Poetry for everyone

This week a post, and a great idea for helping young people write poetry, from one of our long term Hands Up Project volunteers based in Spain, Sara Wood. 


With thanks to Kareem, Waseem, Sohaib, Salem, Ahmed and their teacher, Nada

“Just a minute, please”, said the boys.

I was watching them, heads down, pencils in hand, chatting to one another. I was wondering if I should be doing something.  There I was in Mallorca, there they were in Palestine. Precious time, precious language, precious electricity. Not a moment to lose, not a minute to waste.

We’d been laughing earlier.  Two groups had been set the task of deciding on 8 objects that would ensure their survival during 100 days on a desert island.  The first group went strictly practical – a piece of tarpaulin, fish hooks, a sharp knife, boxes of matches. They’d get on alright, I thought. And then came the second group. Tarpaulin, fish hooks, matches…so far, so survival.  But then they slipped in a surprise. Books. Why books? I asked. To enjoy ourselves, they answered. Hmmm, at the cost of a piece of vital survival equipment. Further down the list, pencils. I pounced. “Where are you going to write?”  “In the books”. They’d evidently thought about it.

The moment I always dread arrived, the moment of decision.  Who had the best list? I hesitated. They were eager to know.  So I gave them my considered opinion. “Group one will survive….but group two will be happier.”  We all laughed.

Screenshot 2019-04-25 at 12.19.53
Kareem, Waseem, Sohaib, Salem and Ahmed in the library in Rafah where their weekly HUP session takes place.


And then came the request I started this post with.  “Just a minute, please”. When I’d planned the session, I’d decided we’d try writing an acrostic poem in which the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase.  Like a good English teacher, I’d written my own model, using the word “desert”. Relevant to the previous activity, providing scaffolding, eliciting language – any teacher knows the drill. But I couldn’t help asking myself, poetry? Really?  For these boys? For any boys? Proof of my own prejudice, but not my beliefs. I know that poetry is for everyone.

I read them my poem.  Amazing, they said. Well, now it’s your turn I told them.  It was only when they started writing (they’d decided on three groups) that I realised I hadn’t set out the task clearly. What were they supposed to write about? Were they using the word desert or another word?  Where were they going to get the vocabulary? What language were they supposed to use?

I needn’t have worried.  I watched them, intently getting their ideas down on paper. Was it too long?  Should I be doing something to help? Was this a good use of their time? “Boys, are you ready yet?”  “Just a minute, please.” And then they read me their poems. As you can see, they’ll need their books and pencils on that desert island.

GROUP 1 Kareem, Salem

Die will be more harder than today

Every year I grow up to see our world

Smile to all people, love you

Every day we love each other more and more

Remember our memories

To make all of us happy and cheerful


GROUP 2 Ahmed & Nada

Dad is my hero

Every day he supports me

So I love him more and more

Every Friday he takes me to a picnic

Right now he’s the best person I have ever known

Tell me, do you know anyone like my dad?


GROUP 3  Sohaib, Waseem

Day is beautiful

Empty island

Shark in the ocean

Earth is poor

Rest on the beach

Tree’s shadow


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