By Eithne Cullen
Welcome to my October Thoughtful Tuesday page. As autumn closes in and we’re thinking about the new way we face the world, our theme this month has been concentrating on fresh outlooks, in particular, we’re looking at Writing With Wonder: The World Through Children’s Eyes.
It’s amazing what clarity and thoughtfulness children bring to the world. I remember when my children were small, being constantly challenged to think about the world in all kinds of ways. They asked the most amazing questions! Once I even asked a colleague to explain to me how an aeroplane stayed up in the air, so I could answer that question on the way home from the school run that day.
I also remember being asked if there was any colour when I was a little girl, or whether everything had been all black and white then. Better not to think about this one too much, though, we can all agree that our childhood memories are full of all kinds of sensory richness; smells and sounds we’ll always remember and the colours that lit up our world. In her poem Red Shoes, Gloria Maloney shares a memory filled with the bright colour and sounds she remembers from her childhood. It’s a joyful poem and a joyful memory. Thanks for sharing it with us!
I’m wearing my bright red shiny shoes today
Grandma is walking with her stick
I skip, she taps
Tap, skip, tap, skip, along the yellow brick track
I wave to the scarecrow, he nods back in his black floppy velvet hat
Skip, tap, skip, tap, along the yellow brick track
Through the rainbow gate
Into the flower meadow
Past the red poppies and cornflower blues
Grandma, bent back, stoops down, an offering placed in the palm of my hand
I grip it tight; a white fluffy pom-pom ball
“Make a wish” she says
Eyes shut tight
I blow with all my might
Fluttering soft wings tickle and tease my eyelids
“Open now” they cry
Eyes wide open, I gaze with wonder, a spectacle of pure brilliant white, fairies with fairy dust wings twirling and tumbling to my delight
I raise my hands in supplication
Make a wish upon a fairy, and all my dreams will come true
© 2021, Gloria Maloney
By coincidence, I’ve had a chance to read some fabulous children’s poetry recently. Here’s what happened:
Barking and Dagenham SACRE (Standing Advisory Council For Religious Education) decided to run a lockdown ‘poetry competition’ in RE lessons in 2021.
SACRE is a statutory committee all local authorities have, that brings together teachers, councillors and local religion and worldview leaders and representatives to set the content of the RE curriculum. This was SACREs first time running a B&D competition and the organisers were thrilled with the results.
In January, schools were sent information about what SACRE was looking for in the pupils’ work and the themes pupils could use to write their poems. They were looking for poetry that was inspired by children’s experiences of lockdown life. The competition was open to all age groups from early years (Infants) right up to Key Stage 4.
The poetry call-out suggested themes that could be included in the poetry being created. These themes included ‘Journeys’, ‘Questions, Questions,’ ‘Where Is God?’ and ‘The Mystery Of Life’. All these themes would encourage the young poets to think about the big questions raised for people of faith and those of no faith during the strange times of Covid and lockdown.
SACRE members made short films with what had helped them get through lockdown, in order to inspire pupils with ideas for their own poetry writing.
A poet friend asked me to be the judge and I delightedly said ‘yes’! Luckily for me, there was a shortlisting process, which made it easier for me to judge. But, I must say, it was a very hard job.
There was wonderful work and many wonderful ideas in the poems across the age groups. Some of them looked fabulous on the page, too, with careful lettering and pictures to bring them alive. I was able to celebrate poets who thought a lot about the subject they were writing about as well as the form; some in stanzas, a couple in couplets. Many of the poems rhymed and some did so really effectively with many of the young poets exploring quite sophisticated vocabulary and powerful words. It was a difficult decision in the end!
Then, just before the end of term, I was invited to the prize-giving, which took place on Zoom (somehow very appropriate considering the theme of lockdown!). It was lovely to hear some of the poets reading their work to the audience and I could see how well they had worked with their friends and teachers from the way they did this. Certificates appeared and were presented and I was very proud to see and hear them all. Here are some pictures from the event.
And here’s one of the winning poems. Written by Aarna Makwana, it’s called Mother Nature.
Hello mother nature how are you?
My name is Aarna and I care for you.
What are you doing in the quiet soft air,
Please come closer as I can barely hear you there.
I play, talk and grow with the nature’s guest,
And my garden is nothing less than a rainforest.
Lying here I can see the birds fly,
Right and left into the pink endless sky
I can see the flowers bloom into red, yellow and white,
And there is a big sunflower that looks so bright.
I can feel the cool breeze running through my hair.
And when I’m with you I’m far from despair.
Look at Mr. Spider calling for his lady,
While the red ladybug is rushing down my body.
It’s getting darker as the sun is going down,
While I’m looking at the creatures as they return to their town.
Soon the sky will light up and the stars would shine,
And I will return home to the lovely mother of mine.
© 2021 Aarna Makwana
I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from some of these poets again and hope they’ll be submitting to Pen to Print in the future.
Many thanks to Claire Clinton and all the teachers who supported this lovely project.
And finally, I’ve been lucky to have had a poetry pamphlet published with the support of en to print and Anna Robinson’s Advanced Poetry Classes. One of the poems is a childhood memory of mine, too. My Mum had a trunk which held some of her precious things and, of course, we weren’t supposed to open it and look inside; but we did! And we never got caught. I used the memory for one of the poems in my pamphlet and a line from the poem as the title of my collection. It’s called The Smell Of Dust and the cover shows one of Mum’s precious things, a sweet little evening bag, from the days (before children) when she used to get dressed up to go out. Here’s the poem, which I have called Burglars.
the smell of dust, must, time
stashed away with her youth
an evening bag of fluid, metal mesh
bright beads of blue, heavy clasp and chain
a navy beret, sharp with mothball fumes
thick, felted, woollen in our hands
old photo, one with my name
on the back, it wasn’t me
Dad on a motorbike, frozen at nineteen,
rebel in sports coat and lace up shoes
Mary’s weeping face above novena prayers
holy pictures, medals, memorial cards
heavy lid, domed metal meant to keep us
out, but little burglars foraged in her past.
© 2021, Eithne Cullen
Do take a little time this month to remember what it’s like to look at the world through a child’s eyes and, if you write something, do submit it to pentoprint.org.
It’s amazing what clarity and thoughtfulness children bring to the world.