Part of my family live in Minchinhampton, a Gloucestershire village, and three of my grandchildren go to the local primary school. The school has published two books, written by the pupils! I have been in a couple of times to talk about poetry, and to help with the poems in the second book.
The school has encouraged my granddaughter and several other kids in her year to develop their poetry writing skills. I have been amazed and delighted at the quality, and the maturity, of what they have produced. My granddaughter won second prize in the children’s section of the Stroud Literary Festival last year.
With lockdown we decided to have occasional poetry workshops; I approached this project with trepidation. Although I have given courses and classes, I’m not a trained teacher but we formed The Minchinhampton Young Ladies Poetry Circle (TMYLPC), with a membership of three eleven-year-old girls and put ourselves in the hands of Zoom.
There have been three meetings so far, each of about 45 minutes. Each time we start with each child reading one of their poems, and then we talk about it.
We have discussed the elements of poetry – rhyme, rhythm and metre and elements of language, such as metaphor and simile. We have listened to and practised reading out loud and talked about the words of a poem as an image, and of bringing that image to life for the reader.
We select an individual poet, for instance Simon Armitage, talk about their work in general and specifically choose one of their poems to look at in detail. We chose The Puddle from his book, Stanza Stones.
Every time I asked if they knew what something meant, wondering if I’d gone too far, they did know, and proved their understanding.
In our last meeting we talked about Poetry in Motion – words and complete poems that give the impression of movement. We talked about ‘motion’ words and looked at four poems – Masefield Cargos, Plath Mushrooms, a poem about a storm and the wind, and finally Auden’s Night Mail. I played the version on YouTube, Gielgud reading with steam train film and music, which went down well.
They love to be involved and bring a mix of serious contribution and fun. It’s rewarding – if you have the opportunity, I recommend taking it, perhaps to help develop the young writers for the future. It can be any type of writing, not necessarily poetry.
You’ll be amazed how mature, technically competent and enthusiastic they are. And how much pleasure you get out of it.
For the older among us, I’ll be hosting another poetry workshop for Sutton Writers, via Zoom, on Wednesday 3 June. Please contact us if you’d like to attend.