Testing boundaries: Millom and the Ironworks in Norman Nicholson’s The Pot Geranium (1954)

Laura Day


Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson’s 1954 collection The Pot Geranium is deeply lonely, yet also seemingly prophetic. The poet looks to the heavy industry in the area, characterised mainly by the Ironworks in his hometown of Millom. His gaze is held inwards toward the area of the Cumbrian coastline he has known and loved his entire life. The poet is confined by boundaries and exists in a location that is on the boundary between counties, a National Park, and the sea. Most importantly, the poet explores the boundary between Millom town and the Ironworks site. The local society is reliant upon the Ironworks industry economically and, to an extent, socially; and Nicholson recognises the ever-present influence of the site in his childhood and later years. The poet holds disdain and fear for the industry, but also a quiet respect for the role it plays in the wider society he is part of. The boundary between the Ironworks and the town of Millom is blurred geographically, socially, and financially, and Nicholson’s poems exhibit the creeping influence of the industry between the buildings and down the streets of the main town, less than a mile away. He explores innocence, danger, past and present, in the collection, underpinned by the confinement and boundaries he exhibits in the titular poem.


Cumbria; landscape; poetry; Norman Nicholson; place

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