Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Secret places

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Secret places have a strong attraction for many of us. It would be hard to say why. Whatever words are used to explain it, there’s always something that remains inexplicable, mysterious beyond any kind of explanation.

My story this week is about such a place. It’s a fable from China told or retold by T-ao Ch’ien. I’ve loved the story for a very long time and in fact have included it in this blog twice before in 2013 and 2015. But I’ve not previously included a haunting poem that relates to the story. I saw the poem again this week while looking for something else in one of my storytelling notebooks. It felt like re-meeting a very old friend. Written by a poet called Wang Wei who lived from A.D. 699 – 761, it captures both the beauty of the story and, for me, the feeling behind it.

The story:

A fisherman one day was rowing upriver and became so absorbed by the flow of the water that he rowed for a very long time, looking up only when he saw beautiful reflections in the water in the shapes and colours of flowers. When he looked up he saw he was in the middle of a peach blossom forest. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ How weird is that!

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Anyone who’s read A Long Run in Short Shorts, my recently self-published book, will know that synchronicities of all kinds are one of my interests. How do they come about? What do they mean?  Wowee! Thinking about two comments that arrived this week on two different postings I’d written, one last year, one this, produced a connection that made my mind go ping!

Two Comments: No. 1

The first comment to arrive was about the haunting poem, The Grey Dog of Rhu Arisaig, which I’d put into my blog of August 20th, 2016.  I’d seen the poem in a frame on a wall in Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland and, a number of times thereafter, had made it the centre of storytelling sessions with older children. Written by Roy Ferguson, the poem refers to the turbulent time of the Highland Clearances when crofters were cleared off the land by land-owners. Evidently, one of the local families that were evacuated by boat from Arisaig accidentally left behind a favourite collie dog. Afterwards, it was often said in the area that, at dusk on certain evenings, the grey ghost of the dog would appear, searching the shoreline for the family that had left it behind. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ ‘Who’s there?’

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

I’m still reading Emily Dickinson’s poems. There are an enormous number – 1775 in all – and they require pondering. Apart from the fact that their punctuation is eccentric, their meaning is often ambiguous and all the richer for that. The poem below is a story poem, which is why I decided to make it the subject of this week’s blog. It has made me think a lot about the differences between the language of poems and the language of told stories.

The language of poetry is condensed, rich in metaphor and image in a way that the storyteller’s language rarely is. Told stories have specially chosen details that alert the mind, turns of phrase that please the ear. They have momentum and also at times a kind of ambiguity that makes you wonder what is going on. But the two modes are different. At the end of the Emily Dickinson poem here, the door of the house is open. It’s early morning. The sun is just rising. But who or what has opened the door? Did robbers really come and leave it open? Or is it the sun that has opened the door, perhaps not literally but to our attention? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Word walk

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

Words are key in storytelling. They create pictures, they make you think, they open doors. So I’ve been thinking about their importance. What follows is something of a miscellany – words I noticed during the week and how and where I noticed them.

In my own thinking:Key 5 compress

I was making some notes about using props with young children and trying to work out why it’s so useful to do this. For some reason, my mind immediately focused on keys as an example. Why keys? Well, they’re everyday things, they come in different shapes and sizes, I’ve got some very nice ones in my Story Bag and keys appear in several stories I tell.

So what happens when I’m storytelling? Well, get out a key, show it to an audience of young children and ask what it could be for and almost immediately answers start coming.  It could be the key to a treasure box … a secret room … a giant’s castle …the door to your house.

Immediately such ideas come out of individual children’s mouths, the shared world of the audience’s imagination is starting to expand.

On a board outside a local café: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Haunting

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Encouraged by comments on last week’s blog – that the poem was haunting and so, so sad – I reached down my box-file labelled Songs, Poems, Sayings. In it, I found much I’d forgotten and much I felt I’d like to share – rhymes for Early Years children, chants and sayings to introduce storytelling sessions and also several other haunting poems. Here’s one of them: Green Candles by Humbert Wolfe.

P1080300Green Candles:

‘There’s someone at the door,’ said gold candlestick;
Let her in, let her in quick!’
‘There is a small hand groping at the handle:
Why don’t you turn it?’ asked green candle.

‘Don’t go, don’t go,’ said the Hepplewhite chair,
lest you find a strange lady there.’
‘Yes, stay where you are,’ whispered the white wall,
there is nobody there at all.’

‘I know her little foot,’ grey carpet said:
Who but I should know her light tread?’
‘She shall come in,’ answered the open door,
‘and not,’ said the room, ‘go out any more.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Poems can be stories too

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

My husband has been singing Scottish folk-songs. Two friends from New Zealand have just been on holiday to Scotland’s West Coast and loved it. Their trip included Oban, which is where one of my grandfathers came from. And yesterday talking with my Scottish storyteller friend, Jean Edmiston (she sent a lovely comment on last week’s blog), we talked a lot about the sense of place and how powerful it is when you’re storytelling.

A poem from Arisaig:

P1010525It must have been all those Scottish connections that made me remember a poem I once came across. It was hanging on the wall of a pub or café (I can’t remember which) in Arisaig one time we were up on that same West Coast. I wrote it down and afterwards I told the story of it and read it out to classes of children on a number of storytelling occasions. Once with an especially responsive class of ten-year-olds, we somehow got the idea of doing the poem with sound effects. I remember auditioning volunteers for all the many different sounds in the poem – the gulls, the whimper, the grey dog running. Then we performed it, me reading the words, them doing the sounds. They were wonderful. It still brings a thrill to my spine to recall it.

So this week, I’m quoting the poem in full because it’s one of the most haunting poems I’ve ever come across and so evocative of a sense of place. Also it affirms the truth that stories come in many forms, including in poems. But first let me expain the background to it’s story. According to a note that accompanied the poem where it hung on that wall in Arisaig,  it so happened that at the time of the Highland Clearances at Rhu Arisaig – and the Highland Clearances were where crofters were cleared off the land by land-owners – one of the families that were evacuated by boat accidentally left behind a favourite collie. Afterwards,  it was often said locally that, at dusk on certain evenings,  the ‘grey ghost’ searches the shore. 

The Grey Dog of Rhu Arisaig – by Roy Ferguson (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ By the Way

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

P1070773Keep a storytelling notebook? It’s a good idea. It can become a little storehouse for all kinds of odd and wise sayings, proverbs, tongue twisters, thoughts and poems. I looked in mine the other day hoping to find the words of a song I simply  couldn’t remember. Annoyingly, my notebook didn’t yield them. Even more annoyingly, I couldn’t find them anywhere else – not for ages and ages. 

And meantime? I’d so much enjoyed going back through my notebook,  I decided to pick out some of the things there for this week’s blog. I do hope you enjoy them. Even more, I hope you’ll find one or other item useful  – perhaps as part of introducing a storytelling session, perhaps as a filler between two stories or maybe simply as an entertainment, something to say over supper. 

So in no particular order (as they say on Strictly Come Dancing), here they are. And by the way, the photos accompanying them this week are of some very gorgeous art that has recently gone up on street walls near me – literally by the way.

A daft joke:

    Two old women fell down a hole. Question: How did they get out?

    Answer: One of them had a ladder in her tights. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Red

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

P1070651A note to readers is where I should begin this week.  Here it is. If any of you is in North Pembrokeshire on Friday 9th October, please come along to Castell Henllys where I’ll be doing what is described as an Author Tea – and hopefully selling some of my books.

Will there be red leaves and red berries in the lovely Castell Henllys glade, I wonder? I ask because red has been on my mind all week. Perhaps that’s because of all  the red, red leaves on the pavements round us in London. Or perhaps it was the red, red moon on the night of the eclipse? Or could it be the red jerseys of the Welsh Rugby team when they played and won against England? 

I can’t be sure. But what I do know is that just thinking about red has led to me remembering the red ears of the gleaming white hounds that accompany the Lord of the Underworld in the first branch of  the Mabin0gion, that most ancient and strange cycle of stories.  The red hounds appear there in a forest which could not have been far from Castell Henllys.

But red on my mind has also led to me remembering some very different things, for instance The Red Wheelbarrow, that extraordinary William Carlos Williams poem.  I wonder if you know it? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Small she-goat

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

P1060747Maybe you’ve experienced it too. You’re looking at something in the distance. You’re sure you know what it is – cat, man, rock or whatever – and then it suddenly dawns on you that it’s something entirely else. Well, that’s the subject of Biography, the poem which occupies this blog this week. To me, it’s very much a storytelling poem and it’s by the great New Zealand poet, Lauris Edmond, who died in the year 2000. 

Lauris Edmond had only become a published poet after raising her family, so quite late in her life. From the day I met her at the Bay of Islands Festival the first time I was a guest storyteller there, she began to become a very dear and important friend. Her fun, her charm, her absorbing love of talk, her zest for life – all were reasons why she was so loveable. Another thing I valued about her was her honesty. For instance, she was very clear about this:  “You don’t go into the arts for the money.” And the fact that she could say that so openly was something I found both reassuring and encouraging. It drew attention to the many good reasons why one does go into the arts.

So here’s the poem. As well as being full of Lauris’s imagination, perceptiveness and love of words, it also abundantly conveys her love of a good story. When one of Lauris’s daughters, Frances, wrote to me recently to ask for a contribution to  The Essential Lauris, a new book currently being put together in Lauris’s memory, I knew it would have to be the poem I chose.  (more…)