Monday, 5 October 2009

Poetry ... and what it takes to find your own unique voice in the world

Finding your Unique Voice through Poetry

We had a wonderful poetry lesson today.
We studied this poem by John Agard...

Half Caste
Excuse me
standing on one leg
I’m half-caste.

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when Picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas?
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather?
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem don’t want de sun pass
ah rass?
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony?

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
Ah listening to yu wid de keen
half of mih ear
Ah looking at yu wid de keen
half of mih eye
an when I’m introduced to yu
I’m sure you’ll understand
why I offer yu half-a-hand
an when I sleep at night
I close half-a-eye
consequently when I dream
I dream half-a-dream
an when moon begin to glow
I half-caste human being
cast half-a-shadow
but yu must come back tomorrow
wid de whole of yu eye
an de whole of yu ear
an de whole of yu mind.

an I will tell yu
de other half
of my story.

Poetry is a great way of helping a child find their own unique voice. Every poem resonates with the soul voice of the poet who wrote it.
I particularly love this poem!
I want very much for the girls to have the ability to reach beyond their own experiences and see the world from many different perspectives. In this way poetry is a perfect medium for hearing the unique voices of individuals through history.
Poetry is a way of finding those common connections between people from all different backgrounds and points in time, while retaining the singular voice of the writer themselves.
There are so many things in the world that divide, create barriers, differentiate and categorise. The antidote to prejudice, ignorance, stereotyping and division is compassion through understanding another's position and their reason for that position.
I think that art, poetry and music have a wonderful way of being able to do just this.
Especially as homeschoolers and especially as Christians, I want the girls to be able to handle other people's truths. I want them to respect and be genuinely interested in other people who may come from a totally different background to them with completely different ways of understanding the world.
Sometimes, it's in the fearless acceptance of the authenticity of another's experience that we can be able to understand and accept our own.
Part of the reason why I love this poem particularly is that, in it's time, it pushed the barriers of poetic expression. It used a truthful, uncompromising voice blending, indignation, pathos and humor to bring a potent and poignant message to the multicultural table of contemporary life.
It can be hard for kids to be strong enough to find their own voice and use it. Often it can feel as if we are given only a limited number of frameworks to move within. It can seem scary to be true to oneself when that may mean working outside of the "accepted" social, intellectual and religious boundaries of our particular time and space.
When Emmy first tried to recite the poem, I noticed that she put up barriers almost as a reflex against what seemed so foreign, strange and different to her tongue.
I think this is part of what makes this poem so good though. Often when we come across someone of a different ethnicity we put up unconscious barriers. We react with unconscious prejudices.
As we discussed this she began to accept and respect the poem's voice and her recital of it began to involve her own interpretation and with it came understanding and internal integration between her own experiences and the poets.
The girls know only a little of what it means to be different. Their Dad came to England as a refugee. There have been vocal oppositions to the refugee and immigrant communities in recent years. However there is a big difference for them, no one pre-judges them based on the colour of their skin. This was something that made a big impression on Emmy today.
I hope to be able to introduce Emmy to many different poets, artists, writers, filmmakers and thinkers over the next few years. I want her to have a broad understanding of the world. This is one thing I think that home school affords children, an understanding of the real world around them, within a real life context.