This project has been part funded by the Dedham Vale AONB and the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Sustainable Development Fund
D. was a boy whose poems always took a pleasingly unusual view. When asked to write about a time of day, he wrote down '3.15 Friday'. 'But' I asked him, 'is that 3.15 in the afternoon or at night when you're not sleeping?' He seemed more interested in the latter and quickly got down to writing a brilliant middle of the night poem. It's nice to know that the tradition of childhood nocturnal reading continues - you just don't need a torch now...
I can't sleep! Lorries, tractors, cars rumble by
as people deliver pigs and come home
My stripy pyjamas are sweaty and rough
and rubbing on my leg.
I remember reading my Kindle
underneath the quilt.
The secret is mum and dad don't know.
D. from Wilby Primary, Year 5
'A wonderfully creative day,' was how the teacher described it. R. particularly liked what he had written during one of Jeni's warm-up exercises in the morning, so he chose that poem, 'Message Keepers' as the one he wanted to edit and write-up in the afternoon. I suggested cutting up the poem, tearing it up in strips and then re-arranging the lines (the original 'cut and paste' technique! He agreed and disappeared to get some scissors and Prit-Stik and I left him to it. And he surprised us all with what he came up with...
I would hide my message
In the pixel of a computer
In a grain of corn
In the brain of an ant
In the book of a tutor
At the tip of a thorn
In the twinkling of a star
R. from Wilby Primary, Year 5
As you may have heard, this year I'll be running the 2016 Suffolk Young Poets Competition, all part of a new venture called 'Poetry People'. I've been busy these last few months - along with Jeni Smith and Michael Laskey - delivering workshops in schools to help generate some poems and entries for the competition. Jeni and I had a really aborbing day at Wilby Primary School, who I had visited last year as part of the Poem for Suffolk project (this was the school who came up with the wonderful 'Why Did the Hedgehog knock' group poem!).
We spent the day with the Beech class (27 students in Year 5) and their lovely teacher Ms Wiseman. Spending the whole day with one group meant that we could really get them to have fun writing lots of poems in the morning and then focus their attention on one particular piece, for them to edit and write-up. We wrote poems containing questions, strange jobs, list poems, guided poems and the names for animals.
And here's a poem from the day that Jeni and I particuarly liked - written by a boy who throughout the day came up with bright short poems that fizzed with strange lines and images. Giving new life to an old apple...
This apple is so old that
it is as furry as a monkey.
So old and soft and brown like
a stinky old dog.
So old its crunch is on the floor.
So old the mould has taken over.
R. from Wilby Primary, Year 6
So, amongst other things, these last few months I've been working in Stowmarket on something called 'Every Road Tells A Story'. It’s celebrating the Unity Housing – otherwise known as ‘prefabs’ – and the people who lived in them. These particular ones were built in the mid-1950s as a ‘temporary’ housing solution to last for up to 30 years but stood rather longer than that and are only now being demolished (having stood for 60 years!) with new rented houses built in their place.
By the end of their lives, these buildings were creaky and damp and a man from the council turned up each year with a bucket of cement to fill the cracks in the walls. The thing is, they were 'home', people invested their lives in the old properties and a community grew around them. They planted magnificent gardens (which were huge)! They buried their pets there. Babies born, parents died there. Many didn’t want to move out. One woman who did – and moved around the corner into a new house – couldn’t look at her old abandoned home and overgrown garden and closed her eyes each time she went past as her husband drove her to Aldi. Eighteen months it stood empty before it was demolished. Lots of stories like that. It’s been fascinating to put them together for a little book which will be part of an exhibition at the Museum of East Anglian Life in May. I hope to tell you more about it in the coming weeks...