Practical poetry | South China Morning Post
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Practical poetry

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 June, 2010, 12:00am

The uses of poetry

Can a poem ever be useful? We know that poetry can entertain us. It can make us laugh or cry. It can change our mood and make us think deeply about something. It can be set to music and then it becomes a song.

But can a poem ever have a definite use? If something is useful, it is there for a practical purpose, and to get a job done.

Think about what possible uses a poem could have. Can you list five practical uses where a poem could get something done?

Be the difference

The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) is a British organisation that brings together different agencies working with children so that these bodies can do the best job they possibly can.

A recent advertising campaign by CWDC highlighting the role of social workers who work with children was called 'Be the difference'. In January, it won a top advertising award. At the centre of 'Be the difference' campaign was a series of poems that illustrated to the public how social workers used ordinary objects to help children and their families. Let's have a look at one of these poems and see what sort of a job it does.

A Lump of Plasticine

It's not just a lump of plasticine

It's a laugh

It's what shall we make?

It's a rocket

It's a dinosaur

It's watching an 8-year-old boy with his new foster family

It's noticing how he shares a joke with his foster brother

It's laughing when the dinosaur looks more like a horse

It's seeing that everything's all right

It's knowing he's happy with his new family

It's a relief

It's the result of two years' hard work

It's not just a lump of plasticine

It's one of the most important tools we use

A Lump of Plasticine

Read the poem to yourself and then read it out loud. Now answer these questions.

1 Does the poem rhyme?

2 How many lines does the poem have?

3 Are all the lines of the poem the same length?

4 When you read it out loud, how can anyone else tell that this is a poem and not an ordinary piece of prose?

5 Who is the person at the centre of the poem?

6 What do children do with plasticine?

a. it's modelling clay and they make things

b. they write poems with it

7 What is a foster family?

a. a family who adopt an orphan child

b. a family who look after a child on a temporary basis

8 What makes the boy and his foster brother laugh?

a. when something they are making out of plasticine goes wrong

b. when they drop the plasticine on the floor

9 What does plasticine symbolise in this poem?

a. all the different work that a social worker can do with a child

b. the foster family

10 What is the mood of this poem?

a. sad

b. funny

c. hopeful

d. forgetful

Your turn

a. Explain in a few sentences the job that the CWDC want this poem to do.

b. Do you think it is effective in doing this job?

c. What would this poem inspire someone reading it to do?

d. Can you think of other everyday objects that the CWDC could have used as starting points for other poems that would do the same job?

e. And finally ... write a short poem about how a social worker (or anyone else) can help a child in need. Start your poem off with an everyday household object.

Answers:

June 15

The plot:

Part 1: brother / throne / widow / distressed / ghost / avenge / hatches

Part 2: girlfriend / kills herself / worse / duel / poison / sword / cluttered

The characters: Hamlet 5 / Claudius 1 / Gertrude 4 / Ophelia 3 / Laertes 6 / Polonius 7 / Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 2

The truth: Denmark (England) / tragedy (comedy) / two (no) / four (six) / ghost (avatar) / drinks (eats)

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