Bring­ing po­etry into young lives

Central Leader - - NEWS - By STRUAN PUR­DIE

Af­ter a quar­ter of a cen­tury teach­ing abroad em­i­nent Kiwi poet Amanda Eason has re­turned home to share her pas­sion for lan­guage with Auck­land school chil­dren.

The Mt Al­bert res­i­dent re­cently re­turned from a 25-year OE where she spent most of her time teach­ing po­etry to pri­mary school stu­dents in Lon­don.

Dur­ing that time Mrs Eason has be­come a dis­tin­guished and recog­nised poet, pub­lish­ing four col­lec­tions of her own work and con­tribut­ing to count­less other books, mag­a­zines and ra­dio broad­casts.

She now wants to use that lit­er­ary ex­pe­ri­ence to teach young Auck­lan­ders the art of creative and po­etic writ­ing.

The 53-year-old is of­fer­ing schools a day of her time to run creative writ­ing work­shops for chil­dren aged 10 and older.

Mrs Eason says creative writ­ing teaches stu­dents to de­velop their voice on the page, some­thing which is im­por­tant for their fu­ture school­ing.

‘‘They will learn a skill that will help them get higher marks in any sub­ject if they have to write some­thing down.’’

Mrs Eason has ap­proached a num­ber of Auck­land schools in­clud­ing Onewhero Area School in Tuakau.

Sally Pen­der­grast is a spe­cial­ist English teacher at the school and says Mrs Eason’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a teacher and poet would be in­valu­able.

Al­though creative writ­ing is taught in New Zealand schools Mrs Pen­der­grast says it is some­times crowded out by other sub­jects.

‘‘Of­ten teach­ers teach in crowded cur­ricu­lums and so it’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to foster that cre­ativ­ity.’’

She says ded­i­cated creative writ­ing work­shops with an ac­com­plished poet could re­ally in­spire stu­dents.

Pa­tuma­hoe School prin­ci­pal Rob Gor­don is also sup­port­ive of hav­ing a poet in school.

He says the work­shops could par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fit male stu­dents.

‘‘Boys are not fluffy writ­ers – they’re gritty. Of­ten in po­etry boys can be re­ally ex­pres­sive.’’

Mrs Eason first dis­cov­ered a love for po­etry while study­ing for a Bach­e­lor of Arts at Auck­land Univer­sity.

But it was not un­til she found her­self in a small moun­tain vil­lage in Spain as a 24-year-old that she re­ally had a chance to de­velop her pas­sion.

‘‘We had five months there and there was a type­writer so I just started writ­ing.’’

Al­most three decades on she con­cedes po­etry can some­times be a hard sell but says there is more to it than sim­ply learn­ing to write.

In the past, Mrs Eason has made a point of en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to read their po­ems aloud so they de­velop the con­fi­dence for pub­lic speak­ing – some­thing she says many peo­ple strug­gle with.

‘‘When men are get­ting mar­ried, of­ten some­thing that should be the hap­pi­est day of their life is one of the most dis­tress­ing be­cause they are ter­ri­fied of speak­ing,’’ she says.

Mrs Eason has al­ready ap­proached a num­ber of Auck­land schools but is keen to pass on her pas­sion for po­etry to as many chil­dren as she can.

‘‘To de­velop the imag­i­na­tion of a 10-year-old is im­por­tant,’’ she says.

‘‘If you don’t de­velop the imag­i­na­tions in chil­dren, you can’t ex­pect to have imag­i­na­tive adults.’’


Po­etic pas­sion: With al­most 30 years ex­pe­ri­ence as a poet Amanda Eason now wants to vol­un­teer her time to teach creative writ­ing in Auck­land schools.

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