Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn – Tim Turnbull

Themes –

  • Beauty: One of the main themes of this poem is beauty and how ‘beauty [is] in the gift of the beholder’. As generations continue and advance, their perception of beauty changes, we romanticise the past.
  • Materialism: The poem uses brand names such as ‘Burberry’ and ‘Calvin’s’ to emphasise how materialistic our generation is. We value material possessions rather than memories and company like people in the past did.
  • The past: Turnbull focuses on how people, of all generations, will try and hold onto the past and only see it for its beauty. People of the future will one day look at these ‘children’ and envy how ‘happy’ they must have been.


Tone of the poem –

  • At the beginning of the poem there is a sense of sarcasm as the speaker refers to the urn as ‘kitschy’ (art of poor taste), however as we progress down the poem there is a little sense of jealousy over the fact that these ‘children’ are frozen in time as therefore ‘never having need to race back home, for work next day’ and they will never be in any ‘harm’, these people are safe and protected in this frozen urn.
  • The speaker also creates a chatty tone right at the start through ‘Hello! What’s all this here?’


Structure –

  • This poem was inspired by Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, therefore Turnbull keeps the same structure of 5 stanzas, all 10 lines each. Maybe the regular and consistent structure is a representation of how these ‘children’ in the Urn are stuck in this Urn, where time does not exist. There will be no change in their lives or routine as they are frozen.
  • There is also the use of iambic pentameter, which could be a symbol of how there is a constant that every generation wants to capture. Or maybe even the fact that there is the same rhythm with iambic pentameter shows that for the people in the Urn, their lives will forever remain the same.
  • Turnbull also uses enjambment in his poem, which could show the eternity that this Urn creates and how objects will continue to live on, even in the future.


Important quotes –

‘Shirley Temple manqué’

A manqué is someone who failed to live up to a certain expectation or ambition, and Shirley Temple is an actress who rose to fame in her younger years. Turnbull could be hinting at the fact that so many young girls have the ambition of being as famous as Temple, however they have not achieved those dreams.


‘has knocked out’

This quote gives us the impression that this Urn was something that was just ‘knocked out’ and had very little effort put into it, in comparison to Grayson Perry’s Urns, which take extreme detail and intricacy.


‘crap estates, the Burberry clad louts’

This is a juxtaposition because of the fact that these kids live in poor and dangerous estates, yet dress in designer wear to appear rich and happy.


‘How happy were those creatures then, who knew that truth was all negotiable and beauty in the gift of the beholder’

People look on at this Urn and envy the fact that these children are stuck in this time, they will never age in beauty or youth. People will always romanticise the past.


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