A whole voice
What’s the word for a joke so unfunny you can’t help but laugh? The word for the amount of water you can hold in your hand? Or the word for the feeling you get when you listen to a story and feel that you are actually there in the world of the story?
The job of a poet is often to convey complex ideas and emotions in a concise and meaningful way. But there really are single words for each of those meanings:
- A joke so unfunny you can’t help but laugh – “Jayus” (Indonesian)
- The amount of water you can hold in your hand – “Gurfa” (Arabic)
- The feeling you get when you listen to a story and feel that you are actually there in the world of the story – “Goya” (Urdu)
At the National Literacy Trust we’ve been working to deliver poetry projects in schools across the country for nearly ten years and we are still excited to see the ways that children use words to create new meanings. But for a while we’ve been aware that for the multi-lingual learners in our classrooms, we are only hearing a part of their creative voice. This year we are working closely with Bradford-based poet and teacher Nabeela Ahmed to put this right.
This year children will have the chance to see and explore poems written in a voice unique to the poet. They will have the opportunity to see how poets use dialect and borrowed words to convey ideas and meaning. The children will have the chance visit a local landmark – the Brontë Parsonage – and interpret their experience using all of the words and meanings available to them. They will be the expert in how their words are written and spoken. The words that are special to them and their families will be shared with their whole class and celebrated. In other words, the children will be given permission to use their whole voice.
From Kashmir to Yorkshire
From Kashmir to Yorkshire
From lush hills and noisy streams
To patchwork moors and crashing weirs
From kachmach, bathuwa and kachnaar for spinach curries
Lasoore for pickles, patakari for haandi, shehtoot and phuware for snacks
Beir dried for winter, devoured around a firepit
Hills covered with fallen clouds, skies full of stars, moonlights of a thousand watts
I left all behind for my lifetime home, Yorkshire
Reservoirs, Brontë moors, canals, rivers, rushing streams and waterfalls
Purply pink heather, taller than me bracken, mossy rocks and mighty oaks
Cheek reddening air, eye soothing waters, postcard perfect hills
Red currants for jelly, gooseberries for chutney and blackberries for jam
Bill berries, raspberries and apples for nourishing treats with friends on long walks
From a strong Kashmiri girl to a tough Yorkshire woman
My landscapes are like me
Not just pretty to look at
© Nabeela Ahmed 2021
Fay Lant is Head of School Programmes at the National Literacy Trust where she leads on writing and libraries. She has formerly been a secondary school English teacher and delivered education projects for the British Council.
The National Literacy Trust is dedicated to transforming the lives of children from the UK’s most disadvantaged communities through literacy by improving their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. The Trust’s research underpins several programmes, campaigns and policy work which have supported the literacy skills of 268,490 children during the last year alone.