This project has been part funded by the Dedham Vale AONB and the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Sustainable Development Fund


The One Way Road in Tattingstone


And on went went to Tattingstone Primary, where we met Arthur who had an amazing voice - a sort of Junior Tom Waits' growl and a quick wit to match. When I asked him to make a list of some of the special things he could find in his part of Suffolk, he thought for a moment and the replied is his husky tone, 'One Way Road'. It sounded like it should have been backed with a jazz accompaniment or at least a double-bass and saxophone. I told him that he HAD to write a poem called 'One Way Road'. He laughed and then he did, and riffed around the title which became a chorus rolling through his poem. It had an ice-cream van and faces in the trees. By the end of the session the whole class loved the journey he took us on and we couldn't stop saying 'One Way Road'. It became a gloriously strange song that we all wanted to sing.

One Way Road

Trees with faces grinning at you
on the one way road
a bridge that twists and turns
makes you sick
on the one way road
an ice-cream van has no driver
with errily inappropriate music
tinkling down the one way road
on the road it’s always dark
and I was the only one
to live on the one way road
I was trapped.


Arthur, Tattingstone Primary School



Snakes and Crowbars in Carlton Colville

There are always stand-out poems or outstanding phrases that emerge in each session. Something the students just read something out or come out with a line and the room, adults and children, just respond. It's a simple human and language thing.

Here's a couple of those kind of poems from the day at Grove Primary in Carlton Colville. 'Stuff In My Life' feels completely like a boy's poem. You got to love Drew's title (very boy-ish!). It starts with a pet snake and moves on to tripping down the stairs but it's a strange and interesting poem with veins and a pulse and biting your tongue. And then a trio of unusual bird sightings at the end. It's all a surprise and you can't help but want to re-read it. 'Crowbars Help the World' is another title that draws you attention - Eve admitted that she had 'borrowed' the quote about crowbars and asked if she was allowed to do that. I told her she was a poet and, yes, she was allowed. She just had to give it a twist and make it hers. And she did and lit up our day.

Stuff In My Life
I have four snakes in my house. 9pm on Wednesdays
my snake got fed.
I hate stairs because I always trip going down them.
I like veins because they have a pulse and you can feel
when you heart beats.
I hate teeth because I always bite my tongue.
Windows, houses, trees, tables and fish.
A seagull stole my vanilla ice cream
a pigeon flew into my window,
a blackbird stole my bike.

Drew, Year 5/6, Grove Primary


Crowbars Help the World

Happiness made everyone smile for a while.
Books keep that going and crowbar the world open for you.
Dreams help that and bring the world to life
Pink grapefruits are used to squeeze liquid into the world
Violets light up your day.

Eve, Year 5/6, Grove Primary


Summer in old and new Carlton Colville

I started the final week of Poem for Suffolk workshops with a visit to a Primary School in Carlton Colville, the rural village where I grew up. Although Grove Primary wasn't there when I was a kid - that's in 'new' Carlton, not the 'old' Carlton where I came from. The picture above is of Mr Farrell's class in 1976 from 'old' Carlton Primary. It closed a few years back during the reorganisation in the county that saw all the Middle Schools close - and then briefly became the controversial Beccles Free School. It's empty again now...

The population of the place in 1971, just after I was born, was nearly 2,500. Since then more than 1,000 homes have been built on Carlton Park - the fields that sat between the village and Oulton Broad. The population in 2011 had grown to 8,200. The strange thing is that the old side and new side were never joined - the little twisty side road that was already there (that ran through the fields where the new houses were built and was the 'short cut' to the Doctor's surgery) was blocked to traffic. Because they didn't want all the new residents to use that road as short cut. Although my 79 year old mother still uses it to get to the Co-op on her bike every Saturday.

So on a bright Monday morning in June I was interested to see if the Year 5/6 students were aware of the new Carlton/old Carlton divide. And of course, they were'nt. They just saw the Carlton where they lived and went to school as one place. It's only us oldies from the old side who still see the difference.

What I wasn't expecting was to bump into someone in Grove Primary who I went to school with. Clare was the Teaching Assistant and I recognised her immediately (one of my few remaining super powers is be able to recognise faces of everyone I ever met between 1969-2000 - it's only the last 15 years that are fuzzy). So there was at least someone there who knew what I was talking about and nodded and gave me an understanding smile whenever I mentioned 'old' Carlton and places like Mr Plummer's Shop and the old Primary School where Mr Farrell always wore his bottle green cordoroy jacket. Not even Bluebell Wood - that rested on the 'border' between old and new Carlton - is 1970s-style scary any more. It's been thinned out and replanted and there's even bluebells and schools' visits. Actually it sounds a much nicer place. And Clare always did have a sweet smile.

The workshop weeks have run across the seasons - one week each in Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. Jodie's refreshing poem brings out the colours of June and I love the surprise ending - I wasn't expecting her or the poem to end up there!


Slimey snails slither through the crumbling soil,
bumpy pavements twirl through small alleyways,
white cars speed through one way streets,
blue sky hides behind paper-white clouds,
excitedly the bell shakes, a loud roars echoes out the building.

Ruby red poppies dance through the emerald glass,
ivory bikes race down hills, twigs crunch as they go past,
blue waves climb up on to the grey rocks,
the velvet red seats swallow you up
as the film flickers on the big screen.

Jodie, Year 5/6, Grove Primary School


A Boat in Lowestoft

On a day when I wasn't really 'Poem for Suffolk-ing', I came across a man who told me a poem. It was during last week's session with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Lowestoft. We were in London Road North (main shopping area) trying to drum up some interest in their 'Celebration of the Sea' project - I'll be running workshops for the project in July. I was collecting people's thoughts about the sea, what it means to them, what they like about it or don't. We'd just had a really good poem/jam with a couple of young guys who arrived (one could play the guitar, the other was a beatboxer). They were telling us that the sea is 'minging' and 'dirty' and we suddenly turned their words into a song with orchestra backing.

After the fun and excitement died down, I noticed a quiet man with a bicycle who was looking at some of the Orchestra's instruments that were on display. 'Can I ask you, what do you think of the sea?' I said. He half-smiled and then in just a few words knocked me sideways. It was a change-of-gear moment but I'm glad he told me. And I did ask. Haven't we all been in the same boat?

The Same Boat

If you asked yesterday
that’s funny – I’d have said
I want to turn this bike around
go straight down the beach
walk into the sea. Really.
It’s been that rough. But today
I’m thinking of this boat.
My ex father-in-law
he was always sailing off
and I thought, that’s what I’ll do
give away a few bits and pieces
get rid of the rest. Seriously.
There’s no-one to stop me.
Sell up, buy a boat and go.
If I can wait till I retire  
four, five years or so.


The Invention of the Dogbird at Kedington

And then there was Dan at Kedington Primary, who did a wonderful list of all the things you can find in his corner of the county, then put the whole lot into this wild and inventive poem. You often get asked in the classroom, 'Am I allowed to...?' or 'Can I...?' but Dan didn't need permission. He saw 'dog' and 'bird' at the top of his list, got the idea and couldn't stop himself.


Yesterday I saw a dogbird, wearing a
bottle cap sitting on a chair, in the park
with trees drawing on paper, with
pens drinking beer with a straw,
shooting people with toy guns,
in Scotland painting a bear’s face while
talking to a table with ink at 12 o’clock
at night on Friday missing the walk at 3.00
on Saturday wearing my missing gloves
and my Mum’s socks with my sister’s penguin.

Dan, Year 5, Kedington Primary School