Tuesday, 17 June 2008

A Visit to 'The Rainbow Room' at Bawnmore Infant School, Rugby

Yesterday morning, I was asked to speak to Year 1 (Herons and Robins) at Bawnmore Infant School in Rugby. The school has just built a large new extension for special events of this kind, known as The Rainbow Room, and I read some poems there and spoke to the Year 1 children about writing poems (ages 5 - 6).

Questions from the children included:

Q: 'How do you make a poem?'

A: With plenty of glue, scraps of old paper and glitter.

(Giggling from the kids, who apparently don't believe me!)

Seriously though, I sit down with maybe one word or a possible first line in my head, and try to build a new poem around that little spark.


Q: 'Do your poems rhyme, and if so, how do you think of the rhyme?'

A: Sometimes my poems rhyme in the middle of the line instead of at the end, and sometimes they only half-rhyme.

I come up with the rhymes by going through all the obvious rhymes until I come to the less obvious ones, which I prefer. The less obvious rhymes tend to take poems in a more interesting direction ...

Then I read some of my own poems to the children, including 'Watermelon Seeds' and 'I Want to be an Explorer'. One of the teachers very kindly asked for a copy of 'Watermelon Seeds' for the Bawnmore School website. So I thought I'd reproduce it here as well.

Watermelon Seeds

If I eat watermelon seeds
will they grow
into watermelon trees?

Will they grow in my tummy
and make me feel funny?

Will my face turn red
with a watermelon head?

Will I splish and splosh
and swish and swosh

wherever I walk
with my watermelon talk?

I think I'll leave
my watermelon seeds

but I might eat one -
just for FUN!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Warwick Words Writers Group: Wednesday 18th June

I shall be reading and discussing my work, plus leading a poetry workshop, at the next meeting of the Warwick Words Writers Group. Here are the details:
Wednesday 18 June
The Meeting Room at The Social Centre, St Mary’s Immaculate RC Church,
West Street, Warwick
7.30 – 9.30pm.

WORKSHOP: Writing Poetry
(delivered by Jane Holland – current Warwick Poet Laureate)
Facilitator: Pauline Brooks
Free refreshments.
£2 per person (to cover venue costs).

Connected to the annual Warwick Words festival of literature and spoken word, this dynamic and friendly group meet in Warwick once a month to share their work, discuss ideas and to develop their creative writing skills. The format of the monthly sessions is determined by the group itself, with the emphasis on creating an informal, yet supportive and productive network.

What members say about the Warwick Words Writers Group:
“refreshing”, “stimulating” and “enjoyable”, “fabulously organised” and that it “attracts a wide range of people with different levels of writing skills and styles”.

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you think might be interested.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

'Leamophants' in Latin

Centum anni fugiunt: illas nunc cernere possis
ante oculos hortis lento agmine procedentes
vespere per mediam frigus sub fluminis undis
corpora mersuras: naso caudaque catenam
inter se nectunt ...

For those of a classical bent, you can now find my 'Leamophant' elephant poem translated into Latin, no less, on my Raw Light writing blog.

Many thanks to my friend and teacher John King, Classics Master at Rugby School, for knocking the poem into a more elegant shape. It provided some amusement at our evening class recently, reading through this line-by-line and seeing how he'd tackled the obvious difficulties of translating 'across the ages'; although the Romans certainly had elephants, they were not known for their silk parasols or shop front glass windows.

I hope those of you with a little knowledge - or even a lot! - will click over to Raw Light and enjoy trying to riddle out the Latin hexameters.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A new commissioned poem on Leamington Spa Station

God’s Wonderful Railway
thundering through the Chilterns
from the big smoke
to the cool of the Spa.

Below is a poem recently commissioned by Chiltern Railways to commemorate the official opening of the renovated Ticket Office at Leamington Spa Station.

The work was undertaken to improve security at the entrance to the station and also partially to restore the original look of the ticket office area, first built in 1938 in the elegant Art Deco style. Later changes to the station entrance hall had sadly concealed the original granite plinth and Art Deco tiles; these have now been uncovered and restored, with other renovations planned for the near future.

I went along to the station on May 24th 2008 to read the poem out at the grand opening ceremony, which featured many prominent guests such as the Mayor and Mayoress of Leamington Spa, the Coventry-born record producer Pete Waterman, and a whole swathe of train enthusiasts, railway executives and Friends of Leamington Spa Station.

The actual reading proved a little challenging, since although I had been assured that no trains were due for several minutes, as soon as I started to read the poem, a train naturally enough began to enter the station. Fortunately, I have a loud voice, being accustomed to yelling at my children, so I'm fairly certain the poem was heard by most people on the platform!

I would like to thank my next-door neighbour, Bernie, who is a train enthusiast himself and whose help in the loaning of research material was invaluable. Grateful thanks are also due to the various staff at Leamington Station who answered my lengthy questions with great patience, even though they were trying to work at the same time. And to Seona Shuttleworth (Chiltern Railways) who was kind enough to commission this poem from me in the first place.

After all the help I received with my research, I hope even the most hardened train enthusiast will find something to enjoy in this poem!


On the Renovations at Leamington Spa Station, 2008

Art Deco portal, waystation
in stainless steel
and granite plinth, its ticket office
elegant as a scene
from Brief Encounter;
to step into that waiting room
or order coffee
at polished mahogany
is to dip oneself
into a distant age, to hurry past
its potted palms
in pearls and tweed
or trilby and two-tone brogues,
running for the 8.23
from Leamington to Marylebone
or the sleek blue ghost
of the Birmingham Pullman, waitor
in stiff whites
threading those aisles,
silver salver
steady on his palm, serving high tea
with Havana cigars
from Georgian facades to Paddington,
passing red hot pokers
in the station garden, delphiniums
and Michaelmas daisies
opposite this Deco bench
where GWR
is what the legend says:
God’s Wonderful Railway
thundering through the Chilterns
from the big smoke
to the cool of the Spa.