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Wednesday 30 September 2015

Refugee Poems

Inspired by the heartbreaking events which daily unfold on our newscreens, pupils at my weekly lunchtime poetry group have been writing refugee poems. I shared with them three poems, by Michael Rosen, Martha Sprackland and 9-year-old Lamiya Safarova. After a brief discussion, I asked pupils to write poems from the perspective of a refugee. Some used their imaginations, whilst others based their pieces on real experiences. I'm excited to share the results:

The Refugee Girl by Vanshika
I saw a girl who twinkled
She had a smile on her face
But from the inside she was glum
And full of sorrow
I tried to ask her but she would never say
Why she feels this way

The next day

I saw her sitting on the bench crying
When I asked her what’s the matter
She said
I am a refugee girl
And I hate being this person

Refugee Poem by Sakai

I sit on the bench which is broken in half
I stare at the empty bottle wanting for more water
I think about my family
Helping them to come for me
But no one knows I’m here
Because I am a refugee

Refugee Poem by Mahveen

I can see across the land, everyone upset
Determined but strong.

I can smell the smoke from the ashes
That came from down the road

I can hear my people screaming in fear,
Love and joy

I can taste the bitterness coming from this town,
Oh how I can’t wait to find home

I can feel myself being pulled
Into something different, something new.

Refugee Poem by Saniya

Life is an endless chase
Running from place to place
Our families scattered and torn
Oh Lord, why was this evil ever born?
I’m tired of this game of cat and mouse
I want a place to call my house

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Fantastic Poems From My Lunch Club

I am very pleased to be back working at Plashet School, having worked there last year as a Spoken Word Educator. I ran my first lunch club of the term yesterday, and was delighted that almost all of the following I had gathered last year decided to return. In a testament to the skills they have acquired, I didn't need to give them many writing prompts or to set up elaborate activities; after a brief discussion about what they got up to during their holidays, I let them loose on the writing. Some girls decided to write about an activity they undertook during the holidays, and others just, well, wrote about whatever they wanted. Here are two fantastic examples:

Rollercoaster by Leila

Ready to step on
Staff patrolling
Checking if it’s safe
You can hear the people
As soon as they get off
People come eagerly rushing
To get on
You can hear the man saying
Are you ready?
YESSS! They scream
It’s too late to get off
WOOO! They scream
As it goes down
Faster than a motor bike
Then it’s all over

All About Me by Dina

I am like a mango birthday cake
Exploding with flavour
One fact is anger and happiness are my best friends
But now tasting the cake I feel bitter and characterless
The cook book about me is opening
It’s begging
It’s time, get ready
Embracing my life for new, fresh ingredients
Here they are:
100 grams of fun exploding with anxiousness
2g of sadness: a pinch of salt
200gs of British attitude and language
Poetry, drama and history gives my cake a boost
Sugar and milk
And one thing I love is ice cream
This is my life
What is yours?

Monday 7 September 2015

Firework Light Poems - Art/Poetry Workshop Idea for National Poetry Day 2016

National Poetry Day is on October 8th, and the theme is Light. As ever with NPD, this is a very broad theme, and encompasses a huge variety of possibilities. Here is a very simple idea, which can be adapted for children of all ages and abilities. What follows is the broad outline; feel free to add, subtract and alter according to who you are working with.

Step One

Play a game with the pupils. Name a colour, and give them a set amount of time to list as many things as they can that have that colour. So for example, you might say 'green', and pupils might write 'frog; grass; tree; snot, etc. If you are into gamification, you might make this activity into a competition.

Step Two

Use some of the ideas generated in the previous activity to model some similes for the class, e.g.: 'as green as a....', 'as red as a.....'. Use this as an opportunity to discuss which are the best ideas, and how to make the similes more interesting/exciting.

Step Three

give out lots of sheets of coloured paper - as many different colours as possible placed on each table. Children can write colour-based similes on the sheets of paper, according to which colour paper they have been given.

Step Four

Share my poem 'Fireworks', below. In groups, children cut out the similes, and stick them onto a black backdrop, so as to form the shape of a firework in the night sky. They can then practice performing the pieces, and you have some lovely collaborative shape poems to display.

A dash of red
A splash of blue
A splodge of green
and a twinkle of gold.

A streak of white
A stripe of pink
A smear of yellow
and a sparkle of silver.

Somewhere, a happy child
is flicking paint
across the sky.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Exciting news - MA dissertation complete, and poetry books forthcoming!

Hello people, and welcome to the first blog post of the new school term. I have been somewhat lax in updating this blog, the main reason being simple laziness. However, there are two rather more salubrious reasons for my lack of blogging: (a) I have been working on two children's poetry collections, for which I have rather excitingly been offered a contract by Bloomsbury (of Harry Potter fame), and (b) I have been completing my MA dissertation.

Since 2014 I have been combining my day job (visiting schools) with studying on the new Writer/Teacher MA at Goldsmiths. I have been doing modules across the English and Education departments, and have turned my attention, amongst other things, to short story writing, an academic study of the state of contemporary American children's poetry, and a qualitative analysis of the impact of poets' roles in schools. My dissertation was supervised by Stephen Knight, and is a collection of poems intended for an adult audience, along with a critical commentary. I am pleased to say I handed it in today. Unlike my children's poetry, I've no idea whether much (or any) of it comes up to a publishable standard. Here is a poem from the collection. Enjoy!


I never knew him. He died
of lung cancer before I was born.
He was an alcoholic too.
He passed all the exams
at medical school, but not
in the correct order, so he never
qualified as a doctor.
His wife never knew this.
He used to get up early
every morning, put on a suit,
say goodbye, and wander the streets
before going home at night.
Meanwhile his wife would sit inside,
unstitching the labels
on his Marks and Spencer jumpers
and sewing Harrods ones
in their place. She’d listen
for his key in the big oak door,
and when he returned,
without a word, they’d put
on a record and dance a dance,

the same one every night.