Poetry and Translation

Written by: Philip Kerr, e-mail: philipjkerr@gmail.com
А teacher trainer and materials writer, whose projects include the coursebook series Inside Out and Straightforward. He lives and works in Brussels.

A selection of poems that could be exploited for classroom use.

Yellow Butter

Yellow butter purple jelly red jam black bread
Spread it thick
Say it quick
Yellow butter purple jelly red jam black bread
Spread it thicker
Say it quicker
Yellow butter purple jelly red jam black bread
Now repeat it
While you eat it
Yellow butter purple jelly red jam black bread
Don’t talk
With your mouth full!

Mary Ann Hoberman

My Teacher

What’s wrong with my teacher?
Does he shout too
much?
Does he give you too much
homework?
Does he keep you in too
long?
Does he actually like
you?
Suddenly it dawned on me,
He
picks
his
nose.

Deepak Kalha

Wasps

Wasps like coffee.
Syrup.
Tea.
Coca-Cola.
Butter.
Me.

Dorothy Aldis

The Dog Lovers

So they bought you
And kept you in a
Very good home
Central heating
TV
A deep freeze
A very good home –
No one to take you
For that lovely long run –
But otherwise
“A very good home.”
They fed you Pal and Chum
But not that lovely long run,
Until, mad with energy and boredom
You escaped – and ran and ran and ran
Under a car.
Today they will cry for you –
Tomorrow they will buy another dog.

Spike Milligan

Like A Beacon

In London
every now and then
I get this craving
for my mother’s food
I leave art galleries
in search of plantains
salt-fish / sweet potatoes

I need this link

I need this touch
of home
swinging my bag
like a beacon
against the cold

Grace Nichols

In class

by chance I glance at her answer paper
protective of her labour
my next-door neighbour
drops an accusing karate chop
across the page-top
to stop me from copying
as she writes
her name

John Hegley

Good Hope

I believe
There is enough food
On this planet
For everyone.

I believe
That it is possible
For all people
To live in peace.

I believe
We can live
Without guns,
I believe everyone
Is important.

I believe there are good Christians
And good Muslims,
Good Jews
And good not sures, I believe
There is good in everyone
I believe in people.

If I did not believe
I would stop writing.

I know
Every day
Children cry for water,
And every day
Racists attack,
Still every day
Children play
With no care for colour.

So I believe there is hope
And I hope
That there are many believers
Believing
There is hope,
That is what I hope,
And this is what I believe,
I believe in you,
Believe me.

Benjamin Zephaniah

The Lesson

Chaos ruled OK in the classroom
as bravely the teacher walked in
the hooligans  ignored him
his voice was lost in the din
“The theme for today is violence
and homework will be set
I’m going to teach you a lesson
one that you’ll never forget.”
He picked on a boy who was shouting
and throttled him then and there
then garroted the girl behind him
(the one with grotty hair)
Then sword in hand he hacked his way
between the chattering rows
“First come, first severed” he declared
“fingers, feet, or toes”
He threw the sword at a latecomer
it struck with deadly aim
then pulling out a shotgun
he continued with his game
The first blast cleared the back-row
(where those who skive hang out)
they collapsed like rubber dinghies
when the plug’s pulled out
“Please may I leave the room sir?”
a trembling vandal enquired
“Of course you may” said the teacher
put the gun to his temple and fired
The Head popped a head round the doorway
to see why a din was being made
nodded understandingly
then tossed in a grenade
And when the ammo was well spent
With blood on every chair
Silence shuffled forward
With its hands up in the air
The teacher surveyed the carnage
the dying and the dead
he waggled a finger severely
“Now let that be a lesson” he said.

Roger McGough

Best friends

It’s Susan I talk to, not Tracey,
Before that I sat next to Jane;
I used to be best friends with Lynda
But these days I think she’s a pain.
Natasha’s all right in small doses.
I meet Mandy sometimes in town;
I’m jealous of Annabel’s pony
And I don’t like Nicola’s frown.
I used to go skating with Catherine,
Before that I went there with Ruth;
And Kate’s so much better at trampoline:
She’s a showoff, to tell you the truth.
I think that I’m going off Susan,
She borrowed my comb yesterday;
I think I might sit next to Tracey,
She’s my nearly best friend: she’s OK.

Adrienne Henri

His heart’s in the wrong place it should be in the dustbin

the other night I went to see my brother-in-law for a chat
after five minutes he went and sat in the garage
after ten minutes he came back in saying
here John are you staying the night?
if that’s all right I said
then he was gone
up to the spare bedroom
to change the sheets
to put the dirty ones back on

John Hegley

This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Not waving but drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith

This be the verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin

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