Poetry – Home and Away

Hey all,

Just a quick update.

A few weeks ago, when my Year 8 class was studying a picture book called Home and Away, by John Marsden and Matt Ottley (found here if you’re interested in reading it), I asked them to write a poem. That poem had to be either inspired by the events or the feelings found in the book. When they had finished that, I asked them to choose their favorite line from their poem, and thirteen of them came to write their lines randomly on the board.

That’s where the fun starts.

Every year I have Year 8, I challenge myself to construct a “found poem” live, in front of the class, while they watch, from lines that were written in 10 to 15 different poems. It’s a challenge, but entirely doable, even with thirty sets of eyes watching as you do it. The kids sit there staring, first in disbelief, not sure their random lines could every make coherent sense, then as I reorder and punctuate them, they are dumbfounded as the poem emerges and – quite often – is very moving.

One of my first posts ever was about this activity (you can find that post from 2016 here), and I have done it every year I have had Year 8 since. Unfortunately I didn’t keep the poem from 2017 (silly past-Richard), and I didn’t have Year 8 in 2018, but you can read the most recent two below.

I am proud of myself for being able to construct (rather than “write”) these poems, but I am also proud of them for trusting me every year and pouring their heart and soul into a silly activity.

I am a very lucky teacher.

I love my job.

Happy reading 🙂


Home and Away (2019)

Originally a happy family in our home,
I could NEVER understand why it had to be this way.
A false sense of security:
The war destroyed us all…

Days go by – love changes, best friends become
told me that crying made me weak.

On the rocking dinghy, we washed ashore,
they died, their bodies resting in a river or red
From the garden, chaos and laughter now turned malicious,
Until it was all wisps of smoke.

They’re all gone now. I miss them.
We never know just one day,
Could make the difference between home and away.

Home and Away (2020)

First comes, first goes
It was his time, they say.
Will I be able to keep going?
Because you are an amazing memory
And we hope, for what else can we do.

Shriveling out in the scorching sun
It was cold
From a fight of endless pain.
Lifeless bodies strewn across the deck,
the lucky ones still had a beating heart.

But you don’t, and you aren’t,
and if you really listen you can hear silenced voices:
We are now the people who needed saving.

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