Resources on poetry by the poets themselves

Pollution Poetry Workshop

for use with Year 5 and 6

AIR...WATER...EARTH...

Which of these would you like to write about?

We will be writing down lots of lines - or images - which celebrate or capture what is special and good about air or water or earth. (An image is a picture, or sound or smell or taste, in words. For example... RED AS A BEETROOT!)

Then we will write down lots of lines or images which consider the bad things that pollution does to air or water or earth.

Remember what you have learned about pollution and use all of this for your writing.

We will turn our images and lines into poems. We will use the lines about pollution against the celebratory lines. In this way, the form of our poems will imitate pollution and the environment!

Poems which praise the earth and the natural world are ways of fighting pollution! Although such poems do not mention the harm that pollution can do, they make us think of how special and precious Planet Earth is. And when we consider that, we begin to think about what harms it. This poem by P.K. Page- a Canadian woman born in 1916- is a kind of love poem to our planet. How do you think she would feel about the pollution of our land and air and seas now?

PLANET EARTH

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.

P.K. PAGE

In Praise of Ironing

It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.

The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness

and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea,
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky- such an O! overhead- night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.

It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet,
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it,
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.

Pablo Neruda

Animals suffer greatly from pollution in many different ways and for many different reasons. The poem WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE RABBIT, by the English poet Alan Brownjohn, imagines a trip to see the last rabbit in England. We all know that rabbits breed like....well, like rabbits... so something awful must have happened to leave only one rabbit alive. And the poem also says there is “only one patch of grass left”. Many environmentalists protest against motorways and airport runways destroying the countryside and the wildlife of England. What is wonderful about poetry is that it can make us think of important issues- like pollution and the environment- in imaginative or subtle or entertaining or surprising ways. A poem does not have to SPELL THINGS OUT, like an essay or an exam answer!

We are going to see the rabbit

We are going to see the rabbit,
We are going to see the rabbit,
Which rabbit, people say?
Which rabbit, ask the children?
Which rabbit?
The only rabbit,
The only rabbit in England,
Sitting behind a barbed wire fence
Under the floodlights, neon lights,
Sodium lights,
Nibbling grass
On the only patch of grass
In England, in England
(Except the grass by the hoardings
Which doesn’t count.)
We are going to see the rabbit,
And we must be there on time.

First we shall go by escalator,
Then we shall go by underground,
And then we shall go by motorway
And then by helicopterway,
And the last ten yards we shall have to go
On foot.

And now we are going
All the way to see the rabbit.
We are nearly there,
We are longing to see it,
And so is the crowd
Which is here in thousands
With mounted policemen
And big loudspeakers
And bands and banners,
And everyone has come a long way.
But soon we shall see it
Sitting and nibbling
The blades of grass
On the only patch of grass
In- but something has gone wrong!
Why is everyone so angry,
Why is everyone jostling
and slanging and complaining?

The rabbit has gone,
Yes, the rabbit has gone.
He has actually burrowed down into the earth
And made himself a warren, under the earth.
Despite all these people,
And what shall we do?
What can we do?

It is all a pity, you must be disappointed.
Go home and do something else for today,
Go home again, go home for today.
For you cannot hear the rabbit, under the earth,
Remarking rather sadly to himself, by himself,
As he rests in his warren, under the earth:
“It won’t be long, they are bound to come,
They are bound to come and find me, even here.”

Alan Brownjohn

Sometimes it can be fun or original to look at a subject from an unusual point of view. A poem is a good way of trying to think differently.

In this poem RAT IT UP by Adrian Mitchell, we are given a very different point of view about pest control!

RAT IT UP

C’mon everybody
Slap some grease on those paws
Get some yellow on your teeth
And, uh, sharpen up your claws

There’s a whole lot of sausage
We’re gonna swallow down
We’re gonna jump out the sewers
And rock this town

Cos we’re ratting it up
Yes, we’re ratting it up
Well, we’re ratting it up
For a ratting good time tonight

Ain’t got no compass
You don’t need no map
Just follow your snout
Hey, watch out for that trap!

You can take out a poodle
You can beat up a cat
But if you can’t lick a ferret
You ain’t no kind of rat

Cos we’re ratting it up
Yes, we’re ratting it up
Well, we’re ratting it up
For a ratting good time tonight

Now you can sneak in the henhouse
Roll out the eggs
But if the farmer comes running
Bite his hairy legs

Check the cheese for poison
Before you eat
Or you’ll wind up being served up
As ratburger meat

Cos we’re ratting it up
Yes, we’re ratting it up
Well, we’re ratting it up
For a ratting good time tonight

This rat was born to rock
This rat was born to roll
I don’t give a monkeys
Bout your pest control

So push off pussy cat
Push off, pup,
We’re the rocking rodents
And we’re ratting it up

Yeah, we’re ratting it up
Yeah, we’re ratting it up
Well, we’re ratting it up
For a ratting good time tonight!

Adrian Mitchell

WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE RABBIT by ALAN BROWNJOHN is a poem we can read and talk about. Why is there only one rabbit left in England? Do you think pollution has anything to do with this? Or road building? Or pest control?

Can you think of a creature you would like to write about in this way? Or a tree? Or a flower? Or something unusual?

When we first start to write poems, it is important to have good models to work from- like Alan Brownjohn’s poem. We can write our own original poem using his basic idea. This is how young poets learn.

****

PLANET EARTH by P.K. PAGE is inspired by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. P.K. Page takes Neruda’s idea of lovingly ironing the earth and writes her own loving poem. Although this poem has some difficult words in it, it is worth reading over and over again. Even if we can’t understand every single bit of a poem, we can feel or imagine our way through it. P.K. Page shows how she loves caring and washing and polishing and imagines doing this to Planet Earth!

Can you think of your own way about writing lovingly about the earth? How about imagining the earth as your best friend at school? Or your favourite teacher? Or your pet? What ideas can you come up with? Whatever you write will be the opposite of pollution!!

****

RAT IT UP by Adrian Mitchell will be a great poem for us all to shout out! On one level, this poem is against pest control, which many animal lovers and anti-pollutionists are opposed to. Another famous poet, William Blake (1757-1827) who wrote the words to the hymn JERUSALEM, said that “everything that lives is holy”. Adrian Mitchell is echoing Blake in his poem. On another level, RAT IT UP is great fun and gives the unpopular Rat a chance to speak! We see the Rat in a fresh way.

Can you think of an unpopular creature that you would like to look at in a fresh way in a poem by you?

LIGHT POLLUTION

SOUND POLLUTION

Which of these two would you like to write about?

We are going to write HAIKU. A Haiku is a 17-syllable poem divided into three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables each.

(Let’s practise counting syllables! How many syllables does your full name have? How many syllables does your friend’s name have? Good code, huh?)

So here is an example of a haiku:

Beginning of Spring-
the perfect simplicity
of a yellow sky.

Now we are going to write something special and lovely about natural light and natural sound or silence. Bliss.

And then we are going to carefully turn our lines and image into a haiku.

Next we are going to write something strong and memorable about light pollution or noise pollution. So many people are distressed by this.

And as before, we will turn what we have written into a haiku.

If you like, you can repeat your first haiku again at the end. It’s up to you.

Finally, we will read the haiku aloud.

The place where the leaf
has left the stem is perfect
for just that purpose.