A New Sky — a National Poetry Day workshop
Try this poetry workshop and create a new sky
National Poetry Day on October 4, 2018, is all about CHANGE and what bigger change can you imagine than creating a whole new sky?
I find quite a lot of my poetry by looking up at the sky.
My first book of poetry, Astro Poetica, is full of poems about space. I wanted to write about how I felt when I looked up, what I saw, what the sky made me think about, and I wanted to explain some big things to my then five-year-old son. Big BIG things, like the Big Bang. Who’s heard of that? What is it? What does ‘infinity’ mean? Can a moon have a moon of its own?
Infinity is a big idea.
It can be the biggest,
the hardest, the longest, the
EVERYTHINGEST kind of idea
you’ll ever fit inside your head.
But here’s how it works:
just close your eyes and
think of someone you like,
then think about
You’ll laugh, you’ll play
you’ll learn something
new and then as the sun
sets, you’ll think how nice
it would be to do that again
I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I had finished writing my book, I wrote some more.
I’ll probably continue to write because the sky is full of poems. There are as many poems, telling stories, making us feel a certain way, and entertaining us, as there are stars.
Like this one about Ursa Major (the great bear):
The Great Bear (and friends)
What is it about a constellation
which causes us such consternation?
Is it that we cannot see
the very thing it’s meant to be?
For if we were to stand right there
we could not see our friendly bear
his stars are just too far apart,
we’d never know quite where to start.
So looking for that furry face
out in the darkest depths of space
is best done here upon the ground
where things will stay as they are found
where bears and twins and even fish
do their best to grant your wish.
In fact, that’s how us human folk began explaining the world around us—in poems which told stories.
People looked up on a clear night and saw patterns in the stars. Like an infinite dot-to-dot puzzle. We call those patterns ‘constellations’. Can anybody name a constellation?
There are a few which are very easy to spot. Especially at this time of year when it gets dark nice and early. One constellation is called Orion. Orion is sometimes referred to as ‘the hunter’. He’s easy to spot because of his belt—three stars equally distant from one another. If you move upwards from that then you’ll pick out his body, his club and an animal skin (which looks to me more like a bow). Orion has a sword on his belt and one of those points of light is actually a nebula. A nebula is where stars are born.
There are other constellations too. Like Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Pegasus, Draco, Ursa Major (the great bear), Ursa Minor (the little bear) and so on. There are 88 in total and many of them tell the stories of people or creatures from mythology.
And that got me thinking. What would happen if we decided to create NEW constellations? To fill a sky with the stories which mean something to us. Who would you put up there? And how? What a change a new sky would be.
The Lollipop Man
Shaped like the H
at the start of Hello
he holds back traffic
with a smile
up the sky.
With arms outstretched
like a cul-de-sac,
and mind open wide
like a fishing net,
she is the gateway
to my universe
Use your experiences
Your constellation can be based on you or someone you know, a place with good memories (like a tree you’ve climbed or the car which has taken you on holiday), a class full of friends, or a pet.
Write the details. Don’t be frightened of including a name or a place in your poem. It can help make it feel more real.
Tell us WHY you’ve chosen to make this constellation. Is the person a hero (and if so, why)?
Think about whether this is a constellation because it’s happy or sad. I might want to put my Aunty May in the sky because she was wonderful but I’d also explain that she died which makes me sad. So I might explain that whilst now she cannot be touched she is someone I can still look up too – literally! And in mythology, some people were placed in the sky as a punishment—so now’s your chance for REVENGE!
—If you enjoyed this and you are thinking 'how on EARTH can I support this young man' then why not...