The Power of Poetry


I’ve just been to my son’s end-of-year show and have come away inspired, as he has been throughout this transformational year – his second year of primary school.

We were taken on a whirlwind tour of all the things they have learnt. They recited poems they had written, including a brilliant one about Usain Bolt. I hope they won’t mind me reproducing a short extract here:

Waiting on the track, proud and cool,
I’m Usain Bolt!
Coiled like a cobra, ready to strike,
I’m Usain Bolt!

As you can see, they have been working on metaphors and similes and they have produced some really imaginative stuff. In another lesson they chose an emotion such as excitement or fear and wrote about it in terms of each of the senses. The first part of each line is given, e.g. It looks / sounds / smells / tastes / feels like . . . , and the children supply the rest. Here are two lines from Fear:

It looks like wolves creeping through the dark.
It sounds like a door slamming in the night.

This reminded me of a class of 14 year-olds I taught many years ago in Colombia. At the time, violence was still very much a part of life and some of the kids had first-hand experience of very strong emotions such as fear and terror. We were creating concrete, or shape poems, where you draw a simple shape and then write inside it. In writing sentences about the shape, students forget they are writing a poem and are often surprised by the results. One boy, who was often cheeky and sometimes disruptive, wrote something so powerful and poignant that I have never forgotten it:



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