I'm sure I might have mentioned a few million times that one of the most rewarding off-shoots of this writing journey of mine has been going into schools and chatting to the pupils about creative writing, reading, words, playing on the PS3, favourite authors, jam, unicorns etc. etc. etc. It's an absolute blast! Part of these school visits sometimes requires me to create and run creative writing workshops - it's a lot of hard work but I truly enjoy it. Sometimes the school will just require a talk about how I write, or some interactive creative writing-type exercises, perhaps a mixture of both, plus a hand-out at the end for each pupil, but usually the workshop is tied in to a particular topic/essay or assignment that the year or class is working on.
Recently I've been booked to go into a school and deliver a series of workshops based around a poem that the pupils are studying. Now, I always found poetry tough in school - hidden imagery, pulling out all the thoughts that the poet might have been having as he/she wrote; I just wanted to read the poem and enjoy it for what it was, I hated having to pick it apart and delve into the use of alliteration or parahyme when, instead, I wanted to 'feel' the words. So I hesitated a little when the word 'poem' came into the emails from the school and then, having gingerly asked which they were studying, looked it up and read it through. And then I read it again. I read it aloud, read it to my children, printed it out and stuck it on my wall!
The poem is called 'The Listeners' by Walter de la Mare and I could wax lyrical all day about the imagery, use of words, the feeling it invokes etc. etc. But I won't. Do me a favour though - read it. Read it aloud if you can - it just begs to be heard (and that's coming from someone who usually balks at reading poetry). Maybe it's time to re-visit all those poets that I failed to enjoy first time around. :-)
by Walter de la Mare
"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed on the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
"Tell them I came and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.