Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Alienation by Siobhan Harvey

is the march of students into class,
      the closing of space around them
  like a retracted wing.

is ornithology for beginners:
      Today’s lesson is birds, the teacher says;
           and how the children squawk.

is uncertainty:
      What birds do we know? the teacher says;
            and how words and ideas flock
   hungrily into Cloudboy’s mind.

is eagerness to impress:
           Geese, Miss, cries Cloudboy;
    and how he goes on, In Historia Animalium, Aristotle said
           Barnacle Geese emerged from shellfish like phoenixes
    from fires.

is the mouth of a river:
     No, New Zealand birds! the teacher remonstrates:
         and the liquid bubbling cry of it.
the call of a bittern, the cry of a tern …  

is the unwillingness to give in:
     Moa, miss, Cloudboy perseveres.

is cultural confusion:
     What's a Moa? the teacher asks.

is an argument which can't be won:
     It lived long ago, Miss, Cloudboy says, like the dinosaurs;
                 and the teacher's reply, Not dinosaurs! New Zealand birds!

is an arm small as a wing:
     how a girl raises her hand; 
                   and how the teacher nods
                                    at the child's answer, Blackbird, Miss. 

is an open window:
     how Cloudboy turns towards it, the freedom
                    beyond glass, the knowledge
                                     of air, the gravity birds defy. 


A stunning poem from Siobhan Harvey's powerful new collection Cloudboy about her son who is diagnosed with autism. She writes from the point of view of Cloudmother. I review it on Beattie's bookblog.

Here's a quote from the review:
....  the character of Cloudboy snuck up on me. With him came his abiding curiosity for how things work, his passion for finding out, his genius for understanding (his subjects: Nephology, Astronomy, Ornithology and goodness knows what else at the age many are learning to write their names) and his perceptive mother. And we see this wisp of a boy go to school, and watch aghast at the way school tries to make him more boy than cloud, and in so doing breaks the heart they don’t seem to know is there (‘such softness’) ....
Siobhan's poem posted here with permission. 
Do check out Tuesday Poem hub with a wonderful poem by Emma Neale. 


Helen McKinlay said...

I really appreciate and like this poem for what it tells us about the big bogey of imagination when contrasted with conservative educationalists...I feel sad for the teacher in it who misses out on so much...I read it to my writers group yesterday and they were moved by it too. And that blackbird...that's a nice touch. I am looking forward hosting Siobhan on the Tuesday Hub soon. :-)

Michelle Elvy said...

Absolutely wonderful grace and rhythm and truths in this poem. I love the Siobhan's poetry scrutinizes and examines and speaks with such love and empathy -- a cry for saying YES to imagination, YES to freeing the mind, YES to being unafraid.