We need poetry. We really do. Reading poetry promotes literacy and fosters emotional resilience; it can cross boundaries that little else can. I well remember the first time I had to learn a poem by heart at Prep School aged 9: the joy of spending time browsing through so many dog eared and well thumbed anthologies looking for one which resonated with me…..in the end, I chose a Spike Milligan classic ‘Silly Old Baboon’ and remember the laughter from my audience as I ran around the room holding my bottom as if it was on fire at the end of the poem! My nervousness was soon replaced with a real sense of joy and achievement in that I had entertained my friends (and my teacher!) and realised that I could do it, and that all the hard work learning the poem had been worth it. Indeed, once you learn a poem by heart, you never forget it, and I can still remember it today……’There was a baboon, who one afternoon, said I think I will fly to the sun, so with great palms strapped to his arms, he started his take off run…..’
Here are a few reasons why we need poetry in our schools, and thankfully poetry, both writing and performance, remains alive and well at Cargilfield.
Reason 1: Poetry helps us know each other and build community. It can allow children to paint pictures of their lives, using metaphor, imagery and symbolic language to describe painful experiences, or parts of themselves that they're not ready to share. Poetry allows children to put language to use-to make it serve a deep internal purpose, to break rules along the way (grammar, punctuation) and to find a voice, representation, community perhaps.
Reason 2: When read aloud, poetry is rhythm and music and sounds and beats. Young children -- babies and pre schoolers included -- may not understand all the words or meaning, but they'll feel the rhythms, get curious about what the sounds mean and perhaps want to create their own. Contrary to popular belief amongst children, boys get really into poetry when brought in through rhythm and rhyme. It's the most kinesthetic of all literature, it's physical and full-bodied which activates your heart and soul and sometimes bypasses the traps of our minds and the outcome is that poetry moves us. Boys, too.
Reason 3: Poetry opens venues for speaking and listening. Think poetry recitals which a number of our year groups at school take part in, or the series of presentations that children in Forms 7 and 5 perform. Shared in this way, poetry brings audience, authentic audience, which can motivate reluctant writers.
Reason 4: Poetry builds resilience in children and adults; it fosters Social and Emotional Learning. A well-crafted phrase or two in a poem can help us see an experience in an entirely new way. We can gain insight that had evaded us many times, that gives us new understanding and strength.
WB Yeats said this about poetry: "It is blood, imagination, intellect running together...It bids us to touch and taste and hear and see the world, and shrink from all that is of the brain only." Our schools are places of too much "brain only;" we must find ways to surface other ways of being, other modes of learning. And we must find ways to talk about the difficult and unexplainable things in life -- death and suffering and even profound joy and transformation. Poetry can gives us all of this.
"...When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read in school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers -- a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place."
A final suggestion about bringing poetry into your lives: don't analyse it, don't ask others to analyse it. Don't deconstruct it or try to make meaning of it. Find the poems that wake you up, that make you feel as if you've submerged yourself in a mineral hot spring or an ice bath; find the poems that make you feel irrational joy or sadness or delight. Find the poems that make you want to roll around in them or paint their colours all over your bedroom ceiling. Those are the poems you want to play with -- forget the ones that don't make sense. Find those poems that communicate with the deepest parts of your being and welcome them in.
Above all, read poems and enjoy reading them!
Right, back to Spike Milligan and ‘Silly Old Baboon’……!
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We have places available for 2021 entry in most year groups.
For now, we hope that this video, presented by our Headmaster, Mr Rob Taylor, will give you a flavour of what life is like here at Cargilfield. Our website and social media channels are kept up to date and hold a wealth of information about our school.
Our Registrar, Fiona Craig is available to contact via email: [email protected] and she will be happy to help you. Thank you