Monday, October 22, 2012


This is the 6th post in the series  "A CASE FOR READING ....".
"A CASE FOR READING POETRY" is written by Nicky Malcolm.
"The Riches of Poetry
I would describe myself as an enthusiast of poetry with very few real authoritative credentials. I avidly read literature in many forms and poetry is read in spurts along the way. However, the fact is that poems continue to give me great pleasure and I am grateful that they were part of my childhood and education. They satisfy a deep core in me, delight, puzzle, and intrigue me. They present themselves today in many different and surprising contexts. (I consider much 'Rap' to be a form of didactic poetry rather than belonging to the realm of music!) They are, for me, an ongoing adventure! I can take this adventure at my own pace, in my own time, alone, or with others to share in the delightful, indulgent companionship of 'going somewhere special together!'
You will have gathered, by now, that I am a sensualist. Unashamedly so! It is the way God made me! I have a sense of humour about myself! So when Cathy asked me to write a little something about "Why read Poetry?" it gave way to pertinent, pleasurable and playful reflections.
The following are some of the many purposes of poetry in my life.
Poetry is such a lot of fun! Thank you, Dad, for reading me A.A. Milne: 'When We Were Young' and 'Now We are Six'. The 'bestest' of childhood poems! Now handed down to tickle the fancy of further family generations. Fun should be passed down in the family.
  * Humour is probably the first and greatest introduction to poetry.
  * Start at birth. read aloud, read together, read with a twinkle in your eye.
Thanks also to my literary teachers who followed this with 'Narrative Poetry'. Oh, the power of story:to sweep us into the past, to share the adventure, the daring deed, the romance, the peril, the tragedy, the passion, the sorrow, the justice, the judgement, the dying breath, the fleeting of the soul.
  * Narrative Poetry captures the imagination at a very young age.
  * Read aloud, perform with gusto, be moved. Put your heart in the telling.
Thank you to my teachers, and the 'dreaded school syllabus', who introduced me to a whole lot of great poets, some of which I loved and some of which I hated. These poets transported me into their lives and times. I learnt a lot about history and geography, about world views, deities and idols, faith, hope, love-(plus the unrequited kind!), war and peace, changing culture and changing language.
  * My recommendation is pick and mix out of great poetry anthologies to give a taste of times past.
  * Plant a seed of poetic history. It will bear fruit later in life.
Thank you to the poets I read in school and later life, who evoked their experiences, feelings and moods, with such heightened sensory awareness. They took apart the orchestra and drew attention to the solo instrument. They made me thrill and resonate to the purity of a single note.
  * Read poets who paint pictures with words, using great artistry. They will inspire great motivation, art and ideas in the hearer.
  * For the young, this responsiveness is best tapped into immediately.
Thank you to all the posts I have read who have shared their unique personal views with me through their work, helping me understand that we share a common human bond but are all incredibly different in how we experience, perceive, feel and understand life. This is balancing, challenging, humbling and maturing.
  * This kind of poetry should be read after many warm ups and stretching exercises.
  * This will require a bit of literary muscle.
Well, yes, now I am a tiddly bit more mature. I am drawn to the 'puzzlers' because they test my comprehension, or, sometimes, they may even choose to offend me! - (I want to work out why!?). I don't have to like these poems, but I have to admire them for some reason, and be intrigued. I do like many puzzling poems. I like a good mystery. I like the inscrutable; I look for the clues. It demands a long association, with paths gone over and revisited again. New gems, new evidence and tantalizingly slow, (in a good way). Why? Because the experience is pleasurable. There are sounds and scenery and sensations to enjoy along the way. Pauses that are ambiguous, (for why??) and punctuation(or not!?-as the case may be). These poems hone a fine sense of curiosity and investigation, and necessitate the development of detection skills and a higher understanding of the poet's toolbox.
However, the experience of poetry should be a well to look in, not a wall!
  * Unless the sense of wonder is there and the reader is working at a higher level of literary skill these poems will confuse or alienate.
  * A good introduction to 'pleasurable puzzlement' investigation so to understand some more obscure contemporary music lyrics. (You may need to make wise choices here!!)
How to Read Poetry
Poetry requires a different kind of reading. It is not a book. It is a sensory experience!
                                     Photographer - Whetstone Chocolates.
When I talk about reading poetry as an introduction to students, I tell them it is like eating a multi-layered sweet. It is not to be crunched, gulped or swallowed whole. What a waste! It is far too special, and , therefore, important to taste and experience every layer. I then describe a beautiful chocolate truffle with a wonderful crunchy, nutty outside layer before you break through to a thin, hard layer of crisp, sharp and bitter chocolate and enter a multi-layered, sweet truffle experience, - culminating in the bitter-sweet centre of delicious liqueur. (There I told you I was a sensualist!) Part of this experience includes the anticipation leading up to it, and, of course, then the enjoyment of the rich after-taste.
In other words, eat slowly! Enjoy the smell, the sight, every texture, each sound, every taste of the truffle and also every response your body and mind makes to each of these things.
It is through 'experiencing' poetry that we learn. We will not learn everything at once, but good poetry is repeatably and pleasurably educating. Our response normally tells us what we have learnt at any given time.
Poets are like painters. They are artists who paint in words. The poetic tools they use are like colours on the artist's palette and their results may range from naturalistic to abstract. The great thing is - 'There is something in the gallery for everyone!'
The Tools that Delight Me in the Poet's Palette
Rhythm, rhyme and repetition. (Essential introductions for the young at heart.)
Alliteration and onomatopoeia. (Sounds lovely!)
Expression, volume, intonation, timing (...and the dramatic pause!)
All poetic genres - (Whoa! So many of them! Ancient, modern, serious and playful!)
Poetic Forms and Rules (Great discipline)
Metre and stress (Tip - Best to leave stress out of it if counterproductive!)
Grammatical naughtinesses are permissible (Yes, great for anarchic rule breakers!)
Punctuation naughtinesses are permissible (Yes, once again, great for anarchic rule breakers.)
Rule breaking in general may be positively, playfully and purposely permissible!!
Word invention (For fun, creative, genius types!)
Comparison/Simile (It's like.... (duh!))
Comparison/Metaphor (The really exciting stuff, painting with words - skill and artistry at higher levels)
Connotation, pun, satire (The clever, witty stuff!)
All of these 'Poetic Tools' are consciously (or unconsciously) used by the poet to engage our 'senses' and 'responses'. We actually use them and hear them everyday in word and music.
The sad fact is that, we are bombarded with sensory stimuli, stuffing figurative fast food down furiously and not engaging with the moment or the experience enough to know if we are engaging at any level of quality. Or - even if we need to engage at all!?
Go on! Try a chocolate truffle, eat slowly and sweetly and enjoy the moment!
You might end up saying, "Cordon Bleu!"
Tips for Sharing Poetry with the Young
Always, choose poetry, 'to enjoy and share', that is age appropriate and using age appropriate tools.
Don't give a child a chainsaw until he can handle it!
Allow young children to respond in talking, reading, drawing and writing after 'a poetry experience' without an agenda. You will discover what 'engaged' them and what they learnt from listening to the poem. 'Inspiration' is a great self-motivator. Expect repetitions, imitations (-really experimentations), and great creations! (These will not all be in word form!)
Great Poetry Resources on My Shelves
This Little Puffin        Compiled by Elizabeth Matterson        Puffin
Now We Are Six        A.A. Milne                                                 Methuen &Co.
When We Were Young A.A. Milme                                           Methuen & Co.
Lots of 'Dr. Seuss ' books                                                           Collins
Twinkle, twinkle, Chocolate Bar Compiled by John Foster  Oxford
Boy Soup                     Loris Lesynski                                         Annick Press
Noisy Poems          Collected by Jill Bennett                     Oxford Uni Press
Old Poem Anthologies
The best thing you can buy!
I love to collect these and find they are no longer in our public libraries or are out of print. I pick them up in second hand bookshops. They are such a rich resource with something for every age and occasion. They introduce you to a huge history of great poets and great poems.
These are some anthologies I have on my shelves.
My Little Verse and Rhyme Treasury                                             Brimax
The Golden Treasury of Poetry   selected by Louis Untermeyer  Collins
Children's Poetry                        selected by Michael Rosen        Kingfisher
The Oxford Bk of Children's Verse  edited by Neil Philip Oxford Uni Press
Children's Poetry(written by children 1983-1991)
                                             edited by Jennifer Curry                      Fox
The Penguin Book of contemporary Verse  edited Kenneth Allott  Penguin
By Heart 101 Poems to Remember  edited Ted Hughes   Faber and Faber"
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ take the now weekly visit to the library AND second hand bookshop. Make sure you have LOTS of time to spare to look, read, borrow and buy books on poetry. Once home switch off from the worlds and indulge consuming your 'chocolate truffle', as Nicky says, slowly.

Friday, October 12, 2012


This is the 5th post in the series "A CASE FOR READING...." 
"A CASE FOR READING PLAYS" is written by Reuben Turner.
"Why Read Plays?
First up, I should state that I’m not writing about attending performances of plays… obviously plays are written to be performed, however, if your geographical location or finances hold you back from getting to the theatre, how about sitting down and reading a play yourself? Here’s a few reasons why it’s worth grabbing two hours on that rainy Sunday afternoon to read a play.
Plays are an important ancient form of literature. Despite thousands of years passing, we still study, perform and find meaning in ancient Greek plays by authors such as Euripides and Sophocles. Plays, especially the works of William Shakespeare, have shaped our culture, language, opinions and traditions.
Plays can tell historical stories. They may narrate the lives and tales of real people, often well known historical figures of their day. They also provide a window on the culture, society and notable events of the time period in which the play was set and written.
Pushing boundaries has always been a huge part of playwriting. Historically, plays have generally been edgy, interesting and controversial. Playwrights aim to break new ground and upset or question social norms. Some plays such as Lysistrata have been
banned time and time again over the two and a half thousand years since it was written. Indeed even fairly well known plays such as The Importance Of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice have been banned at one point or another. If you want to read something edgy and challenging then how about a play!
Plays are short. Some people love tucking into the one thousand pages of a classic novel, yet many of us just don’t have the time or energy to make that commitment. A play is an engaging read, which may easily be started and finished within a couple of hours.
Generally a play is designed to capture an audience’s attention and hold it over the course of a few hours. Plays are a highly immersive, descriptive and ‘pacey’ read. While reading one may not be as powerful as seeing it performed, it will still be highly engrossing!!
So what play(s) should you read and where would you find them? In answer I would ask how often we see a great movie then buy the book its based on… many films started out as plays, why not give one of them a whirl? Or maybe you enjoyed a performance of a play in the past or studied it back in high school… how about reading it? Having
a mental image or a little knowledge of what’s happening in a play, I find helps me to understand and enjoy reading it. Plays are cheap to purchase online through websites such as thebookdepository (which ships free globally), trademe (New Zealand) or abebooks. Otherwise your local library or second hand bookshop is bound to have a section devoted to them. A few plays I have enjoyed or found to be interesting reading recently have been:
The Importance Of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde), 

A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams), 

Our Town (Thornton Wilder),

A View From The Bridge (Arthur Miller).
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ investigate the bookshelves at home or the library and enjoy a reading a play.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


This is the 4th post in the series "A CASE FOR READING....".

"I have always been a reader.
As a child I was always in the middle of a book. I just loved the act of reading. And when reading was unacceptable, say, at the dinner table, or impracticable, like in the shower, there were always the words on a ketchup or shampoo bottle upon which to focus my attention. It often didn’t even matter whether the words were once upon a time or sodium laureth sulphate. They served as a distraction: for however long I concentrated on them I would forget about the world around me.
The real escape, however, would occur after lights out when, night after night, I would reach for my torch, tent myself under the duvet and find - or rather lose - myself in fictional worlds. In a childhood which was far from idyllic, these worlds – whether better or worse than my own – were not only comforting, they were crucial.
And now, decades later, they remain as necessary as ever. And not just as a means of retreat from this world and its imperfections but also as a lens through which to see it more clearly, or indeed as a mirror in which to get a better look at myself, ourselves.
No-one, of course, would deny the power of classic literature in this regard. But what of contemporary fiction? Is it worthy of our time and attention?
Somewhat predictably perhaps, my response is yes. In this media-addicted, celebrity-obsessed world, good literature provides not only an oasis from but an antidote to the shallowness and asininity of much of contemporary culture.
We live in a world where our ever-decreasing attention spans seem increasingly to dictate how we spend our leisure-time: surfing the internet, flicking through TV channels, glancing through magazines. Even the verbs in that sentence resonate with non-commitment and disinterest. Read, then, as a bulwark against the daily deluge of soundbites, tweets and texts. The pleasure derived from immersing oneself in a good story will last long after the last page. It’s been a year, for example, since I read Rohinton Mistry's 624-page Indian epic A Fine
Balance but elements of his tale still haunt me.

We live in a world where language is no longer sacred, where words are solely used in the service of advertising or as vehicles for appalling plots in appalling potboilers. Read, then, for the sheer beauty and possibilities of language. Relish every word, every turn of phrase in The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, savouring it all the more in the knowledge that the author never wrote another novel.

Not only are plots often as thin as the paper they’re written on, so, all too often, are the characters. But there are, thankfully, authors whose creations are so vivid, so complex, that they will, by turns, infuriate you and endear themselves to you. Read, then, to encounter such characters, and find yourself reflected in them. You don't have to have read Virginia Woolf to appreciate the depth of emotions experienced by the three female leads in Michael Cunningham’s splendidly lyrical The Hours.
We live in a world dominated by Hollywood, where ideas and narratives are recycled and reused in order to make a quick buck. Films are made and remade, and novels are never published without the possibility of a film somewhere down the line. Read then, to discover something original, for the joy of what-happens-next? Pick up a book about which
you know nothing, like I did with The Other Hand (also published in some countries as Little Bee). The back of Chris Cleave’s second novel says it all: ‘We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.'
There are many more books I want to tell you about but I would rather let you discover what’s out there for yourself. The next time you're looking for something to read, think about reading someone who is still writing today. Maybe consider a novel set in a country you know little about, or on a theme in which you've never taken an interest before. Settle yourself in and enjoy that on-the-verge-of something-new feeling that you only experience as you begin the first chapter."
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ choose to make another visit to your local library, or if you're lucky enough to have a good second-hand book shop nearby, spend a few hours reading and browsing. As a family we do this each year when camping as there are 2 great second-hand book shops close by. I like the suggestion to read the work of an author still alive, or an a theme that you know little about. I agree that it is good to read outside your own experience.