Carol Ann Duffy, Singing and Pastor Niemoeller

08 Oct

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK and the BBC have been celebrating with poems throughout the day. One of the first poems I heard this morning on the BBC was this favourite, much loved  by all those who have been 10 years old and by all those who recognise a 10 year old that they have known – a delightful evocation of that final year of primary school and the transition to being just a bit more grown up – and maybe learning things you weren’t really sure that you wanted to know. It reminded me so much, not only of my own top year in Primary School at Bosvigo in Truro but also of the six years I taught the top class, the 10-11 year olds, at Plover Primary School in Doncaster.  Those were such happy days full of fond memories.

In Mrs Tilscher’s Class

You could travel up the Blue Nile
with your finger, tracing the route
while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery.
Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswan.
That for an hour, then a skittle of milk
and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.
A window opened with a long pole.
The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.
This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweetshop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
Mrs Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found
she’d left a gold star by your name.
The scent of a pencil slowly, carefully, shaved.
A xylophone’s nonsense heard from another form.
Over the Easter term the inky tadpoles changed
from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs
hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce,
followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking
away from the lunch queue. A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared at your
parents, appalled, when you got back home.
That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs Tilscher smiled,
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown,
as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.

Today was my first time back at singing with The Suitcase Singers and it was just wonderful. How one’s spirits can be lifted by singing in harmony with other voices! Our lovely Choir-babies were there being very busy and a new baby has arrived while I’ve been away. Welcome, little one.

Two of our Choir-babies

Two of our Choir-babies

I asked the lovely Mr Smith for a poem for today that he would like me to include in today’s blog. Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas was one considered but he came to this one after lots of discussion and thought. We have had this postcard on our noticeboard in the kitchen for years.

First they came....

First they came….


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5 responses to “Carol Ann Duffy, Singing and Pastor Niemoeller

  1. Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 10, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Strange to think that poems become so imbedded in who we are, but they do, they absolutely do. Even snippets cause a whole flood of memories, thoughts that stay with you all day long…Nice to have a national poetry day.

    • mybeautfulthings

      October 11, 2015 at 7:17 am

      Yes,it is. There were poems on all day between programmes and whole programmes devoted to poetry. Which poems are imbedded in you? 🙂

  2. calvin

    October 9, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Thank you for the word art. And glad to hear the swallow has returned to her peeps. I won’t be around to comment for a while, am leaving in a couple hours northbound. Driving all night, so in the morning I will be surround by fall colours -nature’s poetics.

    • mybeautfulthings

      October 9, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Have a wonderful trip. I shall look forward to you reports of the colours of Fall and to your return. 🙂

  3. Don

    October 8, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I’ve always found Niemoeller’s words hauntingly disturbing.


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