Tag 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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Filed under Libraries, poetry

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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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, Interesting, poetry

The old and the new

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I’ve been meaning to scan some old photos and pictures for a long time, and today I finally did. This picture lives inside one of two autograph books which belonged to my maternal grandmother. I love these books because they’re full of hand-drawn pictures and poetry. Some of the poetry is the typical verse which would have been popular as choices for autographs, and other poetry has been written especially for my grandmother. My grandmother was German but born in Russia, and lived there until she and her family fled to Germany during WWII. And so the entries are in Russian, German or Ukrainian.

The pages of these books contain history – dates, names, warm wishes and sincere words from people who were once young and are now long gone – but they are precious to me also for their lost art of handiwork.  There’s a thrill in being able to feel the paint on the page, to see the brushwork or ink, and think that somehow the traces of people long gone are kept alive within these pages.

Here’s a page from an illustrated poem written about a time when my grandmother’s father was separated from the family when he was working in Siberia. In this picture you can see my grandmother as a young girl, her mother holding her baby brother and her father rushing out to meet his family, happy to see them. And the whole story is written as poetry.  How special is this!

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Things have really changed since the times of these autograph books. Even the fact that I can scan, crop, save and upload these pictures demonstrates how technology has created possibilities. We may lament the fact that people don’t have the fine motor skills to draw as well as they used to, or the time or inclination to write poetry by hand, but we have different options for creativity. If students can’t draw, this doesn’t stop them from being able to create computer-generated art or animation. I love the fact that this generation is revisiting things from the past – art and music – and are remixing, reorganising, reinterpreting these in a new way. 

Here’s a Second Life animation take on Yeats’ poem, The Stolen Child, by Lainy Voom. Andy Fisher found this for me; thanks!

The autograph book demonstrates a lovely collection of shared sentiments, but at the same time, this generation is collaborating in newly found ways to create.

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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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Filed under Education, humour, poetry