I wonder what you think of when you hear the word poetry? More often than not when I've introduced the topic to a class of teenagers there follows a collective slumping of shoulders.
And for a while, even in adulthood, I may have been inclined to agree. But just as I balk at the absurd suggestion when I'm told that someone doesn't like books - they just haven't found the right one for them yet - I have come to the same conclusion with poetry.
There is a poem (and poet) for everyone. And I reckon you need to start with the subject. What is it you're interested in, what experiences have you had and what in this world sparks your emotions?
I've never been a fan of the long and breezy poem that meanders with floral contortions over hill and dale. Nah. A couple of my earliest poet loves were Michael Rosen and Roger McGough. Two men who appeared on kid's telly with humourous rhymes I could relate to (and in the case of Rosen - the most hilarious facial expressions; us kids were glued). Moving through secondary school and coming to understand the term ' ethnic minority' I devoured the words of Jackie Kay who in just one poem summed up my high school experience (go to page 13)
You see it didn't matter whether these poems rhymed or not, used fancy words or slang; I got them because they got me.
And so I continue onto my womanhood, mix in a little higher education, love and lust and loss and a whole heap of black women...well now...let me just rest while I cool myself with this here fan...Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, ntozake shange, Valerie Bloom, Jean Binta Breeze.
Poetry has power. I connected with the words which lead me to search for poems that would reach out and make sense to the closed ears in my classrooms. To do this I leant back to the poets I loved because then my enthusiasm for the poems I read out loud would be infused in each line. Luckily the exam board I taught thrust the likes of Simon Armitage and John Agard onto the curriculum so I dragged students and staff out to see them...LIVE! Being a busy working mum of three my nights grooving at gigs may well and truly bitten the dust but here I was cheering and brap, brap, brapping with a bunch of year 11s at these two blokes who picked their words off the page and kicked them off the stage into a raucous crowd. But you see, these kids...they got it.
We have come full circle in my house of poetry as I read Michael Rosen's poetry that makes my daughters double up in hysterics.
And so have I. My teenage angst was penned across years and pages and whilst I may cringe a little, I have learnt to celebrate the me from then. And the me from now has re-discovered my love for my own poetry once again. Words and phrases seem to flow, just now, borne from an image in a photograph, sensation from a song, memory from my past, a face in my present, wishes in my future. All in all I am wrapped up in my poetry.
So that's what I'm writing these days.
This post i in response to the What I'm Writing linky week98