Friday, 23 September 2016

Museum Workshop

Writing Children’s Poems
Workshop with Helen Clare

1.              Poemlets.     
Find 3 or 4 objects which inspire you. Take time to look at them properly. Think about the other senses too. Think about the object’s history. Answer these three questions. (No need to try to rhyme or be deliberately poetic)

What do we say about the object?
What does the object say about itself?
What does it really mean?

There are examples on a separate sheet.

2.              Bring your poemlets back to share.

3.              Find a phrase you like that you can build a poem from

The easiest way to do this is to make your phrase the last line of each verse. Make the verses as long or as short as you want.

Your verses can rhyme or not. If you want them to rhyme you might want to shift your last line around to make it easier. There are rhyming dictionaries provided or try There are also some sheets that help you rhyme.

There are more complicated forms such as villanelle or triolet in the books provided (or look online) if you’re feeling ambitious.

There are examples on separate sheets.

Don't forget you can share your poems as comments on this thread, or ask for help if you need it. 

Poemlet Examples

Maharajah: walked 200 miles from Edinburgh to Belle Vue zoo in 1872

Look at my huge feet, how easily they carry my weight.
It was a long way. It has been a long time.

Spice Racks: India 1865, wood

I have treasures. I have secrets.
Spin me fast enough and my pods pop off, fizz like stars.

Bark Cloth: made of beaten Masi stems, stencilled, Fiji, before 1942

Roll me out. I will hold your nights and your days, your lives and your children.
I will whisper to you in my patterns, sing the wind in the Masi.

Chinese Dish, Porcelain and enamel, decorated with bats and long life symbols, for export

Sprinkle me with leaves, lay me with fruit.
I am yellow like the sun. I came across the miles. I was always here.

Helmet: metal, Iran, donated 1946 

I was Persia, the Orient, Asia Minor.
I was war, death, dignity, defence.

Head-dress: Manchu, China, Kingfisher feather, bamboo, silk, more than 60 years old. 

I know your greatness. I will make you great in the eyes of the world.
I am pain - the kingfisher, the oyster, the silkworm, the hands that cut. Did you think it could be otherwise?

Iron Core of Meteorite:  Campo del Cielo (Field of Heaven) Argentina, 16th Century. 

I am alien. I am earth.
We are all spacedust.

Jaw: Hammerhead Shark

It was only ever hunger, life.
When there were nerves, this mouth knew the whole world which spewed into it.

Cabinet of Tiny Fossils: 19th Century Collection

I am the deep history of the earth. Collected, ordered, classified.
The earth resists this project. It flirts with chaos, comes back to us giggling with surprises.

Plaster Cast of Dog buried in Ash: Vesuvious, Italy

I am every dog, scratching his back. I didn't see it coming.
I might have followed you, begged for scraps, licked your face. I have smelly breath.

Green Tree Python: Modified muscles, prehensile tail, climbs trees, sleeps during the day, head tucked in the middle of its coils, bites, Australian rain forest. 

This is my tree. I have not moved all week.
I am more threatened than threatening. Let me sleep.

Fragments of Pottery: Archaeological interpretation and analysis. 

Each one of us was part of something, a jar, a dish, a cup.
Our mismatched fragments become a new whole.

Frog and duck weights: Mesopotamia, 2-3rd Millenia BC

The balance, the baking, the baggies. I am your history too.
How might it be not to apportion - mass, time, value, love?

Examples of poems using patterns of repetition


When the night is cold and you’ve far to go
the rain will rain and the wind will blow.
You’ve a cloak of velvet over sleeves of lace,
and it’s my job to pin that cloak in place.

I’m beautifully crafted, bejewelled and gold,
your nobility’s shown and need not be told.
I’m precious enough to signal your grace
for it’s my job to pin you in your rightful place

Peasants and merchants can never own me -
the law won’t let them, though they’re told they’re free.
They may make their money, they can’t join the race
as it’s my job to pin them into their place.

The up will stay up and the down will stay down
The poor will stay poor and the king keep his crown.
Perched on your shoulder, right next to your face,
it’s my job to pin the world into place.

With a big furry body and a skull on my back
I surprise you, when summer turns to gold.
Do you know what kind of journey I’ve made?
Do you wonder what kind of luck I hold?

Do you know I hover? Do you know I squeak?
That I smell of bees and hide in their hives?
Do you know of all the places I’ve been?
The luck I’ve had living all those lives?

Have you been to the tip of Italy,
Have you been to the highest points in Spain
Where my caterpillars feed on potato plants?
Luckily their bites don’t cause you much pain…

Do you know that I burrow when I pupate
That I change my form within the earth
And emerge with wings and a nectar tube?
Metamorphosis. The luck of rebirth.

Do you know I fly over land and sea?
That I visit just briefly when the time is right
When the sun by your home sits high in the sky?
That you’ll be lucky to catch a sight?

Do you know they said that the devil made me?
That I brought hunger and war? I am taboo?
There’s some kind of luck in my skull and my squeak.
But which kind of luck is up to you.

The Time Traveller

The hardest part is standing still ,
though I’ve been waiting all of my life to die,
for the blow of the axe that’ll smash my skull.
To travel I need to feel the thrill.

An animal’s stringy bit’s wrapped round my throat –
I’m dizzied with a pull on the tourniquet
then lighter as it’s loosened to let the blood flow.
To travel I need to feel my head bloat.

It takes a fair few hacks to get through my neck.
The axe wedges in bone and has to be yanked
back out, is lifted again and  falls with a crack
To travel I need to give into black.

My brains rot to soggy in a Salford bog,
The peat’s soaked in and tinged my skin
the colour of a dried up tangerine
To travel I need to sleep through the fog.

For two thousand years, folk walk past
The words they speak, are a strange music,
with a meaning that I can never grasp.
To travel I only need to last.

The Celts walk by and the Romans walk by
The Saxons walk by and the Vikings walk by
The Normans walk by and the Tudors walk by
To travel I only need to lie.

They farm their flocks and they farm their crops
and they build their houses and they build their homes
and they build their factories and they build their cities
And my waiting never stops,

until I’m discovered by a peat-cutter’s blade
and I’m pickled and scanned and placed in a case
and my blue glass eyes are confused and afraid
Because it’s time that moved while I stayed.

Things change

We really thought we’d always be fish
and then the ancestors went and grew legs
hardly more than fins, tough enough
to take their weight as they crawled
onto the earth and used their little lungs
and before we knew it we were frogs.
Things change.

We really thought we’d be just a few
amphibians, in the shallows
the land was ours, full of plants
and no-one to eat us (except us)
and the air was wet and warm.
There were millions of us
and toads, newts, salamanders
and the blind ones. We ruled the world.
Things change.

Dinosaurs came. We got crafty
hid under rocks and in the cups
of plants. We changed our colours
to be the colour of light on leaves
or sour yellows and reds
to put them off. We learned
to ooze poison from our skins.
Things change.

And me, the Golden Mantella,
I have lived my lives in the swamps
of Madagascar, where they fell
my forests and drain my ponds
so they can farm and mine.
They build cities and squeeze me
into the small spaces in between.
They sell me as pets.
There’s not many of me now.
Things change. People change things.

You’ll find me too in zoos and museums,
click-clicking for a mate
in the artificial mists, laying my spawn
to hatch into tiny tadpoles.
Come and visit me.
Watch carefully, you’ll see
my membranes flicker. Wait and I’ll jump.
Soon, they’ll take me home, release me.
Maybe I’ll be numerous again.
Things change. People change things.

How big is a dinosaur egg?

Just how big is a dinosaur egg?
Is it bigger than a nutmeg?
As big as a potato?
As big as a tomato?
As big as a plate, Oh?!

Just how tall is a dinosaur egg?
Is it taller than your leg?
As tall as a street light?
Is it higher than the Dolomites?
Higher than the flight
of a runaway kite?

Just how heavy is a dinosaur egg?
Is it as heavy as a beer keg?
As heavy as my chubby cat,
As heavy as a leaden hat?
As heavy as a falling acrobat
going splat?

Just how wide is a dinosaur egg?
Is it wide as Winnipeg?
Is it wide as your settee?
Wide as the beaches in Torquay?
Wider than a very wide wide-screen tv?

Tell me now, don’t make me beg,
Just how big is a dinosaur egg? 

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