Why do we think that the unit or the selection of topics will be interesting?
Poetry helps us understand and appreciate much more than the usual normal mundane and daily lifestyle or things around us. It can be deep, meaningful, silly or relaxing. It’s an art form of self-expression by words. It can be presented in many formats and it doesn’t always follow conformity. A good poem can make you feel sad, angry, delighted or make huge belly-laughs in just a few sentences. They can bring civic pride. They can symbolise unity and they can mark resistance. From my early discovery of poetry through comedian Spike Milligan and Now That Days Are Colder (Bowmar Nature Series), a certain Eric Carle and his hungry insects, poetry has reached out to me and worked its way into the very fabric of my skin. I enjoy a bad rhyme or Limerick but take deep meaning from tragic poetry like Paul Celan’s Todesfuge (translated from German as Black Milk). I do of course come from the city of Manchester, famous for Dr John Cooper Clarke, JB Barrington, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Lemn Sissay and Argh Kid. We also have Jackie Kay on loan from Scotland and deployed in Salford. This is the place.
What do students already know, and what can they do?
I guess students have experienced poetry via movies, traditional primary school texts (Chinese or English), and other exposures through popular culture, perhaps even advertising.
Are there any possible opportunities for meaningful service learning?
Linking in with poets via online interviews or guest appearances in our classroom may be possible. As a class the potential to collate a poetry book from favourite poems, created examples and so on will be possible.
How can we use students’ multilingualism as a resource for learning?
The possibility of translation, interpretation and analysis opens a few doors.
Do you recall Kim? Before her Evangelia. Wasn’t there a Jayne too? Nikki wasn’t too quickly. Shirley not? Wendy house? Didn’t you once meet unrequited love? You said you wouldn’t carry on or try again. But, you did! And, who now? Who do you fancy? Is it that Nancy? Or Daisy who drives you crazy? Or Spring, Summer or Autumn? The seasons of choice? Dance with your dreams.
Do you remember that Karst mountain? It rise from the ground like a camel’s hump. You said to yourself it was the most beautiful mountain you’d ever seen. And then you set eyes on Everest. Then Ama Dablam. Then Annapurna one, two and three. Fishtail Mountain. Snowden again and again. Always Winter Hill, but forever dreams of new peaks unseen.
You said you wouldn’t read after Jon Ronson. Wasn’t Jurassic Park the book to end all books? Then Airframe, the Animals of Farthing Wood should. The Jack Reacher series could. Ian Fleming gave you the spy that ended all spies. Pages of love, lies and cries. Yet, you close your eyes and there’s no disguise. Your bookmark never hides.
Back in the day wasn’t Ghostbusters always your favourite? Gremlins and Goonies, two you’d never forget. Watching Jaws, again, without regret! 007 live and let. Leslie Neilson going on and on, I bet. Movies like Gemini Man and iRobot to watch once – no fret. The minds eye full of Skynet.
Things are said one day. Things come and go away. With each passing birthday I say, never betray your display of child’s play. Each day we find a way to convey the driveway of life. Hooray! The outlay does not outweigh what we repay on our stairway to our breakaway. Fly like a bird of prey.
Written in January 2020, in Nepal, on a notepad. Before COVID-19 became annoying.
Treasure! Treasure, I tell you! Jewels of the ocean sent over seas and up the river! Landed to me! Inspirational treasure! Oh, how delighted I am! For my gold, has such value untold. The treasure is the warmth of thoughts shared. To be unforgettable. To dream the unknown future foretold. Tell me dreams. Are you with me? Are you for me? Oh, your unforgettable embrace. My heaven. My dream. One day, I hope you shall return. Until then, I have my treasure. The greatest treasure, however, is your heart and soul. My memories. You are the treasure I seek.
Condolences to the family and friends of Sean Lock, British comedian, writer and TV star. Ever since seeing 15 Storeys High starring writer Sean Lock with actor Benedict Wong, I’ve been hooked on this charming word-loving comic genius. His panel show appearances, stand-up comedy and writing for other top-notch acts will be missed.
Creating from destruction; removing from construction; stripping away from old walls to create new ones; shredding parts to create hearts; the caterpillars may be very hungry, but the leaves no longer are.
Actively inactive, sessile rhythms; Emerging from darkness into light; Gone are many legs, now wings to fly high; Dietary changes, decreased yet increased ranges; Seek food, partnership, courtship and repeat.
In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.Hope.
What a wonderful place to be. What an excellent team to see. The beginning of another school year. Facing it without any fear. Confident in the team founding. Faithful to the conditions surrounding. The seasons and reasons full of hope. To the next climb we have our rope. Up the mountain and down the hill. Great days we have to fill. To the team, teachers, staff and all: Let’s go have ourself a ball!
Thank you for these days. May every moment be full of rays. We’re going to change many a mind. New roads we can find. Values and morals we can teach. Making new avenues in reach. Guiding one another with the other. Father, sister, friends, mother and brother. The family are invited together. This new week brings bright weather. Thank you all for sharing all you know. You’re the community I want to grow.
Is it guilt biting away inside my gut? Am I but a projection of unfinished business? I wander far and wide searching but seldom finding. I stumble. I fall. I get up again. I dream by night. I dream by day. I dream to find that elusive other way.
Do I know the answers are deep in side me? Do they hide behind a cloud of misjudgment? Are they tucked under a rock of class hope? How do I drill down into the well of dreams? I so very much want to mine them.
Hope arrived on a wind of change. As soon as it came, it departed. In the blink of an eye the Universe unravelled and left me praying for more. I know it will come, yet insecurity claws away at my dearest hope. Did I let my guard down too soon? Would it be better to burrow down into the cold earth and hide my heart?
Yet the moon rises after sunset, and the sun rises the next day. Sometimes the moon sneaks into daylight. There’s rarely a day without one or the other. One as a heart. The other as a mind. Both giving energy. Both giving freshness to the day. The winds of change and the light of belief.
Here I stand. You’re out there. I know it. You know it. We both want it. We both need it. It beats from hearts into the air and through all it passes. The message is clear. Have not one fear, for you and I are here, my dear.
I turned my lights off to love and you found the switch.
I closed the door to my heart and you found a key.
I abandoned love’s hope on and an island and sailed away. You brought it back to me.
I gave up on wanting a family, for fear of hurt and pain. I pushed away advances. I drove away desire. I kicked out at compliments, flicking them away into the darkness. Until I met you.
Everything will happen spontaneously, that is our heart guiding. I know because your heart spoke to mine.
I know not all can be certain, but I am certain. I feel certain. I know it. It can be. It should be. Connect with me. See what I see. Feel what I feel. Taste the sweetness and long to listen to the beats of our hearts. Beating. Beating fast as one. Beating as our smiles beam brightest. Beat with me. Beat on and on.
The future can be anything we write. Together with our pens and our pencils and our hearts.
I won’t tie you down. I won’t make you change. We can find a balance. If we are to be.
Be the butterfly, free to land in a hand. The hand not clasped. Free to fly. Free time stay. Free to be together. Free to be apart. Endlessly together, somehow, somewhere.
The sky is sending you my hugs. On the breeze. The wind gently blows our words to and from our ears.
Our circles, where family is not present, can be filled. Ain’t that the truth? Friends and hearts as gap fillers, ever reliable.
Thank you for opening, thank you for telling me your heart, thank you for everything you have done for me. Thank you for finding my hope.
Until we meet again, every night I will turn off the moon and dream sweetly.
Salvador Dali has nothing to do with the Yunnan city of Dàlǐ (大理). The draw to Dali has been the art district, cycling, the coffee and cafe culture and my friend Echo. Also, wherever I’ve been in China, everyone mentions the comfortable weather of Yunnan.
Echo or Eck published a poetry little picture book recently. She’s made her nomadic home in Dali. Here she’s honing her artistic talent, existing comfortably and living happily. I dropped by (via Guiyang and Kunming) from Chengdu, Sichuan province to say hello. I told Echo I’d arrive on Sunday but Saturday afternoon, walking by the Terra coffee shop seemed as good a time as any. Yunnan is great for growing coffee and Dali has no shortage of coffee shops.
A good old chinwag and catch up preceded a walk through the ginnels of Dali’s ancient old town to a door in a wall. The door was open and smooth tempting beats were gently rolling out. Ducking below the low entrance, an Old-styled yard with greenery and tables greeted us. Echo’s friend (or should I say complication?) Yali and his brother were serving up delicious pizzas. The pomegranate tree nodded towards the range of locally-produced liquors. Here Echo introduced me to Myrtle Bee, a girl named QiéZi (茄子 or eggplant/aubergine). There were several others but my recollection for names had by now been overwhelmed.
Meanwhile my mouth had been delighted by a cream cheese and tomato pizza, followed by a further shared pizza with zucchini and deliciousness on top. The pesto dip was a smart move. A side salad featured a baked cheese and rocket lettuce. It was a bit too salty for my pallet, but overall very tasty. The funky beats faded and a disappointing bar called King Cat followed. The music wasn’t my cup of tea, but it saved wading through deep puddles and high-bouncing rain. After a later than expected hour, I arrived back to the Jade Emu China Australia International Youth Hostel, only to find my swipe card to enter didn’t work. The matter resolved itself and I slipped off into dreamland.
I didn’t need a sign for Cāngshān (苍山). The imposing green and cloud-kissed range of peaks. The Didi taxi driver from Dali railway station to the hostel had given ample chance to view the waving weaving green peaks. So, with a late rise and a belly full of good food, I set out for a waterfall recommended by a friend. On passing a set of small waterfalls, I headed up a track made by goats or sheep or possibly very narrow humans. The steep track disappeared and I soon found myself jutting between soft earth, trees and huge fluffy plants. By which stage I’d reached a ridge, with a very confuddled water turbine worker, who then directed me up a hidden pathway towards the top ridge. It was a tough but pleasant trail.
The undergrowth swept away to reveal a near-hidden valley tucked between two mountain ridge lines. I wandered down, dipped my feet, watched the butterflies and listened to the idyllic birdsong. One can definitely relax when clouds cuddle the mountains above, and gentle breezes softly drift around your chest whilst your feet are in chilly flowing waters.
Once again Busa called for dinner. Their second opening night led me to catch up once again with Echo, her Yali and other friends. The waitress Hazel, from Changde, took an interest in the book I was reading. A few days later, the tatty and soggy paper back was left for her to read. Echo’s friend QiéZi invited herself to my next walk the following day. Cāngshān (苍山) once again would be the wandering space.
With little barefooted QiéZi (who is no taller than 155cm), we set out towards the Cloud Jade pathway of Cāngshān. Passing the chair lift to our left, then our right, then left again we ascended. Stopping for Pu’er tea, a coffee and a snack at a park Police point seemed reasonably normal. The local boss had her grandson playing with leaves as she served a refreshing brew to us both. We left behind the options of hospitality and wandered paths here, there and everywhere. My pigeon Chinese and a relaxed mood made the afternoon to evening a satisfying and contented ramble.
By about 8pm, after almost eight hours of moving forwards, we descended through dark shadows and paths more at home in the deepest darkest parts of JRR Tolkien novels. Emerging from utter darkness, with only the company of fireflies, seemed to take a while but the adventure was nevertheless a great day out!
The next day (which is today, now) I decided this town needs a little more of my presence. I decided for the remainder of the holiday that I’d be here or there, but not so far from Dali. Why not? A place that puts a smile on your face and opens you to the nature around it, isn’t all bad! Ian Fleming penned some of his books in his Jamaican home of Goldeneye. Perhaps a few days in Dali and I may have found my Goldeneye.
However, a few hours later, I changed my mind. Have shoes, will walk. I will keep looking for answers and smiles.
The first train from Chaka Lake station left on time. I’d spent an hour or so prior talking to a young your guide called Ethan. His tour group were busy exploring Chaka Lake. He kindly shown me the mine workers’ village and a nondescript shed that doubled up as a shop. Inside it was crammed with fresh vegetables, beers, spirits, dry foods and all the things life needs to survive. The dark shop had a big bottle of water and a bottle of lemon tea. That’s exactly what I wanted for the four hour train ride ahead.
As I went to pay, Ethan, born in Qinghai and a graduate of philosophy, beat me to it. He insisted. It’s hard to fight warmth and kindness from people at times. We sat on his your coach, complete with snoring driver, and talked about Buddhism, Confucius (孔夫子 Kǒngfūzǐ), Muslims (Hui), and harmonious people. He mentioned how one grandfather had fled persecution during the Cultural Revolution, on the advice of fellow villagers and how another had ridden his horse away from the late-World War II battlefield with Japan.
I changed at Xining for the second train. A sleeper carriage all the way to Chengdu (成都）. I awoke, still with three hours to kill, flipped open Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries and half-read, half-day-dreamed. Alighting the train at Chengdu Railway Station, I emerged into a world of grey. Concrete and aged. My first impressions lacked enthusiastic joy. I headed down to the subway for a tube train to the Chengdu South Railway Station.
I departed the station’s subway via exit C, emerging into a barren building site. I turned right, trying to find a way to the other side of the surface railway. After about a kilometre of walking, I arrived at the Skytel hotel. I checked in without trouble, then headed out for an exploration of the city’s relics.
My initial impression of the city softened. Littered with monasteries, relics and life, the city of Chengdu became a green established city with limited construction (unlike many other cities) but sadly one that has far too many flyovers and cars. I visited a monument to Zhūgě Liàng (诸葛亮), the one time legendary military leader and prime minister of Shu Han (蜀汉) during the Three Kingdoms period. From there I tasted black ice cream from a black cone. No apparent explanation could be given. The Wuhouci (武侯祠) temple was okay but the modern Jinlin Ancient Street (锦里古街) around it was heavily commercial, in a way resembling so many other cities that have tourism at their hearts. The new version of an old style street is very much a photogenic tourist trap.
The biggest draw for tourists lies to the city’s northeast. The city of Chengdu is famous for the Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Centre. It’s a kind of zoo limited to red pandas (the original panda) and a handful of aquatic birds… and Giant Pandas. The 58RMB ticket seemed a little harsh at first. Every enclosure had a sign saying that Giant Pandas can’t go outside in warm weather. For me it was no problem. For many other fare paying customers, they were angry on the border of irate.
On entering several internal enclosures, I managed to see a few scruffy Giant Pandas. Their housing having turned their white to grey and black to dirty. Usually Giant Pandas sit with their arse to the windows. Maybe to drowned out the think it on the glass by adults and kids alike. Tired looking security staff didn’t seem interested in keeping the noise down. Some opted for megaphone to make sure you didn’t stay still too long and enjoy the majestic mountain beasts.
Cameras and selfie sticks are all fair and good, but waving them around carelessly striking a Mancunian in the face will only result in an ouch and a tut. Said person then asked me to “小心” (xiǎoxin) which means be careful. It was entirely my fault to be stood still and swiped by a careless metal pole with an iPhone begging to be stamped on. But, instead I tutted. Tut!
I observed Sichuan Opera (四川歌剧院) on the way to meet a good friend Momo and also caught up with an organiser of the Dongguan World Cup for beers, a natter and midnight snacks. His former student friends were all policemen and lawyers. It was an interesting insight into Sichuanese language and culture. They were all so very friendly. Just like the Taoist people at Qingyanggong Temple (青羊宫) and Du Fu’s cottage (think Chinese Shakespeare). Most of the food I ate was not too spicy (微辣; wēilà) but often it was too oily and spicy. The midnight snack hotpot from a Chongqing boss (老板 lǎobǎn) was delicious, even though I’d ate earlier!
Sichuan pepper (花椒; huājiāo) isn’t too hot compared to Thai and Indian foods. It’s just a little more drying with a kind of mouth numbing effect. Although for one meal, passing a Scotts Fish & Chip shop I had to try it. For 110RMB, the large cod and chips with a drink didn’t disappoint at all! A huge Tibetan area by the Wuhouci temple also had my belly full far too much. Meeting Momo in Comfort Cafe (British-style) meant my two days in Chengdu featured a balanced diet of hot and bland. A good Ploughman’s is hard to find. Sorry, Comfort Cafe, I didn’t find it. The piccalilli wasn’t bad though.
Meeting a student who was travelling alone, I ended up exploring the Panda Museum at the Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Centre with Jason. He explained how he was studying to be a soldier. I didn’t ask questions. Anyway, we tagged along together and ended up going to the immersive Jurassic World exhibition. The 168RMB allowed a wander through some animatronics and simulations. It wasn’t bad and took me back to the first Jurassic Park movie and book. A highly enjoyable contrast to other cultural parts of the days in Chengdu. Chengdu is truly a modern old city with a futuristic outlook.
Next stop: Dali (after a bloody noisy train journey… or three). It’d be nice if the obese woman and her young child that is full on slobbery would stop screaming down their phones. The phone calls are not really helped by the in-out, in-out nature of tunnels and mountains. Almost everyone around them is going on mad. I’ll just tut. Tut!
Can’t you feel it? The constriction as the noose tightens and the drop comes closer. The darkness is consuming the light, casting a deep shadow over hope. The smell of victory blew away in a storm’s gust. The sound of a clock’s hands tick ever louder and the pendulum swings with urgency raising your heart’s beat to higher peaks. Chalky dry dust whips up to the lips, parched, cracked and dry in the moonlight. Will another day bring a new sunrise?