Everybody needs poetry in their lives. And no one more than those of us learning to write. The great thing about poetry is that it is high octane -small but powerful. We can find many ways of filling our classrooms and our days with poems of every variety. We can choose poems that are sturdy and nutritious like a cheese and tomato sandwich, the light frippery of  a meringue, a mouthful of popping candy or a well-flavoured toffee that stays in the mouth for a good long time. There is room for every kind of poem.

A poem, so much shorter than a novel, surprises and challenges us with its ideas and its use of language. It might be musical, or puzzling. It might, shockingly, be able to describe just how you feel about something, or turn your ideas upside down. The rhythms and sounds of a poem stay in your mind and creep into your writing hand. You can write out a poem and carry it with you. You can learn a poem and bring it to mind whenever you want.

We really do think that poetry is where you may learn to write good prose. The constraints of the poem -its length, its demand for shape, line break, white space, economy of expression, its willingness to accommodate mood and style – allow us to work intensely and achieve something well-crafted. It often feels too much to revise a longer piece of prose in that way. Poetry demands that we think about the choices we make. It gives us the time to do so.

Poetry has sometimes been side-lined because it is not included in assessment. However, it is popular amongst young writers and is such a good way of honing skills. The more poetry you read aloud and children read themselves, the more resources they will possess for their own poetry.  CLPE’s Poetryline https://clpe.org.uk/poetryline is a rich resource for teachers. It has lots of ideas for reading and writing. The very best thing about it is its collection of videos of poets reading their own poetry and talking about writing. 

What else might we have in the classroom? A good collection of poetry books: single author collections, anthologies, longer poems illustrated and published singly; poetry posters by published poets and in-school poets (one of the most popular poetry anthologies in our library is one written by children in the school); a poem of the week, or day; the chance to read poems aloud. the chance to perform poetry, alone and in groups; the chance to learn poems by heart and recite these to an audience. 

Try writing a poem based on Jackie Kay’s, No 115 Dreams

In this poem Jackie Kay imagines what the rooms in the house are dreaming of. It begins:

The living room remembers Gran dancing to Count Basie.

The kitchen can still hear my aunts fighting on Christmas day.

The hall is worried about the loose bannister

She writes: ‘And No 115 dreams of yellow light, an attic room./ And No 115 dreams of a chimney, a new red roof.’ And she writes: ‘My own bedroom loves the bones of me.’

The full text of the poem can be found at the Scottish Poetry Library https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/no-115-dreams/

Write your own poem about what your house dreams of, or maybe another house you know well. Write what each room thinks or wonders, dreams of or remembers, worries about or loves. You will surprise us. I am sure.

2 thoughts on “Poetry

  1. What a coincidence, I used Jackie Kay’s poem with my Year 6s today! They loved it. We had great fun thinking about all sorts of personification whilst planning. What would make a wheelie bin feel frustrated? Why might a garage feel lonely? How does that cupboard under the stairs feel? Some excellent poems written and a lot of fun had along the way 🙂


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