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Blog The Beauty Of Reading And Writing Poetry - Strength In Our Different Interpretations

The Beauty Of Reading And Writing Poetry - Strength In Our Different Interpretations

By Ian Eagleton | Guest Blog, Poetry

The Beauty Of Reading And Writing Poetry - Strength In Our Different Interpretations

Author of 'Glitter Boy', Ian Eagleton explains his relationship with poetry and how it's changed throughout his life!

My relationship with poetry is a complex one.

In secondary school, poetry was something to be wary of. The teachers would go through the poem line by line and tell us what the poem was about, and we would annotate it with the teacher’s thoughts and ideas. We were never allowed to form our own opinions about what we were reading. I remember at my A-Level Parent’s Evening my mum being told by my English teacher that I was an ‘excellent student’ but that I often had my ‘own ideas’ and wrote about things we hadn’t discussed in class.

The message was clear: poetry was something to be given to us by our gatekeepers and the notion that it could be messy or open-ended or invite discussion or disagreement was ludicrous.

I’m afraid I carried this memory into my career as a primary school teacher. I often shied away from poetry in my classes. I didn’t like the open-ended nature of just ‘letting the children write’.

It wasn’t until I saw children’s poet Neal Zetter run a poetry workshop for my Year 4 class that it finally clicked: poetry could be an extension of us. It could be messy and fun and creative! A way to allow us to reveal our feelings and thoughts about the world. For us to express ourselves freely and openly without worrying about getting something right or wrong.

Afterwards, my relationship with poetry completely changed. I welcomed the chance to let my young writers explore, create, experiment and enjoy different poetic structures and word play. I devoured children’s poetry anthologies and read everything by Dom Conlon, Matt Goodfellow, Debra Bertulis, Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Julie Anna Douglas, Joshua Siegal, Zaro Weil, Alex Wharton, Jay Hulme, and Dean Atta.

Poetry was now a big part of my reading diet, and I loved it. I loved the way my feelings towards a particular poem could change and develop, and how the obscurities that often lie within poems allowed me to think, problem-solve, enjoy, and consider.

At the beginning of Glitter Boy, the main character James is set the task of writing a poem about himself. I thought that would be a nice way to introduce readers to James’s passions, hobbies, and family life. I wasn’t planning on including anymore poetry in the book!

When my editor at Scholastic, Linas Alsenas, said that he’d really enjoyed the poem and wondered if I could make them a big part of the book, I was worried. I enjoyed reading other people’s poetry, but was worried about writing my own poems. I decided that if I were to include poems in Glitter Boy, then they had to do two things. They had to move the story along and they had to reveal something more about James, something secret and hidden.

I relished the chance to explore and write my own poems, and the pressure I felt soon melted away. I was, after all, writing poems in role as an eleven-year-old boy. They didn’t need to be perfect!

It’s lovely that so many readers have said that the poetry in Glitter Boy is a real strength of the book. I hope they provide a peek into James’s turmoil as he experiences homophobic bullying, and that they also add some warmth and humour too.

If your experiences of poetry are similar to mine, I’d urge you to pick up a poetry book again. I’d urge you to try and let go of the idea that poetry has to be understood, that it’s just an academic pursuit, that poems are there to be dissected, and that there are certain people in the world who can give us the answers and help us crack their many mysteries. Poetry is for everyone. There is no right or wrong. We all bring our own experiences when we engage with poetry, which is the real beauty of reading and writing poetry: there is strength in our different interpretations.

So cast off your misgivings, concerns, and worries, grab a poetry book and dive into wonder, magic, and adventure!

You can keep up to date with all things Ian Eagleton by following him on Twitter here! You can purchase a copy of Glitter Boy here!

If you are interested in writing your own poems but not sure where to start check out our 'How To Write A Poem' guides here!

Published: Fri 5th May 2023

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