In the run-up to National Poetry Day on October 1st, I am sharing some poems that I hope will have wide appeal. Today’s poems are by Sue Hardy-Dawson, from her 2017 anthology, Where Zebras Go. They both play with the darker edge that lurks beneath the sweet surface of fairy tales.
Readers new to this blog should be reassured that we don’t usually post every day. The impetus for this rush of posts is that our students have often asked us for ideas for poetry in or out of the classroom. The good news for teachers is that children love to engage with poetry, in all its varieties. In 2018, the National Literacy Trust conducted a nationwide (England) survey of children’s and young people’s views of poetry. They interviewed nearly 3000 eight to 18-year-olds, and found that:
- 46% turned to poetry in their free time, reading, watching, or listening for pleasure
- children say writing and performing poetry makes them feel creative, and helps them express their feelings
- children on free school meals are as or more likely to engage with poetry in their free time than their better-off peers.
Read a summary of their findings here.
Ugly sister sonnet
Born plain, we pinch to watch her blue eyes fill,
Buy a cat to kill the mice that she adores.
Her trousseau and her mother’s clothes we steal,
Tear apart her exotic hand-sewn clothes.
We loathe the pretty birds that comb her hair
And sickly sweetness, just like beauty, palls.
The sunlight in her smile must bring despair
And tuneful singing soon begins to bore.
Yet we’re still haunted by her wistful gaze,
We’re jealous of her peace and innocence,
The girl who won’t take task or disobey,
Or as in past behaviour take offence.
So we all wait but no prince comes to call.
She, weeping at the grate, we at the ball.
No one wished for her
an unhappy surprise.
Ebony teeth, she’s sour thin,
eyes as dull as slush.
No man, bird or beast
flocked to her song.
One only a mother could love.
But she did not. Once, kicked
from the house of seven trolls,
she fixes her smile and sighs
for a prince’s child.
A pretty witch spies
her eating flies,
gets her to close eight eyes,
makes her sweet.
Then, wrapped in stars,
she finds her prince
and after a kiss – devours him.