All the images burned inside
3rd Day of Christmas Catch-Up Blog
I am doing some desk archaeology, looking into the year’s pile of notebooks and pieces of paper.
Near the top of the pile are notes I made during the brilliant address by Kate Clanchy at the Lapidus AGM in Bristol earlier this month.
She described her work in an Oxford comprehensive school where, between them, the students have over fifty first languages and where she is doing remarkable work with poetry.
You can read about it here:
Or, more powerfully, listen here.
Her approach mirrors the biblio-poetry therapy model. She takes in a poem which provides ‘a shape’ or a model. She described precisely the experience I’ve had in groups – that ‘the poem makes an imprint and the reader’s own poem pops up in its place’. (That’s what I noted down but Kate may have said it slightly differently.)
She said she doesn’t ask students ‘to write about their feelings’. That to me is more in the domain of journalling, open and to some extent free-floating. What responding to a specific poem does, is create structure, suggest concrete imagery and enable feelings to come through in a more precise way.
I’ve found that when we’ve spent time talking about a poem in a group, there’s an internal pressure to write one’s own that builds up so that when the invitation to write is made, poems spring almost fully-formed. The image that comes into my mind, are footprints on the beach being filled by the sea, the shape remaining but blurring.
Kate mentioned using two poems as models. Melissa Lee-Houghton’s breath-taking (literally, try reading it aloud) ‘i am very precious’ and Adrian Mitchell’s funny and dramatic ‘Ten Ways to Avoid Lending Your Wheelbarrow to Anybody‘. These poems do very different things and so the ‘imprints’ they leave on the psyche will generate different responses.
We then read I Cannot Remember My Mother by Rabindranath Tagore and each wrote a poem using the opening words ‘I don’t remember …’ as a prompt. When we shared, the room filled with memories and the ghosts of our pasts, all that is there and not there. Laughter, tears, poetry.