Every time I do this exercise I watch my classroom assistants look at me with confusion. It must be a trick. It can’t be that simple. Yet I maintain it is. For me, poetry starts with just one word.
I remember once being told that a poem is like a painting or drawing but instead of using colour and line, we use words. I think poetry helps us understand the texture and flavour of a word. Starting small is a beginning and we should always savour the good things in the world.
One word can then become three lines containing seventeen syllables and suddenly your budding poet has created a haiku. The journey through poetry has begun. I favour learning by doing. The more you do something, the more you hone the skill. Muscle memory for the brain.
I started writing poetry when I was about 12. The impetus was my English teacher at the time – Miss Donalda Patrick who always wore her hair in Princess Leia buns. She asked us to create an anthology of our favourite poems. Under each we had to state why we had chosen that particular poem.
I didn’t have the vocabulary I currently possess to express how those poems made me feel. But this was when I realised I relished certain words for their connotations and the way they felt on my tongue and palate as I sounded them out loud. This was also when I began to understand the value of the spoken word – how a poem read to oneself took on a whole different timbre when read aloud by Miss Patrick. There was none of those hideous pauses at the end of lines when they weren’t warranted or the dum dee dum delivery I had been taught at primary school. It was magic.