Lifting Poetry Off The Page

In Issue no.1 – 2019 ‘Creative Adventures’, I told you about my Poetry Adventures, including a little of what poetry means to me, the first sessions including Pirates, jellyfish, mermaids and ‘Under The Sea’ at Worthing Library and subsequent ‘Space’ Workshops at Durrington Library.

I’ve now almost completed 2019’s Poetry programme and wanted to bring you up to date.  Since I began, I’ve worked inclusively with 115
children and young people in various Libraries, Schools and a College in West Sussex this year.

It’s been a huge privilege for me to work with and be alongside children, young people and adults, ‘mixing’ their own ‘poetry bake offs’, having fun, enjoying their successes and what I call ‘their WOW factors!’.

We can never fully experience anything unless we’re there, but I’m going to try and add a little more taste and flavour to my previous article!
During two sessions in a Primary School, I worked with 30 nine year olds and their teachers. 

Our ‘Lifting Poetry Off The Page Bake Offs!’

The first component of my ‘Lifting Poetry’ recipe is what are the children currently working on as a class theme or individually really interested in; this will decide our topic. As we know, when we’re fascinated by something we’ll be more absorbed in it.  In discussion with the children and teachers, we decided that ‘Circus, Circus’ would be the perfect theme.

On the morning of our first session, I filled the school hall with a wide range of colourful resources. Juggling balls and scarves, fabrics, spinning plates, poi, dressing up clothes, puppets, scarves, musical instruments, paper and felt tip pens, pictures of circuses, C.D.s and player and books brought in by Laura, Worthing Library’s children’s librarian. A stimulating array of textures, materials, sounds and circus equipment.  As the children came in, I played ‘This is The Greatest Show’ and excitedly they sat down ready to begin.

The second component is ‘expectation’ – creating an atmosphere of excitement and surprise, where everyone wonders what’s going to happen!

I explained ‘Lifting Poetry Off the Page’ to the children and they shared things about their own visits to circuses or magicians at birthday
parties and so on.

The third component is ‘experience’. When we write stories, lyrics or poems, we use ideas about things we know or have gone through and so my sessions provide varied multi-media experiences which children can use ‘in their poetry mix’.  Having looked around them, I invited the children (in their own ways) to try out the things in the hall.

Immediately there was a sea of activity, enthusiasm and joy.  Children working together or individually experimenting and having fun.

The fourth component is ‘fun’. We all work best when we’re enjoying ourselves and during the session, the children wrote down or shared
words and ideas which came to them during their activities.

The last components are the ingredients – the ideas we gather from our experiences – which we can use in our recipe to blend together for our ‘Poetry Bake Off!’

In our second session, the children put together a Show, created poems and shared them with each other.  This was “The Circus, Circus Poetry Bake Off Final”!

In all our Poetry sessions we begin with what the children are interested in.  Their imaginations are stimulated by the taster – what to expect.  The experiences they have during the session provide the ingredients (the ‘sugar, flour and eggs’) to use for their creations.  The fun provides the buzz for a really imaginative ‘Poetry Bake Off’ cake.

1 tsp. of What.  4 tsp. of Expectations.  2 cups of Experiences. 3 cups of Fun.  1 mixed pkt. of Ingredients.  Add ideas, individuality, different abilities to taste.  Mix these up in a bowl of enthusiasm and the results are amazing!

Here’s their poem:


blow red light bright.
Evil eyes!
gob smacked.
Feathers as light as a cloud’s air.
Ribbons curl like a snake.
High and catchy.
As quick as a cheetah!
The incredible hairy monkey,
Soft like a bunny,
tippling feathers,
the ribbons are so bright like a rainbow !
Shocking, screaming monkey,
incredible monkey.
Plates spinning like the earth,
Spinning as fast as the world spins.

Discomfabobulating !!!

Other sessions have included Aliens, ‘Looney Tunes’ characters, Super Heroes, Puppets, The Senses, The Seashore and The Jungle.  A real kaleidoscope of an imaginative menu!

I believe ideally we need all five components to create our poem – or any work of art – to make them wonder-full and memorable times together!

Many thanks once again to Wellspring West Sussex’; Cara Lambert, Manager ‘Families & Wellbeing Library Service’; ‘The National Lottery Community Fund’ and of course all the teachers, children’s librarians and others for their enthusiasm and support!  Special thanks to all the children and young people for their imagination and enthusiasm, which really did Lift Poetry Off The Page!!!

“When Chris visited us at Manor Green College he did 2 sessions over 2 weeks with a small group of young people who have a variety of very complex needs. Both sessions I would class as absolutely outstanding.  Chris communicated extremely well with me before the sessions to ensure he would be able to pitch them at the right level and the young people would benefit from the sessions as much as possible.  On the days, Chris came with a plethora of resources, creative ideas, enthusiasm and a great sense of fun. He worked hard to ensure all the young people were involved to the best of their abilities.  There was something for everyone so both our verbal and non-verbal students could participate or they could dip in and out as appropriate.  There was never any pressure to take part so the young people clearly
enjoyed their experience. I would thoroughly recommend Chris’s sessions to bring poetry to life in a way that a lot of young people may
never have experienced before. Thank you Chris!

From from Anne Clarke, a teacher at Manor Green College