Category Archives: poetry

Poetry Graffiti at MHS

The library is a space with unlimited potential. Of course I’m not talking about things that are financially prohibitive. It’s not bound by faculty, it serves an enormous range of purposes; it’s the social and cultural centre of the school – at least potentially.

I’ve been thinking about how to dispel the fallacy that the library is just about books, how to include popular culture and encourage students to feel that the spaces in the library belong to them. It’s good to start small. I spoke to my colleague, Denise, about setting up a ‘Poetry Graffiti’ board. The idea is that students pin up poetry they like and have either found written. I thought we’d add some pictures to inspire thinking and whimsy, and we hope the students will understand ‘poetry’ in a broad sense and contribute both text and images.

To share pictures with Denise without the hassle of emailing them back and forth and keeping separate folders, I decided to try Pinterest. I warn you about Pinterest, it does suck you in if you’re a picture person (no, I’m not talking about wedding photos or recipes). My Pinterest boards have grown amazingly fast. I started collecting interesting or quirky images into a poetry board.

To provoke interest in a cryptic way, we decided to start off by creating a ‘Watch This Space’ board. This is how we did it.

Denise has done a fantastic job on creating the board. In the solitude of a library on Athletics day, she has created a brick wall using A4 prints and pinned up a couple of poems to get the boys started.

I hope this board will take off and that creativity, love of poetry and poetic image will fill the space and give students the chance to contribute their graffiti. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

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Melbourne – Centre for books, writing and ideas

Did you know that UNESCO bestowed on the city of Melbourne the title of City of Literature as part of its Creative Cities Network?

Maybe you did, but did you also know that the Arts Minister, Lynne Kosky, announced two days ago the creation of The Wheeler Centre: Books, Writing, Ideas. It has been named after the founders of the Melbourne-based Lonely Planet travel guides.

From 2010, Melbourne will have a new kind of cultural institution. The Wheeler Centre. A centre dedicated to the discussion and practice of writing and ideas. Through a year-round programme of talks and lectures, readings and debates, we invite you to join the conversation.

The city of Melbourne is home to an impressive collection of literary organisations, including the Victorian Writers’ Centre, Express Media, the Australian Poetry Centre, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Emerging Writers’ Festival and the Centre for Youth Literature.

These organisations will reside at 176 Little Lonsdale Street, a newly renovating wing of the State Libray of Victoria. I still remember the Melbourne Public Library housing the National Art Gallery, the Museum of Melbourne and the Planetarium.

Now it is the home of the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing and Ideas.

Browsing the Wheeler Centre’s website, I discovered a remarkable short animated film for the New Zealand Book Council.

No doubt some wonderful initiatives will be coming from these literary organisations, like the Summer School Novel Writing workshop in January 2010 organised by the Victorian Writers’ Centre.

 And if you ever doubted the connection between reading and writing (as if you would), you’d be advised to read what the Victorian Writers’ Centre writing tips state at the top of the list:

A few good tips to develop your writing.

Every experienced writer reads widely. Professional writers always recommend reading as a way for the writer to learn their craft. Reading widely can enhance your writing technique, broaden your scope, multiply your ideas and deepen your understanding of literary form in all its variety.

And if you’ve ever been confused by punctuation rules, think about following the great French author, Gustav Flaubert, in his ‘musical’ rules for punctuation:

Flaubert’s rule was that a pause of:

one beat equals a comma

two beats equals a semi-colon

three beats a colon

four beats a full stop

That’s what I call simple rules of punctuation.

Thanks to CMIS Fiction Focus for the alert.

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Pictures take me back to the story

Who doesn’t love illustrations? That’s a rhetorical question. I doubt that anybody would take offense to illustrations being interspersed amongst the text of a story.

The Guardian treats its readers to a taste of a new series of recently  illustrated children’s classics.

Walkers have put together some of the world’s greatest children’s literature with the best contemporary illustrators to create a beautiful and accessible collection of classics for a new generation. Here we gather together images from the first five titles in the Walker Illustrated Classics series.

Even if you’ve read these classics, the illustrations may entice you to have another look. For me, the fresh visual interpretation is even more enticing considering how well worn these stories are.  I’m curious as to how an illustator can create a new perspective when so many have done the same and so successfully. And of course, who can resist discovering the work of ‘the best contemporary illustrators’? The Guardian gives us a taste of the first 5 titles in the series accompanied by the illustrators’ reflections – a sure hook to wanting to see the rest.

Paul Howard illustrated Classic poetry and reveals his initial apprehension:

The idea of illustrating classic poetry terrified me at first – I can’t remember jokes let alone poems from my school days and consequently think of myself as a ‘poetus ignoramus’. To my great surprise this worked in my favour and I found myself embarking on a fantastic voyage of discovery.

Childrens-Illustration-poetry

Howard’s personal challenge to tackle poetry could be an inspiration for the current reading generation for whom poetry has become largely engimatic.

When I was battling to understand some of the poems, Michael Rosen would read them to me aloud. Listening to him was like clearing a misty window and letting the sun pour in.

Helen Oxenbury’s unmistakable style brings a contemporary realism to Alice in Wonderland.

I admire Tenniel’s original illustrations enormously, but I find his typically Victorian style rather stiff …

Childrens-Illustration-Alice

Inga Moore’s reflection provides a fascinating honesty:

The Secret Garden is one of the greatest books for children of all time and it took me a long while to pluck up the courage to illustrate it. What made me think I could do it justice? I knew a merely decorative approach wouldn’t do for a work with such depth of meaning so I decided to bring out as much of its meaning as I could in my pictures, carefully placing them next to the words they illustrated in the hope that the two together would make a more vivid whole …

I love the atmosphere of this picture, and the attention to detail (notice the tiny red bird high in the tree).

Childrens-Illustration-secretgarden

Nicola Bayley combines contemporary realism with the exotic in her interpretation of  Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle book.

For me, illustrating a classic is treading a fine line between authenticity and beauty.

Childrens-Illustration-Junglebook

Chris Riddell brings his own style to the classic Don Quixote:

Very early on I decided not to be daunted by the size of the book and to approach light-heartedly, in an attempt to reflect the satire and humour in the work. Don Quixote is a great big book that satires great big books, an epic romance that pokes fun at epic romances. I looked at the paintings of Velázquez, and used costumes and settings from his great Royal portraits to give the illustrations a 17th-century feel, but I also wanted a fantasy feel to the illustrations, so the giants and monsters came out of my imagination …

Childrens-Illustration-DonQuixote

In light of Anne Fine’s recent outspokenness about the grimness of contemporary Young Adult fiction, Walker’s collection of contemporary illustators’ re-envisioning of well loved classics, may be just what we need. As much as I love the honesty and power of modern fiction for young people, I don’t mind revisiting my old fantasy haunts, entering the rich, illustrated world which has always been such a tantalising, albeit temporary, escape from the everyday. If, as children, we fed our imagination and creativity with favourite illustations of fantastic tales,  why shouldn’t we revisit now and then to take nourishment?

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Filed under art, Children's books, creativity, Literature, poetry, reading

Science and fiction – The Human Genre Project

The Human Genre Project

is a collection of new writing in very short forms — short stories, flash fictions, reflections, poems — inspired by genes and genomics.

Starting with just a few pieces at its launch in July 2009, the collection will grow and develop over time.

The Human Genre Project is an initiative of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, part of the ESRC Genomics Network, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and based at The University of Edinburgh.

Wow. Creative writing inspired by science. I love the overlap in disciplines; it would be good to enable more of this at school, where subjects seem to live in separate worlds, as if life were cut up into mutually exclusive areas.

genome

The main page shows 24 different chromosomes: 22 autosomes, which are numbered, and two sex chromosomes, labelled as X and Y.

Here’s the unusual part – when you click on a chromosome, you get the title which takes you to the creative writing piece. This example links from chromosome #8:

The WRN gene on chromosome 8 is responsible for Werner syndrome, which causes premature ageing.

My hair goes grey and falls out, my teeth yellow and decay, brown spots bloom on my skin. I’m thirty-six years old. My world is a room, and a view of the sea beyond it.

I’ve been told that there’s something wrong with me. But I know my physics. I know that in this universe there has to be decay and disorder. I’m normal. I’m entropy.

I try to sip tea but my clawed fingers let the cup fall to the floor. Liquid spills out from its shattered remains and soaks into the carpet.

What I don’t understand is why the rest of them never change. My twin brother could be my son. His teeth are white and even, his hair is as glossy as ever. His skin always has a rosy blush. He comes here regularly to tell me about life outside my room. Life with other people, other women. There seem to be many women. Or perhaps it’s just tales.

But as I sit listening to him and his stories, I realise how they do it. While I stay here, they’re all travelling around. Einstein had a theory about twins; one sits in his small room, watching the sea, and the other zooms to the stars. As he accelerates to the speed of light, time slows down for him, so when he gets back he’s younger than his stay-at-home brother.

I ask my brother, “Where did you park your rocket ship?” I look outside, “I can’t see it.”

The rocket ship looked like a bicycle, but apparently it worked very well, and my brother frequently made trips to the centre of our galaxy.

“I got rid of it,” he replies, “I replaced it with a quantum teleporter. They’re all the rage now.”

All I can see out of the window is a little red car. “That’s it,” he says. “The women like it.” And sure enough a woman gets out of the car and waves at us.

This was written by Pippa Goldschmidt inspired by chromosome 8.

The WRN gene on chromosome 8 is responsible for Werner syndrome, which causes premature ageing.

My hair goes grey and falls out, my teeth yellow and decay, brown spots bloom on my skin. I’m thirty-six years old. My world is a room, and a view of the sea beyond it.

I’ve been told that there’s something wrong with me. But I know my physics. I know that in this universe there has to be decay and disorder. I’m normal. I’m entropy.

I try to sip tea but my clawed fingers let the cup fall to the floor. Liquid spills out from its shattered remains and soaks into the carpet.

What I don’t understand is why the rest of them never change. My twin brother could be my son. His teeth are white and even, his hair is as glossy as ever. His skin always has a rosy blush. He comes here regularly to tell me about life outside my room. Life with other people, other women. There seem to be many women. Or perhaps it’s just tales.

But as I sit listening to him and his stories, I realise how they do it. While I stay here, they’re all travelling around. Einstein had a theory about twins; one sits in his small room, watching the sea, and the other zooms to the stars. As he accelerates to the speed of light, time slows down for him, so when he gets back he’s younger than his stay-at-home brother.

I ask my brother, “Where did you park your rocket ship?” I look outside, “I can’t see it.”

The rocket ship looked like a bicycle, but apparently it worked very well, and my brother frequently made trips to the centre of our galaxy.

“I got rid of it,” he replies, “I replaced it with a quantum teleporter. They’re all the rage now.”

All I can see out of the window is a little red car. “That’s it,” he says. “The women like it.” And sure enough a woman gets out of the car and waves at us.

Pippa Goldschmidt is Writer in Residence at the Genomics Forum. I’ve mentioned Pippa in an earlier post; her writing is often inspired by science.

Chromosome 11 leads to a piece called Photophobia,

an eye disorder in which the iris is partially or completely missing. A person with aniridia frequently has photophobia (sensitivity to light). The mutation is in the PAX6 gene on chromosome 11.

The telomeric tale of the mouse’s tail (chromosome X) is a shape poem.

chromosome

You can find the original painting/collage here and it looks like this:

mousetale

Still in progress, this is a fascinating project, demonstrating the possibilities in the union between science and art.

If you like this, have a look at what inspired it: Michael Swanwick’s Periodic Table of Science Fiction.

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Dr Seuss on Google

googleseuss

Today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of  Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. Google has a little tribute.

Random House has a Dr Seuss website for kids. Amongst the fun stuff, there is also a biography.

seusseville

Many children learn to read through Dr Seuss stories. I can’t say I did, although we did have a copy of The cat in the hat. Most children would have read some Dr Seuss, I think, and adults remember the stories fondly.

What is less known is the fact that Theodor Geisel’s early political cartoons demonstrate a passionate opposition to fascism, and that he urged Americans to oppose it, whereas his cartoons tended to regard the fear of communism as overstated. He also denounced discrimination in America against African Americans and Jews (Wikipedia).

Many of Geisel’s books are thought to express his views on a myriad of social and political issues: The Lorax (1971), about environmentalism and anti-consumerism; The Sneetches (1961), about racial equality; The Butter Battle Book (1984), about the arms race; Yertle the Turtle (1958), about anti-fascism and anti-authoritarianism; How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), about anti-materialism; and Horton Hears a Who! (1954), about anti-isolationism and internationalism.

However, I don’t think that’s what Dr Seuss is remembered for. That would most likely be his rhythmic and catchy verse, and his quirky characters.

I’ll leave you with a video of Green eggs and ham to enjoy.

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A limerick for all occasions, but in a dictionary?

spaceodyssey

In the spirit of holidays, I thought I’d tone down the intensity of my posts – seriousness interfering with the holiday spirit…

Reading through Articulate, I found The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form (OEDILF).

The goal of The OEDILF, our online limerictionary, is to write at least one limerick for each and every meaning of each and every word in the English language. Our best limericks will clearly define their words in a humorous or interesting way, although some may provide more entertainment than definition, or vice versa.

Look up a word, browse by author or topic/genre, or join the project to submit original limericks.

There’s an impressive list of topics/genres.

Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

If you look up the word anticlimactic, you find this limerick:

In picking up women, my tactic?

I promise adventures galactic

We watch Lost in space

When we’re back at my place

Which they find to be anticlimactic

 

Here is one result for genres: science fiction:  

asphyxiate by mephistopheles (Limerick #8004)

Though you’re weightless and moving with grace,

You’ll asphyxiate here, out in space.

Is your very best pal

a computer named Hal?

You could die here and leave not a trace.

 

And some background is included:  In Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1968 film, 2001, a Space Odyssey, an astronaut, Dave, was famously locked out of the spaceship by a malfunctioning computer named Hal. If Dave had not succeeded in getting back onto the ship, he would have died when he ran out of air.

Lots of possibilties with this dictionary, both educational and recreational. For the sake of holidays I’ll abstain from the usual heavy-handed instructions.

One more under ‘ballet’

Her willowy arms flutter slightly,
Her feathered white head drops down lightly.
Alas for Odette,
Men who love soon forget.
Thus, she’s dying in Swan Lake once nightly.
…Except on Mondays, and twice on matinees.

There.

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Poetry and sport? What a challenge

Today during our library meeting, I received a less than positive reaction to a suggestion that poetry be the subject of a display or activity in a boys’ secondary school. Eyebrows were raised sceptically and scornfully, and ‘you must be kidding’ was all over everyone’s faces. Boys would never be coerced into read poetry; they preferred sport, war or anything that made you want to beat your chest and shout ‘Oi’. OK, I may be using some of my own poetic license in describing people’s reaction, but that’s just to set the scene.

By some poetic miracle, or perhaps the gods of Poesie were smiling down upon me, but later today I read about the Red Room Company’s mission to create, promote and publish Australian poetry in unusual ways.

‘Eight pigeons will race along the New South Wales south coast on Sunday – in a time trial the organisers liken to the Tour de France – with a piece of original, Australian poetry strapped to the ankle of each bird’. The day’s events began with live poetry readings at Stanwell Park, after which the pigeons flew to the breeders’ HQ in Mt Ousley, transmitting pigeon-cam video back to the launch site.

And just when you thought gambling and poetry didn’t go together, they do! You could put a (free) wager on whichever pigeon and poem you thought would win, and the winners would get a single poem as their prize, and also go into the draw for the grand prize: a “Pigeon Poetry Sculpture and poetry books from all states and territories”.

The website proclaims the success of the strange union of sport and poetry, as it occurred on 3 August this year. You can view a picture of each pidgeon, and read each pidgeon’s poem. Don’t forget to read about the pidgeon and the poet, especially since the write-up is so creatively metaphorical, that you’re not sure if the poet is a bird or if the bird is a poet. For example, reading about the pidgeon ‘Real Radio’, you not only get its weight and wingspan, but you also find out about its reading habits, and the languages it speaks (Hebrew and Wave, in this case).

When everything is presented in such a wondrously confusing way, young people won’t even realise what they’re doing, and before they know it, they’ll have read some great poetry without meaning to. I think this approach is fantastic: distract with strange coupling of poetry and sport (you could come up with your own version), blur the lines between the two, then confuse everyone, throw the poetry in while they’re blinking in confusion, and there you have it! This has given me food for thought…

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