The EIS and the Scottish Poetry Library have worked together over the past few years to bring poetry into the everyday lives and work of EIS members. The 2018 anthology To Learn the Future: Poems for Teachers was part-funded by the EIS and has been gifted to successive cohorts of newly qualified teachers as a welcome on behalf of the profession. In 2020-21, we supported members to find their own poetic voices, through a series of creative well-being workshops.
Here, tutor Jenny Lindsay describes the workshop process, followed by a sample of the poetry created by two participants.
Workshop Tutor, Jenny Lindsay
“Over the last year it has been a real pleasure to work with different groups of teachers on the last Saturday of the month. All were in different circumstances and from different schools, but most shared the same challenge: juggling a deep commitment to their students and colleagues with home-life and workplace expectations, plus the same worries and concerns we have all had throughout the pandemic.
“With such competing pressures on their time, the objective of these sessions, as I saw it, was to primarily be a space to breathe.
“Using a variety of prompts, the sessions were structured to be an honest, fun, and sometimes extremely cathartic space to share worries, hopes, concerns, and personal stories through poetry, lyricism and prose. What are the small things we miss from our former lives? A handshake. A train journey. A mask-less smile. A hazelnut latte on the way to work. An unplanned day, free to go anywhere we liked.
“If we could be honest, what would we tell our students, our daughters, our partners, our children? What might be the real lessons we can take from this last year? What is it all about? It is about hope. Joy. Faith. It is about finding out what matters most. It is about time and knowing what battles can be fought and those best left alone. And what have we discovered that we didn’t know before?”
Workshop Participant, Irene Hartshorn
“In the days of lockdown, the writing workshop was a wonderful opportunity to ‘open up’. Jenny’s exercises seemed to open up a torrent of words which were almost like opening a valve and releasing the pressures of lockdown. It was great to be at the receiving end of learning and offered an escape from being the one always leading the discussion/lesson. It was also stimulating to hear the works of others, especially the other participants. I really enjoyed hearing their takes. I was so grateful to be part of it and to realise I could still be creative while caught in the quagmire of assessments and form filling!”
(For my daughter)
Tonight I want to marvel at
your ability to perch on the couch
like a small bird.
Did I say small?
Did you have to mumph and puff as you did it?
Blocking out all other sound –
Your exquisite limbs resting gracefully,
Bearing the weight of the body you so hate.
The fragile movements, like a dance,
Your fleeting presence through time,
Perching on the edge of something great,
Ready to soar into the sky,
Claiming, the air, the vastness of space.
The delicate nature, the ghostliness of your presence,
Belying the impact of your words, which
do not perch but reach out to the world.(by Irene Hartshorn)
Joy rolled into my life like a ball of fur,
hard to catch, moving just out of reach,
within an arm’s length then skywards
as I looked up craning my neck,
tips of fingers almost touching,
desperate to cradle, caress.
Looking me in the eye, defying, challenging…
go on catch me, enjoy,
but always just out of reach,
preferring the company of others,
their ecstatic stares, proclaiming,
It’s ours now. You lost!
I am yearning for its return.
(by Irene Hartshorn)
Workshop Participant, Emma Newton
“I’ve loved writing ever since childhood and often find it to be a fantastic way to express myself, reflect on life events or simply just chill out. I started a blog during lockdown, and also keep a poetry journal which I add to when inspired.”
Dawn, but the sun
can’t pierce the opaque fog
which looms heavily,
shrouding the horizon.
Dense silence rings, foretelling doom.
Blindfolded, I step
furtively into the icy air,
each tentative motion a tiny triumph.
A light glimmers in the distance,
a candle flickering, mapping out my path.
My breath sharp yet shallow,
the thick air dank on my tongue.
It will lift, pass, banished
by the sun’s fiery breath,
a formidable power.
And then the lightness will dance,
unfettered to the murky heavens.
(by Emma Newton)
We hope you enjoy reading these poems as much as those involved had fun, tears, joy, laughter, frustration and ultimately camaraderie in creating them. Please visit the Scottish Poetry Library throughout June, when a showcase from the last year will be available. www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk