Archive | May, 2016

Friday Fictioneers: ‘Walking the Black Dog’

29 May

It is Friday Fictioneer time again!  As per usual, bloggers are tasked with creating a 100 word story in response to a photo prompt provided by Rochelle on her blog.  My contribution is below.

‘Walking the Black Dog’

Her dog liked to walk near the cliffs.

The sodden, shiny rocks beyond the fence excited him, and he greeted each with enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm that was contagious.  More often than not she followed him, beyond the barricade, her bare feet maintaining a tenuous grip on the slippery, sleeping hunks of stone.

These night-time walks became frequent and, under the cloak of darkness, her inhibitions were dulled.   When nudged by the dog, his muzzle on her shin, she

stepped

slipped

leapt

into the water and was swallowed by the waves.

They searched, but found only her black dog amongst the stones.

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Life as a refugee

27 May

I was hoping to run a unit this year in which students would explore the voices of migrants.  Unfortunately, the constraints of the program and the realities of my classes meant this was not possible.

One poem that I would have studied as part of this unit was Abe Nouk’s ‘The Stigma of Having Lived as a Refugee‘.  In this poem, Nouk recounts his own experiences living as a refugee and coming to Australia.  He also ends with a plea for Australia to do more to help people who, like him and his family, fled difficult and dangerous realities.

Another poem by Nouk that is worthy of inclusion is ‘Story of  Refugee‘.  In this poem, he reflects on the role of writing in helping him to articulate his experiences, his identity and his perspectives.

If studied as part of a unit with an Australian focus, this text could be studied alongside other refugee poets.  If studied as part of a unit with a global focus, Nouk’s poem would be interesting to study alongside Warsan Shire’s ‘Home’ and Selina Nwulu’s ‘Before’.

‘Decadence’

25 May

I recently stumbled upon Ed Carlyon’s Spoken Word poem ‘Decadence’, and I think it would be a great addition to a unit about poetic representations of gender.  I think it would be a particularly interesting companion text to Harry Baker’s poem ‘Real Men‘.

Carlyon’s poem begins with the confronting observation that he has “seen more men binge drink than [he’s]…  seen cry and that don’t make sense.” In this opening statement, Carlyon powerfully links drinking culture to a peculiarly Australian masculinity.  As he continues, a distinct binary becomes apparent, with certain behaviours implicitly deemed manly and others as weak.  The depth of emotion conveyed in this poem is impressive and capable of sparking interesting discussion amongst students.

Intersections of race, culture and gender

24 May

I have written a lot about poetry as a form of advocacy, as an outlet for opinions, and as a means of helping young people to engage with and express opinions about the world.  I have also written about poetry as a powerful means of engaging young people with ideas and perspectives that, although sometimes outside students’ own realms of experience, are nonetheless important and worth discussing.

Another poem that I think students should hear is Mary Black’s ‘Quiet‘.  In this poem, Black, an Indigenous woman, explores her people’s experiences.  She also rails against the expectation that Indigenous women remain quiet, arguing in favour of advocacy, opinion, and articulating experiences.

Further exploration of race and racism

23 May

One of my junior classes and I have spent a lot of time recently studying how racism and responses to racism are represented in poetic form.  As part of this unit, students have had opportunities to analyse poetry, engage critically with social issues, and to make connections to the realities of their own worlds.

I have been really impressed by how well my students have engaged with the ideas raised as part of this unit, and how willing they have been to present their opinions, engage with the views of others, and even revised their views when presented with particularly persuasive opinions by their peers.

Although the unit is almost over, and the poems have long been set, I cannot help but think about all the other amazing poems that could have been included.  For example, I would have loved to have taught Nate Marshall’s ‘When the Officer Caught Me‘ which begins with the quote “What is the age when a black boy learns he is scary?”  I think this would be a great companion poem to Maxine Beneba Clarke’s ‘Even if it gets to 104 degrees’ which explores the shooting of Tamir Rice by the police.  It would also have been interesting to allow students to explore Lia Incognita’s ‘Floodgates‘ – a poem about Australia’s refugee policy and governmental attitudes towards difference.  I think it would have been particularly interesting to study alongside newspaper articles on the subject

Friday Fictioneers: ‘Benched’

22 May

It is Friday Fictioneers time again!  As per usual, the task is to write a one hundred word story in response to a photo stimulus posted by Rochelle to her blog.

‘Benched’

The captains sized up the students, strategized and sought to secure success.

They called names quickly, like music building to a crescendo.  Choices predictable as a metronome.

Hugs, high fives, and humungous grins abounded.

Then, the pace slowed.  Options were reduced, but spots needed to be filled.  Names were tentatively articulated, quieter, less sure, as captains reached for the best of a bad bunch.

Three students left.  An uneven number.

An intense conversation.

Then, a name.  Mine.

A smile.  Mine.

Hope.  Mine.

A hand outstretched.  A welcome?

No. A redirection.

To the bench.

Once again.

Maybe next time?

Probably not.

 

The sounds, sights and emotions of war

18 May

I am on a mission to help my junior students to engage with key poetic techniques and truly understand the effect of such techniques.  With this goal in mind, I recently ran an activity in which students were given a selection of neutrally worded scenarios pertaining to war and had to work in groups to come up with a list of similes, metaphors, examples of personification and onomatopoeic statements which enlivened the scenarios.

After reviewing the definitions of these techniques and identifying two examples of each as a class, students worked together to create their own lists.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Students made reference to a wall which reached out to support the weight of a grieving widow, fighter jets that howled like wolves deprived of meat, and mud which sought to suck the life from the soles of soldiers’ shoes.  As these examples were shared with the class we discussed why each was effective.

Friday Fictioneers: ‘Out of this World’

17 May

It is Friday Fictioneers time!  Each week, bloggers are challenged to produce 100 word stories in response to a photo prompt posted by Rochelle.

‘Out of this World’

When citizens first saw the plans, the architects were labelled lunatics and the structure ridiculed as a spaceship.

Existing buildings were razed.  The site was levelled.

Concerns were raised.  Level heads prevailed.

The project took off.

Our imaginations followed suit.

We imagined foreign lifeforms – strong, ready to dominate – performing superhuman feats.

Seven years later, nations descended upon the structure.  Their members flexed muscles and squared shoulders.  They jumped to meteoric heights and ran as if pursued by rockets.

Adults soaked up the sport.

Kids sat mesmerised by their youthful imaginings playing out in the spaceship they’d watched being built.