Word Power

Sitting in the train, coming home from Ledbury last week, I was meditating on what I’d experienced over the previous couple of days, and on what we, as poets, had achieved and encountered in all our Ledbury Poetry Festival work with schools over the course of the year. (You can read about the early events we put on here.)

The latest workshops I’d put on for the Festival were with Year 7 and Year 8 pupils. I’d asked them to pull words from the letters that form the name of their school. Then we’d created a poem from the words they’d found.

On the train, I found myself doing the exactly same thing, but starting with the words ‘Ledbury Poetry Festival’. And then, just as in the workshop, I began fitting the words together, coming up with patterns and combinations, a thread, a structure, a story.

The video below is the end result. My ruminations on the six school ‘Poetry Festivals in a Day’ that over the course of this year I had taken part in for Ledbury Poetry Festival (along with fellow poets Sara Hirsch, Rob Gee, Mike Barfield and Matt Black). What I’d seen, what I’d heard, what I’d contributed, what I’d witnessed, what I’d experienced. What we’d unleashed. And its value. The value of giving children and young people a fresh creative space in which to explore and play with words. (Oh how I’d have loved to have had that opportunity when I was at school!)

You can get an idea of the value of these Festival events from the feedback we were getting from the Year 7/8 staff last Thursday:

‘Normally he won’t listen and won’t still still, but today he is so engaged.’

and

‘We’re seeing a completely different side to them here.’

All this ties in with the discussion I had at Ledbury Poetry Salon recently about the importance of poets working with school pupils. You can hear that discussion – with Festival Director Chloe Garner and fellow poet Sara Hirsch – as a podcast here. (The discussion comes after our initial performances.)

The Year 7 and Year 8 pupils we worked with last week are going to create an anthology from the poems they wrote with us at the Festival. I’m looking forward very much to reading it.

Meanwhile, as I was finishing this poem, I came across an article in the latest  NAWE ‘Writing in Education’ journal about ‘the importance of teachers being writers alongside children being writers’. In this spirit I offer this poem to the pupils I was working with at the Festival. To show them how I do just what I was asking them to do. And how, in this instance, it worked out for me.

I hope it might inspire you to find the poems hidden in the everyday words around you, too.

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

 

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Colwall Orchard Picnic

OK, so it wasn’t warm, but nevertheless the Colwall Orchard Picnic on Sunday was fabulous! It took place in idyllic surroundings, in the largest surviving cherry orchard in the West Midlands, teeming with cherry trees in full blossom.

Colwall Orchard, Herefordshire

Colwall Orchard, Herefordshire

I had the great honour of inaugurating the Colwall Renga.  A renga is a traditional Japanese poetry form, composed of 3-line haikus and 2-line linking verses. The Colwall Renga is a year-long project, with members of the community adding verses throughout the year.

The whole community joined in haiku writing at the picnic …

Contributing to the Colwall Renga

Contributing to the Colwall Renga

… creating a poetry blossom tree.

The Colwall Orchard poetry blossom tree

The Colwall Orchard poetry blossom tree

The champion haiku writer turned out to be 5-year-old Matilda!

Matilda, the champion haiku writer

In awe of Matilda, the champion haiku writer

Not to be outdone, Toby the Dog joined in with a haiku of his own too.

Toby the Dog writes his haiku

Toby the Dog writes his haiku

Other events for everyone to join in with included minibeast hunting with Dr Roger Key and his wife, and a Rhyme Time Ramble through the Orchard led by yours truly.

Bug Hunting at Colwall Orchard Picnic with Dr Roger Key and his wife

Bug Hunting at Colwall Orchard Picnic with Dr Roger Key and his wife

What with delicious home-made cakes and Colwall Orchard apple juice, it was a day not to be missed!

Well, that’s my version of events. You can read the official version here: Report from the Blossom Picnic 2010

The Cake Ladies writing their haikus

The Cake Ladies writing their haikus

If, for some reason, you did miss this Blossom Picnic, then make a date in your diary for the next Colwall Orchard event, and add your contribution to the ongoing renga.

Huge thanks to Tim and Helen and the other members of the Colwall Orchard Group for organising the event, and for  inviting me to participate.

Tim Dixon, co-organiser of the Colwall Orchard Picnic

Tim Dixon, co-organiser of the Colwall Orchard Picnic

And to Carole, for her taxi services well above and beyond the call of duty!

Anneliese Emmans Deaninfo@theBigBuzz.bizwww.theBigBuzz.biz