Tuesday, 6 May 2014

DISCOVERING KELSO THROUGH POETRY





 Kelso Abbey

The clock with four faces!


Poetry is a wonderful thing.  In only a few concentrated lines the essence of a particular observation can be caught.  That observation may be anchored in a moment in time but through rhythm and image can reverberate back through history as well as capture the present.  It can even build a word picture of an imagined future.
In the process you can discover or in many cases re discover a subject, a person or place. 

For me this happened recently when I was asked to work with two classes one from Yetholm Primary and one from Morebattle Primaries on the project ‘Discover Kelso.’ 

I have been to Kelso many times over the years and maybe it had become too familiar as many things and places do but through working with the young poets I felt I had re discovered Kelso all over again.

Kelso is going through a lot of changes at the moment.  The historic town centre being regenerated as part of the Kelso Townscape Heritage Initiative.  (THI)  ‘Discover Kelso’ is part of that initiative.  Its contribution to this regeneration is through observation, thought and emotion distilled into the concentrated lines and stanzas of the young poets. 

My remit in working with the schools was to look at those changes through the theme of ‘Kelso Town Centre, Past and Present.’  

We began to engage with that environment and to build our poems by visiting the town centre and noting down what we saw and what we heard. 

We noted these down under four headings:   SHOPS ETC;   CARS ETC;   PEOPLE;   OTHER.

Not worrying at that stage of how it would fit together, or not, into a poem.  The aim was to be like an artist sketching only in words observations both with the eye and the ear. 

This is where I began to re discover Kelso myself.  I looked again at the familiar sights.  In quite a few instances I felt I saw them really for the first time.  For instance the four faces of the town clock high above the town centre. I had never truly looked at it and how intricate and ornate the face and hands are. 

Like the pupils I also closed my eyes and listened to the multitude of sounds for instance cars rattling over cobbles, birds squawking, JCB rumblings, drills drilling and many more.

After this and in sessions back at the schools we worked our notes up into possible stanzas.  This was the first stage in choosing the most powerful images and sounds the ones remembered and clear long after the visit to the town centre.  If the image and sounds stick with the poet they are more likely to connect with the reader and listener of the poem. 

We started each stanza with the phrase ‘Let Me Tell You’ and in subsequent lines built up the poem.   
I produced examples as guides to form but only as a guide each young poet free to bring their own observations and feelings about their environment to fruition in their own form and in their own poem.

MY STRUCTURE EXAMPLE

Two different ways to write the stanza—you can use both but if using both try to use different images in each.  

1— one image and write about that only to develop thoughts.     

2— A series of images—one per line. 

Try to write no more than 4 lines per stanza

SHOPS ETC  (inc all buildings)

1-  Let me tell you about                 
     A clock with four faces
     Hands pointing
     North, south, east and west.

2---Let me tell you about
      A clock with four faces.
      Hotel keys crossed but lost.


OTHER

1--Let me tell you about
     Cobbled streets
     Like a range of tiny mountains
     Crossed by Gulliver feet.

2--Let me tell you about
     Cobbled streets.
     A song of voices.

FINAL STANZA

Let me tell you about
A place
Where past and present and future meet.

Back in the classroom we discussed how to finish your poem by bringing your observations and feelings together in a final summoning up stanza.  The above again was only an example.  The pupils didn’t have to sum up if they felt it didn’t suit their poem.

I had a final session visiting the schools and listening to works in progress and offering feedback where I could.  It was just a joy to listen to the poems.  They read their poems exceptionally well with a real feel for the words and for what they had captured in those words.

The resulting poems are an incredible variety of observations as said anchored in a moment in time but through rhythm and image reverberating back through history as well capturing the present. 

Those poems are now published in a magnificent looking booklet.  I’m very privileged to be included.   

This is my poem.     

DISCOVER KELSO     TOM MURRAY

      Let me tell you about                 
     A clock with four faces
     Hands pointing
     North, south, east and west.

    Let me tell you about
    Yellow coated workmen
    Shaping the present
    From the past.

   Let me tell you about
    A car park of cars
    Resting between journeys.

    Let me tell you about
     Cobbled streets
     Like a range of tiny mountains
     Crossed by Gulliver feet.

    Let me tell you about
    A place
    Where past and present and future meet.




‘Discover Kelso’ not only involved primary schools but Kelso High School as well. 
In part two of being involved in the project I visited the High School to work with first year pupils and teachers in the English department on their poems.
 
This involved a session with one class at a time on poems they had already started in class where I offered feedback and suggestions on how they could develop their ideas further.  Again the imagination and feel for image and words was evident throughout.  
It is hoped that some of these poems might be exhibited during the summer in Kelso.

A huge thanks to all the young poets, the teachers and the staff of all the schools involved.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt I got so much out of it by working with the young poets, teachers and schools.

Also big thanks to SBC Creative Learning Team within Arts Development in particular Kelsey Jubin for her fantastic work on the booklet and for asking me to participate.

‘Discover Kelso’ is a partnership project between Historic Scotland, SBC Environment and Infrastructure and SBC Creative Learning Team within Arts Development. The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Borders Council.

More information regarding Kelso THI can be found on the Scottish Borders Council website www.scotborders.gov.uk