Loud Objects: a Poetry Workshop
Now that all the brilliant teachers are back in the classroom in person, I thought it might be helpful to share a poem-resource which I have used many times and which I’ve found to be a reliable prompt for imaginative responses. It’s pretty quick, easily adaptable, and you can write a simpler poem with KS1 or a more complex one with KS2.
The session is based around this poem of mine:
Soil or sky, which is my home?
I had wings when I was thrown.
See me jacketed with dust.
Hear me speak, my voice of rust.
My poor head… so fever-full.
Sometimes, I feel small.
Oh visit, gold-striped bees.
Please send me a feathered breeze.
No idea where I am going!
I’ll write this all into my poem.
After reading the poem, I recap personification and explain that I was wondering what humans would hear if they could listen in on inanimate / non-speaking objects. What emotions, secrets and surprises would be spilled?
I tell them that the first draft of this poem had ‘says’ after every object – but in the redrafting process, I decided this was too repetitive, and that I was missing the chance to use more vivid and interesting verbs to describe the voices of my objects. (Plus one noun – the swallow’s “refrain” – because I listened to a recording of swallow-song and it repeated the same whirrs and trills over and over!)
Then we gather ideas for objects together. We look around the classroom first (a clock is always popular and works well), then think more widely. We gather a big pool of words, making sure to mix up manmade and natural, domestic and grand. If you are focusing on a particular subject in class (from the water cycle to the Victorians and anything in between!) you can narrow the selection to objects related to that theme.
I’ve found that it works best to think first about what the clock / kettle / ocean / games console / tiger / football / top hat etc might want to say. Then after we’ve settled on something surprising or insightful, we choose an interesting verb to go with it. This can be a useful opportunity to use some onomatopoeia as well.
You can create as many couplets as you have time for. It can be a class poem, or once they’ve got the hang of the structure, pupils can write their own poems individually / in pairs etc.
Finally, when using this for a class poem, I invite new ideas for a title – ‘Voices’ is a bit boring! It’s like a final statement of ownership of the poem and every class I’ve worked with has come up with something really quite beautiful and profound. Poets like to look closely at the world in new ways, and this is exactly what they’ve done!
If you use this prompt with your class, I’d love to see the poems you come up with. Feel free to contact me via my website for some feedback on your pupils’ poems, or tag me on Twitter @RachelPoet / on Instagram @rachelpierceywriter
Rachel Piercey is a freelance writer and tutor. She has co-edited three children’s poetry anthologies with the Emma Press and regularly performs and runs poetry workshops in schools. If You Go Down to the Woods Today, her picture book set in a magical woodland illustrated by Freya Hartas, full of poems to read and things to find, is published by Magic Cat today! rachelpierceypoet.com