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7th April 2016

Oxley College Workshop - Reflection

By Lorin Elizabeth

Photo: Lorin Elizabeth at the Oxley College Poetree


The leaves were just starting to turn, our eyes just starting to focus. The Poetree was laden heavy with words. Oxley College in the Southern Highlands celebrates Poetry Week every year and Zohab Khan and I arrived on day one, to smart ties and fresh faces. Zohab’s moustache was a huge hit.

One of the English teachers painted single words onto smart, wooden panels. Together, the words made up Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and the completed panels were hung from branches of a sprawling playground tree. Spiraling on lengths of twine, they spun in the breeze, revealing new phrases and poems everywhere you looked.

I don’t remember ever being excited about poetry in high school but there was a definite buzz at Oxley. I think having real poets in the classroom is a really awesome way to let young people know that poetry is alive, new, relatable and sometimes helpful for figuring out your place in the world.

These were the first workshops I had facilitated since my year abroad in NYC and working alongside Zohab and The Disappearing resource felt like home. It’s a great icebreaker, to be able to offer up the app and its promise of publication to a bunch of thirteen year-olds, from the get-go.

Fifty-minute workshops are tough. You start on your favourite metaphor exercise, and all of a sudden, you’re collecting finished poems that aren’t halfway near finished but often have sparks of raw power.

We considered ideas of place, identity, time and lots (heaps!) of disappearing food.

We witnessed playful rhymes, a bunch of odes to football and environmental laments. A year-eleven student opened up about heartbreak, we experienced awesome sensory similes such as, “the toothbrush smells like toothpaste” and all the while, that same English teacher selected student poetry to add to the Poetree, for the whole school to interact with.

There’s no better feeling than having a disengaged student who only needs one moment of genuine connection to feel safe enough to enjoy the experience and create something real.

The only struggle I encountered was a very “high school” kind of struggle. I couldn’t figure out how to be as cool as Zohab! I couldn’t avoid the groans of students who had to be in my group instead of his. I guess it’s all part of negotiating the workplace and figuring out how to function alongside another poet or coworker. I have accepted the challenge and would love to figure out a way to address this issue in the classroom.

The leaves were just starting to turn, our eyes just starting to focus. The Poetree was laden heavy with words: Oh, sigh-trodden traveler/I stood down in the grassy other/the first undergrowth morning/ I made a difference.

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Lorin Elizabeth is a spoken word poet and co-founder/host of the Enough Saidpoetry slam at Studio 19 in Wollongong. She has graduated from a journalism and creative writing double degree and now spends her time learning the lyrics to rap albums. Lorin also works with young people as part of the Stand Tall Speak Out High School Poetry Slam in Bankstown and is currently running a series of special workshops with The Red Room Company... read more »

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Read more about The Oxley College Workshops here »