Since Christmas I’ve been working on Two Sides of the Severn, a project funded and managed by Wenlock Poetry Festival to help primary school children enjoy, access and create poetry. The project will also assist the established poetry festival in Shropshire to develop and encourage young audiences, and it’s funded through a Clore Poetry and Literature Award.
The power plant was far, at night, red-eyed
like a robot when you were small.
During Two Sides of the Severn I’ve introduced children from two primary schools to the work of A E Housman, Mary Webb and my own poems about Shropshire, before setting off outdoors for the children to create their own poetry by responding to place.
The schools are in Much Wenlock (south of the Severn) and in Telford New Town (north of it). The schools are governed by different local authorities, and wouldn’t normally work together, so it’s been an innovative collaboration with new experiences for the children, their teachers and the Poetry Festival.
With the children and their teachers, I walked in woods on both sides of the Severn, and they wrote their Poem Notes, which we used for writing once we were back in the classroom.
It’s been a real joy going outside in the winter with the children, who really rose to the occasion and created marvellous collaborative poems. Here’s a few glimpses of what we’ve been doing so far. The words below the photos are taken from the children’s collaborative poems.
Trees flickered like candles on my birthday.
A scarlet elfin cup grows on a branch of pure love.
Later that day I saw blue wellingtons that smelt like violets.
What wasn’t there to see was the River Severn.
What wasn’t there to see was foxes, but I could smell them.
Now we’re moving on to writing individual short poems, and then we’ll be working on ways to perform the collaborative poems to an audience – one school to the other. And then finally there’ll be a proper, full-on performance with a big audience, lights and raked seating!