March 28, 2014
Heartened by the responses to the first poem I wrote in the borrowed (and exaggerated) accent of my grandmother, which has been published in the p.o.w. series by Antonio Carvalho as a broadside, I have now written another dozen poems using this persona.
I got a bunch of children to read this one line by line last week, during a library workshop. It was a strange joy listening to these six year olds sounding each in turn like my long dead gran! “At last your phonics learning has come in useful,” said their teacher.
I showed them a lot of strange and exciting books, and cut them out freehand an enormous black cat,who hid in the paper he was cut from, then slunk about saying miaow, as a clue, before reading them Miroslav Holub’s poem The Cat. It’s a grown up poem, and mysterious, but the children listened magnificently. One girl said at the end:
“maybe its not made of fur, maybe its made of ashes or something, and thats how come it can dissolve”
Here’s the poem – I chose it for its connected images re books, quietness and ideas – which seemed good to share in a library.
This is from Miroslav Holub, Selected Poems, and the translation from Czech is by George Theiner.
Outside it was night
like a book without letters.
And the eternal dark
dripped to the stars through the sieve of the city.
I said to her
do not go
you’ll only be trapped
and will suffer in vain.
I said to her
do not go
But a window was opened
and she went,
a black cat into the black night,
a black cat in the black night,
she just dissolved
and no one ever saw her again.
Not even she herself.
But you can hear her
when it’s quiet
and there’s a northerly wind
and you listen intently
to your own self.
After asking me lots of amazing questions, the children helped themselves each to the beautiful paper I’d brought, long off-cuts from the paper warehouse up the road, and made concertina books to create their own anthologies. They began drawing, writing and collaging – then took the material with them to finish the work at school. The books they make will be brought back to the library for exhibiting. I suggested that even some borrowing of each others works might be an idea. So far I’ve run this workshop for 240 children, and look forward to meeting the next batch! Brent libraries are offering these workshops to inspire the best use of their remaining libraries, which need members borrowing and paricipating to survive.
Below is a sneak preview of one of the new poems in my ‘Grent Muzzer’ set – also with reference to the wonderful world of the library!
Ess A Dorter Alzo
She neffer zdops viz
her sharp-Eit Opservaschanz:
Ilse! Vot is zat Enfelope in ze Hall?
Hef you en Edmirer eefen hier in Inglandd?
Her Spektakells are like great see-sru
Pepples, oont her Cloze, infareeaplee
in ze Vidow’s blek, releevt vrom Gloom
(vich by ze vay she duss not zuffer from)
by tiny veit Dottz or uzzer small Petterns
in zimpel Roller-print Repeatz.
Her svollen Feet rest in zair vide blek Schuse,
like ghengsters Spetz. Her veit lonk Hair,
efferi Day tvistit into ze low-down Bun.
Vot an olt Owl she iz.
To ze Kitz, she zeems zo sveet, zo harmlesse –
ze kvintissenschal kontinentel olt Lady – viz ziss
Guinee-vowl Get-up, oont ze vorkink Stick: tep, tep.
But to me – she iz foreffer my fierce Muzzer –
her beady Eye keppt traint on me:
Ilse! Vere are you goink?
Muzzer! I’m sixty-seven, oont I don’t hef to tell you!
Zen, ze Purse-Lipt Porze, ze Kvestion hengink,
Alvays I kent help to cave in.
Yes; vell. I’m goink to ze Library.