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Development and Discussion 2019 9: The power of poetry

18 September 2019 Share

It's commonly recognised that breadth of reading diet is important for both reading skills and reading enjoyment, and poetry is an important part of this breadth. Poetry can provide a starting point for less confident readers, or for those more interested in music than reading...

Development and Discussion 2019: The power of poetry

It's commonly recognised that breadth of reading diet is important for both reading skills and reading enjoyment, and poetry is an important part of this breadth. Poetry can provide a starting point for less confident readers, or for those more interested in music than reading, who can see similarities to lyrics. Poetry can provide a starting point for conversations, whether about the content or the emotion, and can be much less off putting to all kinds of readers than a novel - you need only look at the recent success of verse novels to see this is the case. 

I recently saw someone asking for advice on what to suggest to their sixth formers, and for me poetry and short novels are always worth suggesting when someone is under such demand. A little respite, a bit of escape, can do wonders. 

In this Development and Discussion blog A.F. Harrold, author and poet, examines why he thinks poetry is important. 




Poetry – A.F. Harrold

Elizabeth Jennings wrote a poem called Curtains Undrawn (in her 1992 collection, Times and Seasons). In it, the narrator is walking down a street in the evening, at that time when the lights are coming on in the houses, but before the curtains have been drawn.

What the narrator sees, in those illuminated boxes, are the captured moments of people’s lives. And this leads her to think of the other things happening in there that she can’t see: the children in bed with their night-lights; the little quarrels; the silent love-making.

And to me, this is one of the key things that poetry can do, one of the key things that poetry can be. Poems are windows through which we look as we pass by… private stolen glimpses into moments in people’s lives… into scenes… into their feelings… their joys and disasters.

Think of those glimpses into the breakfast table conversations in Michael Rosen or into the wedding of two disparate animals in Edward Lear. Do we know the whole story? Do we need the whole story? No, we are simply guests, gifted these moments.

A novel disappoints if it doesn’t explain itself, if it doesn’t have a logical conclusion and a satisfying denouement, but a poem doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a sketch: look at this tree! Look at the light! Look at dad falling in the pond!

A book of poems can be a sketchbook, designed expressly for dipping and discovering, for those moments of recognition and surprise and understanding. (And for the ‘I didn’t think much of that one, but this one’s good’ moment. (A novel struggles to survive a bad bit, but a poetry collection turns the page with ease.))

So, here, in Midnight Feasts, for your delight, I’ve collected windows into special moments in our lives that intersect with food… many different approaches… many different ingredients… many different tables at which to sit and break bread… free to move on to a new table, whenever you want.

Come on in! Fill your boots!

The paperback of A.F Harrold and Emily Gravett’s The Afterwards published on 5th September, Midnight Feats publishes 3rd October.