Apr 24

A Bit More Poetry

A Bit More Poetry


Session 17

You will need to get copies of a couple of poems which are easily found on the internet or in The Oxfords Book of Children´s Poems: ‘The Land of Counterpane’ and ‘Escape at Bedtime’, both by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Also two real favourites by John Masefield: ‘Sea Fever’ and ‘Cargoes’.
Lyn’s poem, ‘I Am A Person Too’ and ‘Figures of Speech’, below, are copyright free and you may make copies for the group.

Part 1
Read out ‘The Land of Counterpane’. Read it a second time and ask the group to listen for the rhythms in the poem and for the rhymes.

  • How many beats (syllables) are there in each line? (8)
  • Describe the rhyming scheme of this poem. (Rhyming couplets: the last word of the first and second lines rhyme: bed/head, then lines three and four: lay/day and so on)

This is a simple but effective pattern.

Read the second poem: ‘Escape at Bedtime’ and ask them to listen again to the rhythms and rhymes. (There are two rhythm patterns, 11 syllables and 9 syllables in alternate lines and the rhymes are also on alternate lines this time.)

(Robert Louis Stevenson was a sickly child so he is almost certainly drawing on memory as his source for the similar theme, in both poems, of an imaginative child bored by the idea of lying in bed.)

Poetry can be fun, spontaneous and instinctive. It can be reflective romantic or angry, and it may have a serious theme…… If it is just for our own amusement we can do what we like! Perhaps if it is for publication we might make some reference to the conventions of poetry but it is a flexible medium. You can change the rhythm within a poem and you can have words in a rhyming poem that are not a perfect rhyme, as long as you don’t stretch it too far!

Ask the members to try writing a simple poem of eight lines, either in rhyming couplets or quatrains (Stanzas of four lines with alternate rhymes) on one of the following. Keep it simple. Just have a go and don’t worry about technicalities at this stage:

When I Was Little                                             Eating Ice Cream
I Don´t Feel Well                                               It`s a Secret
Not My Cup Of Tea                                           Getting Up
Going to Work                                                   My Friend and Me


Share and Discuss the poems. Look for evidence of people doing instinctively what we have talked about or are about to talk about.

Part 2
One of the best loved poets whose rhythms are a part of the appeal of his poetry is John Masefield. Read and discuss. What are the rhyming patterns?

Read: Sea Fever
Answer: Rhyming couplets:

Answer: A new pattern: second and fifth lines rhyme, or do they? Are lines 3 and 4 actually ‘one line’?
Read the handout: ‘Figurative Language.’

Go back to Sea Fever and find examples of Metaphor, Simile and Personification.

Ask the members to look back at their own poems. Have they used any of these examples of figurative language, intentionally, instinctively, accidentally——?

Some poetry is just indulgent flight of fancy, descriptive, nostalgic and some poems are deliberately nonsense poems but many poems have a clear message, something which the writer wants to impart through poetry as the chosen medium. It may not be rhyming poetry but non-the-less the writer has chosen poetry as a suitable style, perhaps because usually you can say what you want to say in fewer words and make your point effectively.

Read Lyn’s poem ‘I am a person too.’, printed below

Another poem about prejudice, presented as a ‘story’ which we have mentioned previously:
U A Fanthorpe. ‘You will be hearing from us shortly’.

If you fancy writing a poem about an issue, something you feel strongly about, some point worth making, try first writing down the key points that you wish to make, key words or even all that you want to say, in prose. Then you can look for rhymes and rhythms around your key words and phrases and a suitable style should start to emerge.

* Figurative language

Sometimes what we read is not meant to be taken literally, it may need to be interpreted. If something is ‘literal’ then it means what it says, clearly and simply, exactly as written. Figurative language, needs to be interpreted. It is useful to aid description, provoke imagination and create imagery, especially in poetry or descriptive prose.

A simile is a comparison. When we say that something is ‘like’ or ‘as’ something else we are using a simile, saying one thing is similar to another, often in an exaggerated way or sometimes humorously. We might say that someone ‘ran like the wind’ or is ‘as soft as butter’ or ‘as bold as brass´’. These expressions do not make sense literally but we know what they mean and we often use them in everyday speech.

A metaphor is also a kind of comparison but has a stronger effect than a simile. In a simile we say one thing is like another, in metaphor we say it is the other, even though it is not really, or literally.
So if we say that ‘the boxer’s iron fist` knocked out his opponent, we do not expect anyone to suppose that he has a prosthesis made of iron. We want to create an effect, to make the boxer sound exceptional, and as far as his opponent is concerned maybe the fist might as well be made of iron.

In poetry:
‘The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas’
‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes.
This is a special kind of metaphor in which human qualities, or attributes are bestowed on an inanimate object or idea; a ‘thing’ is made to behave like a person.
‘Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance’
‘Daffodils’ by W. Wordsworth
Atmosphere can also be created in other ways:
Alliteration is repetition of a sound or letter in a succession of word.

‘Sandalwood and cedar wood and sweet white wine’
‘Cargoes’ by John Masefield
This is when we use a word that ‘sounds like’ its meaning. Eg, tinkle, crash, slither…….. Alliteration and onomatopoeia work well together:
‘Oh, slim and slimy
Or grim and grimy
Are the animals of the sea
´Grim and Gloomy’ by James Reeves *


Don´t treat me like I´m stupid
I´m just as good as you
I may be in a wheelchair
To me that’s nothing new
People look and people stare
Thinking I am unaware
I am a person too!

My brain is good
It works like yours
My body has seized up
I cannot jump, I cannot run
I cannot ‘just stand up’
Peoples backs are boring
Why don´t they turn around
And speak to me like a person
Even though I´m near the ground

It´s better if you sit and talk
You are on a level with me
A stimulating conversation
Can´t be held with someone’s knee
It cricks my neck looking up
And when looking down I´ve found
People tend to treat me
As if I´ve just crawled out the ground
People look and people stare
Thinking I am unaware

Lyn White

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