I had the great pleasure of running a poetry workshop for the final years at Greenfield Community School on St Valentine’s Day. The school is large, bright and impressive and I was made very welcome. I was set up in the library where a display showing a picture of me, my book cover and a selection of my poems was used as a backdrop to the proceedings.
Between 25 to 30 children attended together with a number of teachers. I opened with a few exercises to get the right side of the brain engaged – What colour is today and why? Choose an object you know well, if it were to speak to you, what would it say?
We then moved to developing a word/phrase hord for the main exercise. I spoke about the problem of using tired language, of needing to wake it up – not with big words but with words that held a little surprise because of their placing and usage, of the need to slow the passage of the words through the brain of the reader for that milli-second needed for them to take notice of it. I talked about being personal and particular in the writing and spoke about the power of imagery.
For the main exercise I told them a story, taking them with me on a fantasy journey where they were asked to pick up objects in the dark, to hear sounds etc all of which they had to describe. Then, at a certain point, I stopped talking and let them take the journey forward in their own way.
At this point, the whole class was writing, absorbed in the task. One girl had her arm across her body, her hand curled around her tilted head. Another sat with her head on her shoulder, dreaming herself onto the page. Others gazed off into the room, trying to chase down a word or wondering, perhaps, when they could reasonably stop. There was silence – just the shuffle of bodies readjusting themselves to the stiffness of the chairs, pages turning in notebooks, the A/C’s soft howl.
After 20 mins, I released them, brought them out of their hypnotic state, read to them from my book, answered a series of very intelligent questions and then let them go – off into the wild afternoon with their poetry session safe in their schoolbags like the spoils of some great hunt, a kill brought home to their parents with their PE kit and pens.
Oh, an in rememberence of the day and the work done, I was presented with some gifts – including a little red heart-shaped tin of chocolates.