Young Student Filmmakers Respond to “Buttons”

I received an email the other day that delighted me.

A teacher in the UK found “Buttons” online and use it, and the accompanying storybook, to teach both poetry and filmmaking to her year six students. The results are wonderful, showing an understanding of poetic technique, inventiveness, careful observation of the everyday, and a good dose of humor.

It occurs to me this might be a great way to reach the smartphone generation with poetry, and gives me greater hope for the emerging genre of film-poetry as well. I am also grateful to see teachers championing creativity in an educational system increasingly obsessed with standardised testing.

Do check out the short films.


The Eleventh Year

Photo by Matthew Bedford from Unsplash

Eleven is drawn with parallel lines. Parallel lives.

In one, my son survived. He is with us in England, in the rain; or we are still in California, in drought. He is like me at that age — obsessed with science and discovery; or like his mother, he is at the piano, practicing. He is like neither of us, in surprising ways. Ways we will never guess.

I inhabit life on the other rail instead. It is definitely England, definitely raining, and I have become a poet. Science and engineering failed to show me how to address the vast inner landscapes I felt pressing from an early age. Miłosz, Dostoevsky, and Mahler succeeded. Subjectivity is the enemy of science, but the lifeblood of poetry.

Objectively, our son is gone. Subjectively, he is everywhere.

I am not a monorail. I am the smoke drifting up from a neighbour’s chimney, and I am the chimney, and I am the air.

Only at the place where parallel lines intersect, only there, at the point of points, can this all make sense.

One day I will join you in the space between lines. Until then, of each day I will try to make some kind of poetry, and in it, a space for you to dwell.

Godspeed, James, my son.


Poetry for Elephants

I received my contributor’s copy of the anthology A Poetry of Elephants today. It is a project I’m proud to have been a part of — not only to be in the company of nearly forty excellent poets — but because all of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

It will make an excellent gift for the Elephant-lover in your life, and is now available to order online. You can also read my poem “Letter to the Last Megafauna” halfway down the homepage on the A Poetry of Elephants website.

Congratulations to publisher Valerie Morton, editor Rebecca Gethin, and all the poets featured. Here’s hoping it does much good for our big-hearted brethren.

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Poem Online for Sustainable St. Albans Week

St. Albans, our nearest market town here in the English countryside north of London, has been holding a week-long series of events focusing on sustainable living. As part of the proceedings they solicited poems from the local Ver Poets group on an environmental theme. They have been posting a new poem each day, and all are well worth reading.

Today, hot on the heels of America electing a climate-change denier to its highest office, you can read the short poem “What Will Survive Us“, my prognosis for unchecked human exploitation of the natural world.

Read the poem.

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