Poetry Arsenal

When I started teaching I was fortunate enough to meet two literacy consultants, Alan Wright and Vicki Froomes. They guided me, and a host of graduates, through our first, terrifying year of teaching, encouraging us in our use of writer’s notebooks, conferences, and book boxes. Alan shared his writer’s notebook often, and I’d regularly find him in the staffroom at lunch time, busily recording his thoughts in it.

He also introduced me to his poetry suitcase and it made such an impression on me I immediately bought an old case from the op shop, and began my poetry collection for school. I couldn’t remember reading much, if any, poetry at primary school. At home I was obsessed with Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse For Kids. My Dad would read his poems to me and I found them hilarious. But at school? I couldn’t even recall a poetry section in our little school library.

These days I am fully aware of the importance of poetry. As Ralph Fletcher explains in his book Poetry Matters, poetry is always what we turn to in important times. When we want to say something beautiful and succinct, at a wedding or funeral or birthday, we turn to poetry. We need our students to feel the importance of poetry too, and write it! We need them to experiment with rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, imagery. All the clever devices poets use to make their audience feel something.

I’ve observed that students find the technical freedom poetry presents as a key that unlocks their writing passion.

Whenever I’m at an op shop or a bookstore I am always on the hunt for poetry books to inspire our young writers. I have developed quite a collection that I’ll share parts of over the coming months. Today however, I think it’s poignant to show you this beautiful example. As you are aware Australia has been in the grips of a bushfire crisis and many of us have felt a sense of helplessness in the face of it. This magnificent book: I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree, has a beautiful environmental theme by offering a nature poem for every day of the year.

Selected by Fiona Waters. Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

Imagine starting each day in the classroom with a nature-inspired poem? Poetry would become a regular fixture for your students, rather than just a topic you look at once and then move on. As I read through this book I found poem that I think would be perfect for the beginning of the school year. Forget the boring old ‘write a recount about what you did on the holidays’, read the kids this poem and see what they make of it. Then see what they write in a similar style.

Russel Hoban

So many interesting conversations to be had here about the way the poem is structured, how not all the lines rhyme and how that adds to the music of it. The details that the poet has included could be a fabulous launching pad about noticing the world around us. You can tell I love this poem!

I am excited to continue adding to my poetry suitcase and if you don’t feel as though you have enough poetry in your school or library (or life!) perhaps think about starting your own poetry suitcase. The students love them! All it takes is a trip to the op shop and an eagle eye.

Right. That’s all from me today. Cup of tea time then off to the land of nod. Until tomorrow xx

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