Note disgruntled teacher in the background

Today, eight children and I stood on the soggy North Norfolk coast and shouted poems at the sea. Why? Because we could.

It's important to find your own spaceThis was the culmination of our first day-long session with our final Shake The Dust team. We’d spent the day in a renovated lifeboat house, experimenting with all kinds of poetic word games: Ginsbergesque Eyeball Kicks, Oulipian N+7 Substitutions, and the ancient art of ripping off someone else’s work.* It’s beautiful, watching the children starting to realise that there’s a practical purpose to fun exercises like this, and beginning to understand a little of how broad and how versatile this language of ours can be.  In a world of grading, marking, and exams, a world where kids are told that somewhere there’s a ‘right’ answer, I guess it must be an immense liberation to describe a meringue as an “audacious egg” with the knowledge that nobody can say you’re wrong.

 We’ve just about got the bare-bones structures of what will eventually become our two competition poems for the slam final at The Garage – I’m not going to give away too much, but I think there will be a nice balance of the worthy and the whimsical, of meaning and of mirth.  Next session we’ll be group writing both poems and getting some words on the page, since we feel that words are one of the most important features of any performance poem.

Even the contents page of a book can provide inspirationThe children are getting really excited about performing in front of such a large crowd next month, and Molly and I can’t fault their enthusiasm. They really are a joy to work with. That’s why, at the end of the session, with the drizzle soaking our hoods, and my bold assertion that “You can’t call yourself a real poet until you’ve shouted insults at the sea for no reason”, we trooped onto the shingle and bawled our words out to the vast (and largely uncaring) North Sea. Our audience of tourists, a Year 11 Drama Class, and some hungry seagulls may not have understood exactly what we were saying, or what we were doing, but they can be sure they were seeing something unique. And I guess that’s poetry, right?


* no copyrights were infringed during the making of this session.