Why poetry is just what we need to lift our lockdown mood – World Poetry Day, 21st march

World Poetry Day is the ideal opportunity to share poems with your youngsters. Playful, silly, beautiful, fun… there’s something for everyone. Former primary school teacher Becky Cranham of education resources experts PlanBee shows you how

A Lockdown Haiku
Another zoom call
Daily freezing groundhog walk 
Will this ever end?

Writing poetry has always been a way for people to express difficult feelings and emotions. There is something so cathartic about immortalising thoughts on paper, particularly if those words are arranged in a precise and pleasing arrangement of sounds and syllables.

Yet as technology advances and people find other outlets for self-expression, poetry is becoming less and less mainstream. For those for whom poetry is unfamiliar, it can seem a daunting and curious art form, especially when it comes to introducing children. Where do you start? What forms should you teach? How do you condense something so vast into manageable and understandable chunks?

Part of the joy of poetry, however, is its simplicity. It doesn’t have to be ‘The Iliad’; it can be playful and silly and freeing. It can also be tender or thoughtful, pensive or angry, hopeful or despairing. Poetry can be anything you want it to be, and that is its unique beauty.

World Poetry Day is the perfect excuse to use poetry to help children (and adults) through these tough times.

So how exactly can poetry help? First and foremost, poetry is fun! Search ‘nonsense poetry’ online with your children and you will find a plethora of hilariously stupid poems to make your children laugh. Or look up the poems of the nonsense king, Spike Milligan, for some classic nonsense such as ‘On the ning nang nong’ or ‘Land of the Bumbly Boo’. Funny poems, whether nonsense or not, are fantastic at any time of day to lighten the mood – and we could all use a bit more of that at the moment!

Poetry is also a great way of encouraging children to explore their feelings. Children have had to deal with so much this past year: a scary virus, school closures, virtual learning, missing family and friends, as well as the loss of loved ones for many. Poetry gives children the chance to reflect on how they feel and give a voice to their feelings. Encouraging your children to write a poem, carefully choosing which words they want to include, can help them process difficult emotions.

It also affords children the chance to look to the future and the (hopefully) brighter days ahead. We all need a big old dose of hope right now and poetry can help children express what they are looking forward to about the future, helping them recognise that current events are just temporary and that life will look different soon.

Here is a poem from Peter Taylor, who we have featured before:

BLACKDOWN RIDGE

I thanked Maggie McIver, deceased, today –
she’d left a bench, with an envied view,
to walkers on top of Blackdown ridge
who sometimes stop to train their eyes,
to stretch a bridge to the northern side
of the gentle Downs that sit so pretty
some ten straight, clear, bright miles away.

Her bench was placed well off the track,
its back to the scores of runners, riders,
far enough to be barely seen and,
unnoticed by most, so no part to play
in lives otherwise much the same, their
homage claimed by things I’ve passed and missed,
no sideways glance, no turning back.

This morning a full spring sun was up, about
and working hard to warm the air, splashing
yellow on rampant gorse below, gregarious as
new spring’s skipping lambs, slowly waking
Belted Galloways. No-one on or near her bench,
I saw when still a quarter mile away, so
I’d get there first, I had no ground to doubt.

And so it was: all others walked right on by,
faithful to their favoured wayside shrines,
left me alone, sole incumbent, undisturbed,
at peace with all things and knowing the day
was set for pleasure, no need to kneel and pray.
But pleasure halted by a brand new view
and I wondered if Maggie had seen such while alive.

The whole expanse from my vantage point
towards the downs was pillowed by a torpid mist,
thick and deep as an Alpine drift,
or a glacier so solid it would surely outlive
even the youngest of our race displaced
by this first visitation of Northern snow,
which freak of nature put nature out of joint.

Had she been here first and beaten me
to this ice-white sparkling monument on
a climb to Blackdown’s top? But soon this marble wonder
melted into mist once more and I marvelled,
with a tingling down my back, how each change
occurred without shifting place or space – one
subtle tweak in my perception reshaping scenery.

And I felt I had climbed above the cloud
to reach a resting place for every lover of this land,
not hers nor mine alone; for the gorse, adorned by
a thousand silver gossamer webs, all dripping dew,
each feather blown, each footprint left, the scattered ash
I knew now were part of me as part of her, as part of
every sentient thing that could claim that it was proud

of all the raw constituents it found upon that ridge:
for me, the four core colours mixed skilfully to make
no more than this morning walk, nor less than an exhibition;
and sitting on Maggie’s bench, no more than a view,
nor less than a life’s entire ambition; a rite to
rock my body free from pain yet rob me of resistance,
to stand on that bench, placing one foot on the bridge.

© Peter Taylor 2018

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