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27 June 2020

Posted by Tabby Hayward

UGLY NATURE POETRY

11-14 group - 13 attending

15-18 group - 8 attending

This week, we were looking at nature poetry - but not the idyllic, romantic nature poetry you might expect!

To begin, we each came up with three things about nature which we do not like - examples included spiders, wasps, snakes, thunderstorms, mosquitoes, algae, and slugs!

We then chose one thing from our list, and took some time to think of/research at least one thing which was good about it! This was harder for some than others, but a common theme was how even the more unpleasant parts of nature all fit in with a longer chain, connecting with parts of nature we might like/need more - everything is necessary in the bigger picture, even wasps, which reduce the amount of pesticides we need! We found out some amazing things in our research, such as that seagulls are actually really good parents, and that in Tanzania, giant rats are used to detect landmines and tuberculosis! 

We then looked at some examples of poems which look at the less immediately pleasant/romantic/lovely sides of nature - for example, 'The Termites', by Douglas Florian, 'Death of a Naturalist', by Seamus Heaney, 'Ram' by Gillian Clarke and 'Caveat' by Fiona Benson. We looked at how the writers used personification, metaphor, simile, rhyme, rhythm, sound, shape on the page, anecdote, humour and poetic address to show a different side to some of the unpleasantness of nature - even without shying away from this unpleasantness, particularly poets like Seamus Heaney showed how even the gross can be poetic, with frogs like 'mud grenades', their heads 'farting' and the 'slobber' of their frogspawn managing to be both disgusting and beautiful!

Inspired by this, the young writers were given time to think of their own metaphors/similes/personification/onomatopoeia/imagery etc to describe their unpleasant thing from nature.

They were then asked to think about the form of the poem, how they might make it into a particular shape on the page (like the termite hill shape in Douglas Florian's poem), or how they might use rhyme, or stanzas, whether they wanted their poem to be very small on the page, or expansive, whether they wanted it to tell a story, and who would be speaking in the poem - with some opting for the voice of the thing they disliked, some sticking with third-person description, and others choosing to address the thing as a sort of complex love poem!

Putting this all together, we had an amazing range of poems, celebrating and poeticising everything from rats to bullet ants, algae to wasps!

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