For me, the best thing about being a professional poet is not actually writing poetry. It is being afforded the regular opportunity to perform my poems to children, and to visit schools where I help them write their own. Here is a list of some of the most memorable things that I have experienced during school visits:
Experiencing a giant group hug whilst visiting a Reception class. The more I wailed “help!” the more kids joined in, and the more the teacher laughed.
The time a child told me that he lived in a buffalo. I was totally mystified, until it dawned on me later that he’d meant ‘bungalow’.
The time a child yelled out “custard man!” in the middle of my assembly performance. I asked him afterwards what he meant, and he didn’t appear to know. He simply blurted it out. This really tickled me, and I now regularly tell this story as part of my performance routine. (In the same assembly, another child asked me the bizarre question, “if you were a monkey, what kind of astronaut would you be?”)
Being presented with a ‘thank you letter’ by a group of year 2 children, in which they had spelt my name ‘Goshoowar’.
Teaching a child in Year 5 called Tyrone, who hated writing. After my visit, his teacher told me that he simply could not stop writing poetry, at break time, lunch time, and even in class when he was supposed to be doing other things. He simply had to get it out.
Teaching a girl in Year 7 called Precious, who wrote an amazing p
em about her experience as a black person. My workshop wasn’t on this theme; she simply wrote the poem in her own time and decided to show it to me. I entered it for her into a competition, where it was shortlisted.
Undertaking long-term work at Plashet School in East London. Last year I compiled a group of students’ poems into an anthology, which helped raise £500 for the charity Care 4 Calais.
Running a poetry workshop on the theme of ‘what if’. The intention was to write humorous and playful poetry, but the best thing about workshops is that students often deviate from what I expect, and come up with their own ideas (heaven forbid!). Here is a wonderful, and sad, poem produced by a boy called Giacomo in Year 6:
What if when I’m older I fail
What if when I’m older I don’t have
What if when I’m older I get lost
and become homeless
What if when I’m older my wife
and children die in a fire and my
house has gone
what if when I’m older
my body gets cancer
what if when I’m older
I’m forced to fight a war
What if I’m in Afghanistan
And get killed at a firing squad
What if when I’m older
I never get married and live alone
What if I could stay a child.
Joshua Seigal is a poet, performer and workshop leader who spends his time visiting schools, libraries and theatres around the country and beyond. He has taken critically-acclaimed poetry shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but usually ends up performing in front of his mirror, using a hairbrush as a microphone. He has managed to gain the minimal skills required to make his own website – www.joshuaseigal.co.uk.
Available from Bloomsbury Education:
Little Lemur Laughing (publishes 9th March 2017)