In the boarding school where I work, I held a poetry workshop with my Chinese teenage students. To set the tone for their writing, I started by playing them Tarkovsky film clips, playing Bach’s Prelude no 8, talking about stream of consciousness poetry, playing them Mary Oliver reciting ‘Wild Geese’, discussing ideas about what, if anything, poetry means to them. I wrote key words on the board, discussed meanings of vocabulary such as elemental, melancholy, visceral, visual poetry, and ideas about how writing and creativity helps us heal. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I saw potential and vision in them. Some of these kids are just 13 and 14 and the depth of their insights astonished me. Although their English is far from perfect, somehow this adds to the beauty and enriches the writing. My intention was to create an atmosphere of freedom; of letting go of expectations, and allowing things to flow. I didn’t want them to think about rhyming or meter, but about ideas, emotions, inspiration, flow, catharthis and candour. Some of these kids have been in boarding schools since such a young age and have been under huge amounts of pressure to ‘succeed’ from parents and guardians.
If there is one thing I feel I can do for these kids it is to hold space for them, without judgement, and with encouragement in a safe space to allow them to express themselves. Here is one example. I needed to keep it.
It’s called Hero.