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Reading poetry

We are delighted that one of our Schoolreaders, John Steele, has sent us a poem in which he explores his volunteering experience. John's observations on the 'swooping, diving, circling' of a flight of swallows will chime with many of you who volunteer in busy schools. It is not just in the avian world that youngsters go 'shooting by without pause'.

Reading John's work caused us to reflect on other poetry about reading and books; many writers have felt the urge to record their passion for books in verse, but we haven't found any other poems about the actual process of learning to read. John's description of sounding out, breaking up syllables and joining them back together ready for ultimate regurgitation is memorable and thought provoking.

John's poem, 'Swallows', is published below, and is followed by works by Dylan Thomas and Emily Dickinson which sum up those writers' wonderment at the power of reading and books.


By John Steele

I discover only later the collective noun for them is 'flight'

(obvious really) swooping,diving, circling

each an eyelid's flicker around the balcony where I sit.

Shooting without pause into a nest's entrance

secreted where a brick pillar

a fall-pipe and a slatted wooden roof meet.

Their performance lasts only minutes long

grabbing insects, feeding young.

Twice a week Year 2 children come to me

every ten to twelve minutes for me to hear them read.

Gently,respectfully,we meet the unfamiliar word

rolling our tongues around its sharp and knobbly bits.

'Break it up' say I, 'into bite-sizes;

chew it and regurgitate it'.

And after a while out it plops on to an empty page - mangled.

We look at it, pick it up,stick it together - and pop it back in!

Notes on the Art of Poetry By Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sandstorms and ice blasts of words, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights, splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which were alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

There is no Frigate like a Book By Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry. This Traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of Toll; How frugal is the Chariot That bears the Human Soul!


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