from the mouths of babes

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Neville Briggs
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from the mouths of babes

Post by Neville Briggs » Sat Jan 15, 2011 3:27 pm

I did a poetry workshop on Thursday and Friday at our local library for 11 children aged between 9 and 11.

They were all raw beginners

I got them to get up and try their hand at performing by reading a poem. A young boy got up and I asked him to read C.J. Dennis's poem, " The Circus "
he started off " hey there hoopla the circus is in town have you seen the elephant have you see..... "
Stop there !

I stopped him and asked him to start again. I asked him to read it differently..
like this " HEY THERE ! HOOPLA ! the CIRCUS is in TOWN
HAVE you seen the ELEPHANT, HAVE you seen the CLOWN
HAVE you seen the DAPPLED horse GALLOP round the RING
...and so on

So he set off and did it just like I said.

To my astonishment, after a few lines, he spontaneously began to sing it, making up a tune as he went along.

Fantastic...Wonderful.. Made my day :D

That experience says more about poetry than all the analysing of metres and things.
I'd give all the judges awards for that amazing experience, to see that young boy realise that poems are not just words on a page..but music. The music of language.

Like Marty Boyce has said " If Joe Blow can pick up a poem and read it as the writer intended...then it is probably close to the mark with its metre "
Or perhaps, if a child can read a poem and turn it into a song, probably it is a real poem.

Last edited by Neville Briggs on Sat Jan 15, 2011 6:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I think therefore I am

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Maureen K Clifford
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Re: from the mouths of babes

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:16 pm

and that is a heartwarming story Neville - good on you - IMO all the other fol de rol is getting away from the whole concept of poetry and bush poetry and could be why people perhaps aren't particularly interested in it or at least not as many people as we would like to be interested in it. Sometimes you see a glazed look come over their faces, or they start gazing out the window or checking watches.

Good poetry regardless of how technically correct it is tells a story that holds the listener in rapt attention as the story unfolds - it paints a picture, stirs the emotions, gives courage to the weak, hope to those who have none, stirs the blood - Poetry does many things to many people - some it just bores senseless, but I doubt any who have sat and listened to a rousing piece of bush poetry, or a tender piece like Marty writes, or one of Dave's military pieces or Kym's horse poems - I really doubt than any of them give a toss as to whether the metre is spot on or how many feet it has? Much less how many of the other technicalities it contains they just know they have heard something they like, can relate to and think is terrific. By the same token give them something that is so out of whack it isn't funny they will also immediately know that they don't like it either.

Good on you Neville for showing the young bloke that there is music in words - that is something he will never forget. What a wonderful gift.


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I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

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Re: from the mouths of babes

Post by Zondrae » Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:29 pm


You said CJ - that should have told you everything you needed to know about how good a poem it was..
Zondrae King
a woman of words


Re: from the mouths of babes

Post by Heather » Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:53 pm

That's a lovely story Neville. Moments like those you don't ever forget. Hopefully the young fellow and his class mates will remember it too.

I am finding more and more that I can hear a tune in my head when I think of a line with a particular metre - often a nursery rhyme! Tunes that stick with us for life.

Heather :)


Re: from the mouths of babes

Post by Kym » Sun Jan 16, 2011 8:48 am

Hey, I remember that poem from grade 3 or 4! Didn't know it was a CJ though. Good on ya Neville for taking on a group of kids. They can be scary.

Maureen, "there is music in words" - lovely.


Vic Jefferies
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Re: from the mouths of babes

Post by Vic Jefferies » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:27 am

I have a little trick I nearly always use to check the meter of whatever I am writing in that I find if I can sing each line of the poem without faltering it is usually pretty close to being right.
If the meter is out it becomes very apparent very quickly!
Only problem is sometimes the poem becomes a song and then becomes hard to recite as a poem.
For years I had problems reciting Clancy of the Overflow because I had the rhythm of the song in my head. Same with And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. The song kept encroaching on the way I wanted to recite it.

Neville Briggs
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Re: from the mouths of babes

Post by Neville Briggs » Sun Jan 16, 2011 1:00 pm

Thanks for the replies folks.

Maureen, I think I received a vauable gift that day, that boy taught me something I will never forget.

I dunno Zondrae, maybe CJ had some bad days ??
I read to them the "Triantiwontigongolope" by CJ Dennis and without asking, they called out the name 'triantiwontogongolope " until they could say it right, which they did !

No I won't forget Heather. It's a treasure I will always retain

Now you know Kym. You can find it in C J Dennis' " Book for Kids" which has been republished or on page 230 of Jim Haynes' book " Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids "

Good on you Vic.
Music can be misleading because the words follow the beat of the music, in poetry the words are the beat, the poetic metre is the organising principle not the beats per bar of the music.

I think therefore I am

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