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As well as the free online poetry resources mentioned in previous blog posts, there are also multiple examples of poetry OER.  these are teaching and learning materials which have been licenced for reuse and repurposing under a creative commons licence  For more information on OER – or open educational resources – visit A good starting point for poetry OER is the OER Commons website at The keyword ‘poetry’ returns over 200 links at

Another option it to key poets and poetry into YouTube or TeacherTube.

Make Google your best friend this Christmas.

The classics can wait. Make poetry fun.

Government funding of £500,000 to promote poetry in schools sounds fantastic. Spending it on a new national poetry recitation competition for 14 to 18-year-olds has potential. But asking students to memorise and perform a poem such as Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold, Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley or anything by Shakespeare will not help young people to engage with contemporary poets or poetry. Most of all, it isn’t encouraging them to explore writing poetry and learning the art of maximum expression in the minimum number of words.

I haven’t seen the list. Benjamin Zephaniah may be there, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy or anyone of the recognised poets from the past 50 years would be good. But associating poetry with lines like ‘Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain’; is removing it from every day language and disguising its potential for relevance. The classics can wait. We need to make poetry fun and culturally defunct English is not the way to do it.  Teenagers to recite Ozymandias off by heart in schools

Letting the noise of thinking subside

Chase Twichell writes poetry and practices Zen. In No Imaginary Fences, Twichell compares zazen and poetry saying they might seem to come from different planets, since one is languageless and the other expressive, but both are primarily concerned with the quality of attention one pays to the world.

‘In zazen, we sit without moving and study, without judgment, what the mind does. The mind is very, very busy! It dislikes silence and stillness. It thinks, and thinking gets in the way of seeing things as they actually are, free of all of our associations and distractions. To me, writing poems requires the same kind of concentration, and the same patience, to let the noise of thinking subside.’

Sometimes poetry sneaks in when you least expect it. The chosen words are more than the sum of their parts. The gestalt of a poem is not constructed. It arrives, using the words as its bridge. The task is to make the best possible choices for that bridge. Letting the noise of thinking subside might seem like the wrong direction; writing is an act of doing rather than not-doing.

Twichell has an answer for this.

It’s said that poetry goes where prose can’t, and I’d add that Zen goes where poetry can’t. But poetry gets closer than anything else.

This short video A Day in the Life of a Zen Monk includes the practice of zazen.

Letting something creep, crawl, flash or thunder in…

Dylan Thomas

I suspect everyone has a different answer to the question of poetry and each answer would be valid. Resonance has no monopoly. I like the description given by Dylan Thomas. There are several versions of its origin online.  I don’t know which one is true so am breaking academic law and quoting without reference. It feels strange to do so!

‘You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it technically tick, and say to yourself, when the works are laid out before you, the vowels, the consonants, the rhymes or rhythms, ‘Yes, this is it. This is why the poem moves me so. It is because of the craftsmanship.’ But you’re back again where you began.

You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in.’

The sense of a poem tapping into a universal truth like an archetype or some other manifestation of the collective unconscious is often referred to. Poems need spaces which can bring different meanings to different people. Back where this began; poetry is individual and part of the success of a poem might be measured by the number the people it resonates with.

Simon Armitage – free ‘Poetry Testing Kit’

Simon Armitage poem on stone

Image from the Stanza Stones project, a 50 mile upland walk from Marsden to Ilkley visiting the Stanza Stones carved with poems by Simon Armitage.

On the Poetry Book  website Simon Armitage takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes for solving the mystery of the difference between poetry and prose. The Poetry Testing Kit offers ten guidelines for identification of a poem with the proviso it  will never be an exact science. That’s ok. If it were, the magic would be lost and the mystery is part of the gestalt of the poetic form.

These guidelines are useful indicators for developing the necessary skills to turn plain words into something really special.

 Poetry Testing Kit 

The Eye Test – How does it look on the page? Has some thought gone into its shape? Does the form bear some resemblance to the content?

The Magic Eye Test
 – If you look for long enough into the poem, will it reveal another meaning or picture hidden within it? Will further readings uncover further meanings and new rewards, and so on?

The Hearing Test – How does it sound? Read it out loud – does it work on the ear in some way?

The pH Test – A test for Poetic Handicraft. Does the poem use recognisable poetic techniques, of which there are hundreds? Are the techniques subtle, or do they poke out at the edge?

The IQ Test – Not a test for Intelligence Quotient, although that might come into it, but a double test for Imaginative Quality and Inherent Quotability: does the poem have some sort of dream life you can respond to: does it have lines or phrases that might stick in the memory?

The Test of Time
 – Would the poem outlive its immediate circumstances? This doesn’t mean it has to be ‘classic’ or ‘great’ or have some eternal message – it might just be a case of the poem withstanding a second reading. Remember, good poems can create their own contexts, and have poetic value way beyond their apparent shelf-life or sell-by date.

The Test of Nerves – Somebody once said that a poem shouldn’t just tell you not to play with matches, it should burn your fingers. In other words, does the poem create a sensation, rather than simply an understanding?

The Lie Detector Test – Poems don’t have to tell the truth, but they have to be true to themselves, even if they’re telling a lie. Give the poem a thump – does it ring true?

The Spelling Test – Does the poem cast a kind of spell or charm? At the very least does it create a world, even just a small but distinct world, capable of sustaining human life; a world whose atmosphere we can breathe and whose landscape we can inhabit for the duration of the poem?

The Acid Test – This is the final test and the one that really counts. It’s like a test for the mystery ingredient that separates a truly great tomato sauce from its rivals. It’s the X-factor, although it might be to do with the author’s experience of poetry. Is it possible to write a good poem if you’ve never read one? Somehow I doubt it.