Coll the Bard's Poetry Workshops
(for Teachers and Schools)
Coll the Bard’s Poetry Workshops are about writing poetry—but in a very different way.
I work with small (no more than 12-14) numbers of children from Year 8 upwards, plus a teacher, and we work together as a group, eventually ending up with what I term a ‘Circle Poem’. Everyone is involved at every level, and the sessions are informal and relaxed.
The workshop is based around the structures of a very ancient bardic form of poetry—taken from the Welsh and Irish traditions of Taliesin and Amergin—two of the earliest and greatest of bards. I introduce the children briefly to some of the oldest Celtic poems (translated into English), and then I use a technique known as ‘journeying’ to help them uncover two images—one from their past and one from their present—to use in creating a group poem. I use the beat of a drum and my voice to relax the children and help their imaginations to go free. Kids love this because they see it as a chance to do what they’re never allowed to in class—close their eyes and let their minds drift.
At the end of the drum session I ask everyone to be silent, keep hold of their images and write them down on a piece of paper. Then I once more explain the structure of the poem we are going to create, and everyone writes just two lines, (one starting ‘I have been’ and one starting ‘I am’) which will incorporate their visions. When the poem is finished, we go round the circle and read the entire thing through—everyone’s vision finally ending up as one whole.
I have never concluded one of these sessions without a really creative, different and powerful piece of work, which all the children are extremely proud of. Here is just one example.
Sun Song—A Circle Poem
I have been a golden grain of sand, sparkling
on a sunset beach,
I am a red and orange leaf falling from the large oak tree, golden in the sun.
I have been a small blade of grass blowing in the gushing, swirling wind.
I am a great blooming rose, twitching in a gentle breeze.
I have been a watch, ticking on through time.
I am a seagull flying happily, freely through the air.
I have been a seed, useless for work and help.
I am a tree which will go, but will soon serve my purpose.
I have been some sand, the gold, smooth texture bringing you into a different world of peace.
I am a smile, something that rests on many peoples’ faces.
I have been a lock of hair of the wisest and fairest of humans.
I am a warm mist singing a tone of belonging and mystery where there is only darkness.
I have been a fallen leaf, rotting in a dark place.
I am a cloud, drifting patiently in the sky.
I have been an ember, banked and dying on the hearth of home.
I am the joyful flame, leaping through the starlit smokes of evening.
I have been a feather, clinging to a bird while soaring through the moonlit sky.
I am an angel, shining in goodness and honour, watching lovingly over the world.
I have been water in a golden pool near a fresh green meadow.
I am a violin which has been singing and dancing in a pitch-black hall.
I have been a fossil encrusted in rock, lying undiscovered.
I am a fresh spring bubbling up through the ground, surging with energy.
I have been a buffalo, alive and hunted, chased from my homeland with my family and friends, running.
I am a menace, sly and cunning, a nemesis to all that set eyes on me, hunting the once hunters
I have been a tiger, lying down with the sun sending warmth through my body.
I am a lonely pebble, one of many thousands.
© Winchester House Year 8
Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in hearing more, or discussing and arranging a workshop visit for your school. I also do readings for younger children from Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths and Coll the Storyteller’s Tales of Enchantment, or my other books.