Michael Rosen & The Poetry Potting Shed

Carmina Masoliver on Michael Rosen & The Poetry Potting Shed


Day 1

I knew there was no need to be nervous, but I couldn’t help it. I was about to meet Michael Rosen, not only an incredible poet and children’s author, but an inspirational figure who takes an active role in education. Something, as a Learning Mentor, I am interested in myself. He manages to act in solidarity with teachers, as well as enthuse that the world has as much to teach us as any classroom. With poetry, we can explore words and own them, mould them, shape their meaning. Since going on that Bear Hunt as a child, I discovered 2004’s Sad Book and I’ve decided it’s the best book you can go to when you’re feeling down, for reasons that you’ll have to discover for yourself.

After having a somewhat undesired tour of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Michael arrived and I was immediately set at ease when he joked that I didn’t look like a shadow. Pretty soon after, the first school arrived (Southwald Primary) and that was probably my favourite one of the day as I was truly amazed at some of the work they did. Their riddles were highly poetic, thought-provoking and engaging – some of them were so clever we had to give up guessing!

IMG_0458I am all colours
And then I’m none.
I’m seven for the price of one.

I see the rain,
But I can’t hear it.
When a cloud appears,
I wish the sun would clear it.

But I’m afraid of when it’s all gone
Because I want to be here
All day long.

Did you guess it?

It was a rainbow – having made a rather silly suggestion about a rainbow hearing people saying ‘I can see a rainbow’, so to redeem myself I wrote the riddle above. Still not a patch on the kids’ riddles.

Orchard Primary were next to squeeze into the shed and after a true story about the volcano of Monserrat, we found out that one of the school teachers was originally from that very place. We went on to write about the things they would take in their Volcano Bag. The aim was to focus less on objects and more on memories or specific aspects of the things they picked, such as the tang of prawn cocktail crisps. Here’s my poem:

I would take the way my legs can run in the sunshine,
the wind rushing through my hair,
when it’s not a chore, and I leap into a cartwheel.

Pack up my reams of writing,
my dreams of writing,
to do what I love every day,
to be happy,

as I throw down the roped hammock,IMG_0451
climb away to a new place,
the words be careful tucked deep inside my pocket,
with a scoff, an eye roll and a quiet smile.

I twist the ring on my ringer
to calm my nerves,
to be brave,

to be a child again,
in this new adult body,
in a new adult world.

After some nice leek and potato soup, Eastbury Secondary students clambered into the cosy shed and they listened as Michael read some of his poems and asked him lots of questions. They then had seven options to choose from, which included ‘sad thing’, allowing them a space to express their emotions and the choice to either share it or tuck it away in their bag. I decided to write about my maternal grandparents.

Their house is a slipper, I step inside
and it brings the comfort of a cup of tea.
Burgundy warms me and I squeeze

onto the slightly-too-small sofa
as my Nan animates like a TV presenter
telling us stories with a smile, laughter contagious,
punctuating her sentences with our names
Would you believe it Mark?
Andrea, do you ever find that…?
It’s got to be a genuine reeducation Carmina.
My Grandad raises up on his toes

to kiss me on the forehead,
then takes position in his armchair,
reeling of the odd joke or two.
Did I ever tell you the one
about the woman who wore a cat in her head?
My Nan potters about in the kitchen taking drink orders,
the wooden rumble if the pantry door slides open

for Hob-Nobs and Digestives. She dishes them out,
telling us to remember everything in moderation,
despite her not ever being able to make a box of chocolates
last more than one day.

IMG_0433All in all, it was a really uplifting day and I feel even more excited about my next two days in the Poetry Potting Shed. I’ve jotted down some ideas and hoping to push myself out of my comfort zone. If I say something silly about rainbows along the way, it doesn’t matter. I’m building the blocks to become more skilled in facilitating workshops and I look forward to the possibilities of creating something amazing at my own workplace. At the end of the day, Michael took on the role of a mentor, kindly giving me some advice. Possibly sensing I’m more of a planner than a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and probably more reserved than most poets who perform, I feel like he wanted to give me the confidence that I can be myself and achieve my dreams, which couldn’t be more encouraging when it comes from one of your idols. And I got some new poems out of it!