patricia Schonstein 4 June 2021

Reading poems in the Magic Garden. Image supplied by Patricia Schonstein.

In the Western Cape village of McGregor there’s a beautiful secret garden called Temenos with poetry at its heart.

Temenos Retreat in McGregor is a tangle of paths and ponds, shrines and solitary nooks that give the sense of layer upon layer of soothing, restorative energy. 

There are places for prayer and meditation – The Well and the Little Way Chapel – and hideaways between flower beds where a person can be alone with their thoughts and contemplations.

There’s a stone labyrinth as well as a circle of trees planted to form a peace forest. By day you hear birdsong and insect song, at night perhaps an owl and the old church clock faithfully striking the hour in this seemingly timeless village.

Environmentalist journalist and Maverick Life contributing writer Don Pinnock wrote about the place in his story, Billy’s Magic Garden of the Beloved, saying: “While walking the labyrinthine paths of the Garden of the Beloved, getting lost is inevitable and the greatest pleasure. Among the eclectic flowerbeds, woods and ponds are unexpected surprises.

“Around a sudden curve in the path you might discover the Inner Temple of the Heart, just big enough for two people with walls in blue stained glass, or the Angel for Lost Children. Sitting on a driftwood bench you could be surrounded by peacocks or have your shoelaces undone by a playful grey cat.

“A door could lead to a library full of books about simply being human or another full of poetry. Beyond a wild garden is a stone labyrinth, in another is a stupa to St Teresa. There’s a small Christian chapel called the Little Way, an even smaller one to Ganesha, the Hindu god of new beginnings. There are words on stones and plaques that make you go ‘Wow!’”

On the road to the McGregor Poetry Festival
McGregor Poetry Festival – sunset in the clouds (Image supplied)
The Garden of the Beloved at Temenos Retreat, during the McGregor Poetry Festival (Image supplied)

Since 2013, under the guardianship of Billy Kennedy, Temenos has been the epicentre of the Poetry in McGregor Festival. Poets and lovers of poetry have come together annually to perform and listen to sonnets, haiku, odes, epics, narratives, rhyming couplets and much more.

McGregor Poetry Festival (Image supplied)
‘Poets Corner’ at the McGregor Poetry Festival (Image supplied)
McGregor Poetry Festival, author Patricia Schonstein reading her poetry in the Garden of the Beloved at Temenos Retreat (Image supplied)
Readings at night at the McGregor Poetry Festival (Image supplied)
Ready for an evening of poetry reading at the McGregor Poetry Festival (Image supplied)
Poetry reading at the McGregor Poetry Festival (Image supplied)

Novice poets read alongside the accomplished and published. They meet, mingle and inspire each other. And after each festival the wonderful words are immortalised in a dedicated anthology.

There was a pause during 2020, the first year of Covid-19, when the world came to a halt. The organisers waited until the severe lockdown eased and then said “come”. They opened the garden gates and masked poets arrived in their numbers again and the verse flowed like wine.

The theme of this year’s festival, the ninth, is The Garden of the Beloved. It will take place on the weekend of 28 and 29 August. Presuming there will still be Covid restrictions, the festival will be masked and spaced and tickets will be limited.

There will also be a competition themed to the title of the festival, carrying a number of awards in adult and youth categories. DM/ML

Poets wishing to enter the competition will find details here. This website also provides the details of the August 2021 festival. For further information contact [email protected]

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