Resources on poetry by the poets themselves

Summer Workshop

FIRST SUMMER

Here is your shadow-hand
holding the shadow of mine
as we drift along
over the grass
after a bee
or a butterfly.
You shout their names.
And here are the shadows
of your first words,
seen through the throat of a flower.

Here is a ball
bouncing away,
yellow and yellow
under the sun;
your unwrapped voice
calling it back.
Here is a sun-hat,
blue and green,
a melting cone
in your fist.
And here is a message
faxed from the heart
to the lips,
as my shadow kneels again beside yours
for a shadow-kiss.

CAROL ANN DUFFY

Carol Ann Duffy’s poem is written from the point-of-view of a mother watching her child experience her first summer. You can do TWO activities based on this poem. Firstly, write down all the things you understand about the poem and anything you might find difficult or puzzling! What do you think the mother and child are doing in the poem? Secondly, write a poem OF YOUR OWN called MY FIRST SUMMER- all about your own memories of your first summer (the first one you can remember!) with your own mother.

THE SCOTTISH PRINCE

Every summer, I visit the Scottish Prince
at his castle high on a hill outside Crieff.
We dine on haggis and tatties and neeps-
I drink water with mine and the Prince sips
at a peaty peppery dram. Then it’s time for the dance.

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting
for light. Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o’ the pipes.

All the girls are in dresses. The boys are in kilts,
but no boy’s as fine as the Prince in his tartan pleats.
I wait for a glance from the Prince, for the chance
to prance or flounce by his side, to bounce hand in hand
down the Gay Gordon line. Och, the pleasure’s a’ mine!

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting
for light. Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o’ the pipes.

At the end of summer, I say goodbye to the Scottish Prince
and catch a train to the South, over the border, the other side
of the purple hills, far from the blue and white flag, waving farewell
from the castle roof. The Prince will expect me back again
next year- here’s a sprig of heather pressed in my hand as proof.

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting
for light. Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o’ the pipes.
Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o’ the pipes.

CAROL ANN DUFFY

In this poem, a “fairytale” character- a Scottish Prince- makes the holiday destination of Crieff, in Scotland, magically special. Notice all the local details of food, dress, music and plants.

Where are you going on holiday this summer? Why not invent your own special character in a poem about the place you are visiting? Make sure to include lots of local detail in your poem- drinks, meals, plants, creatures, music...and IMAGINATION!

THE SUMMER DAY

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
The grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

MARY OLIVER

This wonderful poem by the American poet Mary Oliver (b. 1953) captures the intense happiness of a summer’s day simply by marvelling at a grasshopper. The poem doesn’t rhyme- it doesn’t need to because it is full of vivid description. We feel we are looking at the grasshopper ourselves, with her “enormous and complicated eyes” and her “pale forearms”. Use this poem as a model to write your own poem about a summer’s day. Try and make the reader see through YOUR eyes!

SUMMER IS ICUMEN IN

Summer is icumen in,
Loud sing cuckoo!
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
And springeth the wood nowe.
Sing cuckoo!

Ewe bleateth after lamb,
Cow loweth after calf,
Bullock starteth, buck farteth,
Merry sing cuckoo!

Cuckoo, cuckoo!
Well singest thou cuckoo!
Nor cease thou never now!

Sing cuckoo now, sing cuckoo!
Sing cuckoo, sing cuckoo now!

ANON, 13th Century

This anonymous poem was written nearly 700 years ago and is a much loved early English poem - even appearing as one of the famous POEMS ON THE UNDERGOUND. Read it aloud alone or with a friend...Summer is coming in! In the second verse there is something a teeny bit rude that will make you laugh!!

Try and write down a short list of summer sounds and sights for your own 14- line poem.

Which form of poem has 14 lines?

SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Find an older person to read this with! You might need help with some of the words or meanings, but you will be so pleased to have made the effort. In Shakespeare’s sonnet, as well as comparing his loved one with a summer’s day and deciding that they are even lovelier than summer- Shakespeare is saying that as long as his poem is read then the loved one’s beauty (or “summer”) will still live on, in words.

Brian Ferry (Roxy Music) has sung this poem in a gorgeous song. See if you can get to hear it!

Compare someone you know and like to a summer’s day or evening in your own new poem.

As an extra challenge, why not try to learn the poem BY HEART!