Thursday, 22 October 2015

Tracing the veil

What lies behind the gravestone, the dark breakfast,
the day of crows and lifted voices?
What crouches neath and low as life walks past,
chattering and unaware?
What gray face watches as we bend to re-collect
a fallen trophy?

Does the world shake as we bend?
Does it tremble in the hollow where we played as children?
Does the water weep from the rocks to the earth to the soft, hillside grass?
Is it still tears in the stream?

Will each small footfall create only enough sound
for the person walking by to hear it?
Or does it echo hope grandly
in some upside down, other-place
with a keen ear cocked for its passing?

Do we feel it, do we know we are so glorious,
that other mouths are driven to mimic our words
and wait desperately to touch our lips?
Is this why we start awake in fear, imagining
a tentative finger
tracing the veil between us?

In the end that last corner at the foot of the street.
That spot marked out for a final turn.
A bored, dedicated creature waits,
one foot rested up against the wall,
head bowed the better to listen,
eyes glazed in reflective wonder. 

Startled at the last, the creature turns;
We round the corner and we know
that moment of greeting is ours.

The streams run, the rocks weep,
the hand trembles on the cloth as buttons are fastened.
Curtains open to unseen skies
and somewhere is music we may have loved.

Out on the hills with the rain
dense enough to be part of the earth
we rise and consider the sun. 

(I started to write this poem while I was still asleep, at the end of a tortuous dream where there was only silent, mocking danger and unheard voices. When I woke up, I re-wrote what I'd written in the dream then the rest came along by itself, almost full formed).

© Amanda J Harrington 2015

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Saturday, 10 October 2015

One hand lifted

Drifting in the cool lustre-waters of her mind
she sees the sun and closes her eyes against it.
Floats out to the deep drop point,
gently tenders the silent waves moving beneath her.

The sky scuds, the ground is far away, the air shivers with unheard voices.
Quiver-light on the waters breaks across her body,
wet enough to be part of the dance.

Left to right she drifts, her hand idly teasing,
the blue turning dark.
Land is a memory.

Somewhere after she forgets herself the waves heave in a finale
and she knows that all colours darken
if you dance too far.

She moves to the side,
the dance ends.

She waits
for the tune
to pick up again
inviting, inviting, inviting,
one hand lifted, ready for the note.

© Amanda J Harrington 2015

My books on Amazon
My own website for books and tuition
Find me on Facebook and Twitter!
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And my fairy blog!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

How to make kids love poetry

I am an evil tutor, yes I am. When I introduce poetry to my younger students, the ones who have only studied Daffodils and sometimes a tiny bit of Macbeth, I give them a 'nice' poem first and then, before they know what has happened, we're into Rossetti.

"Remember me when I am gone away,Gone far away into the silent land;When you can no more hold me by the hand,Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay."Remember by Christina Rossetti

Dear Christina Rossetti, the portal to so much understanding and grace! She has that rare quality of being able to wrap up lovely phrases within rhyming poetry with syllables so strong you could trap bullocks in them. And because she rhymes, children still see it as a 'proper' poem.

From Christina we move on to stranger poems, easier to understand on the surface but with deep, dark undercurrents waiting for unwary readers. But before you can move on, you need to understand what came before. I don't move on until we are ready and I am there, right next to them, with my finger on the words and face ready to light up as I explain what it means.

Simply, if you are ever going to understand hard, knobbly poetry written to make the best readers struggle, then you need to walk before you can run. Ignore Daffodils (sorry William), this is not exciting or interesting. Try Roald Dahl and his story poems, try funny stuff and horror poems, or poems about football and school bullies. Try anything that actually holds some spark of interest for children and young people.

And once they get the idea that you can read a poem and like it, then hit them (not literally, we're not allowed to do that anymore) with a big wodge of Something Bigger. Show them how poems don't have to be about football to touch their lives, to speak softly in a language only partly understood when we listen closely at the open door, remembering caught phrases and filling in the rest from the way it makes us feel.

Do not, at the age of 11, give them Rossetti as a class and expect them to understand. Do not send them home with dear Christina and expect to foster anything but fear and dislike for poetry. Do not anticipate literary greatness from Year 7s by tossing the poem at them with only a list of language devices to help them on their way.

Yes, I know there was a talk and the whole class was there and they were told exactly what they needed to do. But in case you haven't noticed they are mostly 11 year olds and they went to Primary School only a few months ago and they still get lost sometimes trying to find the Chemistry room.
Some small pocket of the class will try really hard and come close to understanding beautiful Victorian poetry, yet even that isn't worth too much as understanding does not transform magically into love.

It comes down to a very easy choice: you either choose to nurture a love of poetry that will last a lifetime, or you choose to push-push-push children into harder literacy work with an eye on future exam results.

Those exam results might not be any better for this pushing and there is a lot of life after school, life that would be better if it loved poetry - poetry that is just as important whether it is Dahl or Rossetti.

© Amanda J Harrington 2015

My books on Amazon
My own website for books and tuition
Find me on Facebook and Twitter!
Read my Aspergers blog
And my fairy blog!

A story somewhere