By Josie Whitehead
In order to appreciate to the full the moods within a poem, the sound effects, the humour or the sorrow, it is essential that your children read their poems aloud in the classroom. Robert Pinsky the 39th poet laureate of the United States has put into words – unfortunately before I said the same words:
'If a poem is written well, it was written with the poet's voice and for a voice. Reading a poem silently, instead of saying a poem, is like the difference between staring at sheet music and actually humming or playing the music on an instrument.'
Poetry, I feel, needs to link well with drama, art, music and dance, the other performance arts, and not stand alone in a corner, or, worse still, be left on the pages of a book. However, I do emphasize strongly the fact that poetry needs to be heard, by the poet if possible, well before it is read or performed.
I have written before on this website about the sad sight of teenagers mumbling their award winning poems into a piece of paper in their hands, and need say no more. I feel sad also to see 'poetry slam' being pushed so much with poets performing their works in an incoherent way rather than with the natural way of speaking.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
ART - Combine art with poetry by making a striking display for your walls. Put a poem as a centrepiece on the wall, and linked to the poem put lots of artwork.
DRAMA – Let the children learn a poem, or parts of a poem, and perform it in their classroom, or for assembly. Let them design costumes for their parts. Teach them how to throw their voices clearly without shouting, how to vary the speed of reading, and how to put expression into their poem. Either make a sound recording or a small film and link it to the poem on my website and let the world see what they have done or hear how well they’ve recited it. I’ll gladly do this and your film/recording will inspire others and show them what YOU are doing in your school.
MUSIC: Many of my poems could be put to music as songs. Other than that, let music introduce the recitation of a poem – or let other sounds accompany the performance. Many of my poems are atmospheric and there are many interesting sounds that could be used. My poem "Flower of the Eternal Sleep" for Remembrance Day has been put to music by an organist at Dymock Church, Gloucestershire. For website members there is the opportunity to see this film from this website.
Listen to these poems that have had music put to them by Martin Torbert. POEMS AS SONGS
DANCE: Dance, music and poetry/song are a magic team. We measure metre in poetry because way back in history poetry and music linked itself so well to dance. Why not try getting your class to move and click their fingers, and yes, dance to poems such as Mr Worm, Whales, That Rip Rap Rhythm, The Scarecrow Rap and many more of my poems.
PUPPET SHOWS: Get the children to put on a poetry performance using puppets that they have made in a little theatre. There are many of my poems that lay themselves open to puppet show performances, and you will know which ones for there are too many to start mentioning here.
Please contact me if you'd like to use these poems in an event, or perhaps make a film of a poetry performance that I could link to from my website. I'd love to work with you and the children. Josie