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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

30 January 2021

Posted by Tabby Hayward


11-14 group - 13 attending
15-18 group - 8 attending

This week, we were looking at how time is described and explored in poetry.

To begin, in the younger group, we played 'The Cogsworth Game', inspired by the character of Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast - the butler who, with the rest of the Prince's servants, gets turned into an item of furniture (in his case, a clock) when the Prince is cursed by the enchantress.

To play the game, we looked at a series of images of different time-telling devices, from stopwatches to grandfather clocks, pocket watches to alarm clocks, cuckoo clocks to sundials, and each chose one to describe what it would be like if it was a human who had been turned into a clock, like Cogsworth! We thought about age, gender, name, behaviour, and appearance when writing our descriptions, and then shared in the chat for the rest of the group to guess the clock! Here are some examples...

From Erin – pocket watch

Eleanore Antoinette was part of the late French monarchy who
weren’t actually executed but turned into clocks. she has a cream dress with
glittering gold lacing. her brunette hair is piled on top of her head in a bun.

From Skye  – pocket watch

she was a very bright person, quite loud too. She had a
sense of charming aroma that surrounded her like a posh perfume. No one dared
to hurt her, she was respected by everyone. The only issue is, no one had any
idea of where she came from. She just..appeared… in the school halls. Her
appearance? Odd. She was bound head to toe with gold. Necklaces, rings,
bracelets. Even her clothes looked like they were made from solid gold. I think
to myself everyday, "Maybe shes a runaway princess?"

From Sam - sundial

his name is the teller. he's clad in black and white robes,
with a trim of gold. his hair is woven on the right, and shaved on the left.
his robe has white on the left and black on the right. he has an oriental sun
on his left in black, and a moon on his right in white.

Next, we looked at the Emily Dickinson poem, 'Hope is the thing with feathers' and used this as a starting point for a poem about Time. 

We thought about what Time would be if it was an animal, an insect, a plant, a place to live, a kind of weather, a colour, and a person. Then, the young writers chose one or more of these images/metaphors to start off their poems about time.

Here are some of the results...

The Dove – by Jake

White feathers like white snow
A royal oak taller than a plane
A island small but rich.
It’s the only place you can grant a wish
Five royal oak trees all taller than a plane.
Pigs and doves live on this island
Stranded not knowing what to do
We don’t know how they got there
People go to this island to grant there wish
All they ask for is money
Money doesn’t go far
So at the end of there asking for a wish
They only see black
People have now learnt these trees can’t grant every wish
The dove chooses that not the trees

By Erin:

His dark eyebrows would quiver.
His cheeks would lose their colour.
A stern gaze you’d be under.
The bags under his eyes have been there for centuries.
And the monocle he crafted
ever so gently.
Don’t get me wrong.
Time is a bore.
But please, dear reader, remember:
everyone has their sores.

By Sam Hunt:

wind in the morning,
calm in the afternoon,
snow in the evening,
lightning at night.

flowers in the morning,
trees in the afternoon,
fields in the evening,
locusts at night.

ticking in the morning,
clicking in the afternoon,
ticking in the evening,
tock in the night.

night in the morning,
evening in the afternoon,
afternoon in the evening,
mourning at night.

In the older group, we began by thinking about what Time would be as an animal, insect, plant, etc, inspired by 'Hope is the thing with feathers' before looking at some extracts about the importance of time in poetry from Glyn Maxwell's brilliant book 'On Poetry.'

We then looked at a wide range of poems about time for inspiration, looking at the metaphors/personification/images used to describe time in each, and how time seemed to be behaving - what sort of an animal, creature, person, force, plant, or element was Time? Did it seem kind, vindictive (great word from Lily!), cruel or gentle? How did the 'I' in the poem interact with Time? Did they fear it, were they fighting it or accepting it? 

We looked at the villanelle 'If I could tell you'  and 'As I walked out one evening', both by W.H. Auden, the opening lines of 'Burnt Norton' from T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets', the final stanza of 'Calmly We Walk Through This Autumn Day' by Delmore Schwartz, and 'On Time' by John Milton.

Inspired by these poems, the young writers wrote a brilliant range of poetic responses, using their metaphors for time in varied and exciting ways. Here are some examples...

They must be a traveller of space and time, like I read about in books,

There is no other explanation for their manner, the peculiar way they look.


The look in their eyes is far away but piercing all the same.

It is like they have lived a thousand lives and survived to tell the tale.


They laugh and tell me not to wonder, that they are not something to be admired,

“I have only lived rather a long while, it’s not something that should inspire.”


Even though they have not stepped back and forth through the fabric of time,

Who says that they are not a time traveller, one with dramatic cloaks who drinks wine?


They have travelled through time as we all do, but they are the traveller we all wish to meet,

For they have been marching with time for a long while, and that makes them unique.


Many thousands and thousands of seconds have led them to where they are now:

Sitting beside me in a carriage, reading a letter with a frown.


I think that the definition of time traveller may be in need of a definite change:

A time traveller is one who travels unnaturally, not just the sort you see on a page.


A time traveller is one who has lived two thousand years without aging a single day,

Who could be stabbed through the heart and shot in the chest and get up to do it again.


I tell them that they are a time traveller, and they give me a judgemental glance.

They uncap a pen, change the cartridge, and say, “I’ll give you a chance—”


“—to correct yourself or take that back, sit up straight and stop this nonsense.”

I shake my head and say, “You’re a time traveller, just not in the usual sense.”


Beginning a letter in swirling script, they say, “I’ll humour you.”

“Tell me your ridiculous reasoning and I’ll decide whether or not it’s true.”


“Well,” I start, “it’s simple. If you change the definition to what it should be.”

“You travel through time abnormally; you exist differently to me.”


“You’ve been alive for two thousand years; you’re wearing clothes with Ancient Greek thread!”

“But you are still awake and alive and only a grown-up, when you ought to be dead.”


“That makes you a time traveller – don’t look like that, I know I’m right!”

“You’ve travelled through time in a very strange way that would give anybody a fright.”


“And that make you a time traveller, because you exist apart from the norm.”

“Not even Death himself would trouble you! He must just… see you and move on.”


They shake their head and continue their letter, and speak in a chiding tone,

“Jane dear, these flights of fantasy are rather ridiculous, they must be left alone.”


“But it’s not a flight of fantasy! I know what I’m saying is true.”

“I’ve read plenty of books about time travel, and they may as well be written about you!”


They sign the short letter with a looping signature — T.Stavros — and put it away.

They fold it into a gilded envelope to be delivered the next day.


“Are you going to insist upon this until I give up?” they ask, and roll their eyes when I nod my head.

“You really are a special case, Miss Grinstead, and infuriatingly well-read.”


“Does that mean you’ll say you are one?” I peer up into their bright eyes.

“I won’t stop until you acknowledge it! Really, how are you surprised?”


“Alright then, I’m a time traveller.” They roll their eyes and adjust their cloak of green.

“And the time traveller commands you to stop being annoying and get some sleep.”


My grin turns into a glare and I curl up to go to sleep,

Giddy that I have finally met the time traveller of my dreams.

By Lily

Ticket, by Thomas

It was raining seconds,

Plastering minutes over tiled floors

While hours dripped onto the tracks.


Words were in the air,

Language carried by the wind;

A swirl of sounds on travel maps.


Time was spilling from the sky,

Solid like music in the vortex,

Tapping and whistle-blew trapped.


It was eating us,

Devouring our stomachs and clenching

Our will, taught by the note lingering.


Messages flew in the downpour,

Birds slick with instantaneous

Tricks; my voice tumbled, singing.


Make it, break it,

Slay it in the drenched morn

On breaths that die forlorn.


Take it, ticket,

Clip it in my sodden heart,

Soaked in the present, cold from the past,

Time’s ticket, till Death do us part.

The clocks we used for The Cogsworth Game!


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