Monday, 30 December 2013

Finding the right worm - Misquotes, Malapropisms and Meaning

"Every time the doorbell rang the dog started baking".
Copyright Graham Rawle 1991

"I can't find the right worm!", was once said to me by a frustrated five year old who was struggling to convey an emotional response in writing. That one misplaced consonant created such a vivid picture, perfectly suggestive of the effort it often takes to find precision in language.

Recently, when Desmond Tutu asked "to hear a pin drop" it was pointed out that what we actually hear is the pin land. We all knew what he meant so does it matter? I think it absolutely does when our desire is to untangle the complexity of emotion and express it so that we are more fully and deeply understood. In these situations asking ourselves, or having others ask of us, pertinent, searching questions can be essentiallly helpful in finding precision. I doubt that Tutu would have appreciated being quizzed as to whether he meant hear the pin fall or drop. Sometimes it's fun to let the imagination work with the imprecisions, the misquotes and the Malapropisms.

When I first met my partner, one of her sayings was "the world's your lobster". Imagine the different world that would be to having it as your oyster! And so too with Mrs Malaprop's "he is the very pineapple (pinnacle) of politeness".

Graham Rawle's "Lost Consonants" appeared in The Guardian from 1990 until 2005. He cleverly used the interplay of text and image, removing one important consonant to create his comic collages. I especially like the example above, living as I do, with a dog who barks whenever anyone comes to the door. It allows me flights of fancy - what would she bake? Would she wear an apron and use oven gloves? Beyond this, I think what it would be like to perceive that ringing doorbell or knock on the door as one filled with positive possibility - maybe guests are arriving in need of pastries.

The Door
by Miroslav Holub

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there's
a tree or a wood,
a garden,or a magic city.
Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog's rummaging.
Maye you'll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.
Go and open the door.
If there's a fog
it will clear.
Go and open the door.
Even if there's only
the darkness ticking.
Even if there's only
the hollow wind,
even if
is there,
go and open the door.
At least
there'll be
a draught.

Back to the frustrated five year old.
"Then just tell me about it", I responded.
And she did with perfect fluency.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

One Last Leaf

A few days ago I was working on the fourth floor of a building and feeling cut off from the world outside. I happened to look out of the window and see in the distance a tree with one last leaf clinging to its otherwise bare branches. I was struck by the mutability of leaves. I thought about which leaves let go and which cling on until the last, bearing the buffeting of the wind.

Losing leaves is a tree's strategy to survive.

In plant terms, senescence is an ordered and controlled series of events initiated in preparation for the tree's resting period. The final step in the process is called abscission. In response to the shortening day, hormones are produced that weaken the cells at the base of the leaf, forming something similar to a serrated edge. The wind does the rest. After abscission a protective layer of cells similar to scar tissue grows over the exposed area. The line of the abscission is also called the separation line.

So there is a tacit agreement between leaf and branch to lose and be lost.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Dwelling in Possibilities

Yesterday I completed my fifth sprint triathlon - the first one since turning sixty in March. It was just two years ago that I decided to compete in these events, after many years of fell running. My inspiration was watching the New York Triathlon in Manhattan for three consecutive years.

This is an Olympic distance triathlon that starts off with a 1500 metre swim down the Hudson River. Then it's a 40k bike ride with a 10k run to finish off. What has always impressed me is that apart  from the elite athletes, the majority of the 3000 strong entrants are "ordinary" folk of all ages and sizes just up for the challenge. There are always, too, a large percentage of competitors with one or more missing limbs who swim, cycle and run  along with the rest. I like to think that we are all dwelling in possibilities.

I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors-- Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky-- Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise-- 
Emily Dickinson 


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A Brick in The Wall

When Pink Floyd brought out their single "Another Brick in the Wall" in 1979, I had been teaching English in a comprehensive school near Southampton for three years. Anyone who had known me as a student in my grammar school in the Rhondda, would have been puzzled at my carreer choice. During my time in that institution, my behaviour was considered outrageously rebellious and I spent many lessons outside the classroom door in the long, dark corridor. I hated the mind numbing conformity and the unsympathetic attitudes to anyone or anything out of the norm.To be fair, there were one or two teachers there who were inspirational  and supportive of difference. But not nearly enough. Sadly I found this to be true throughout what became a 25 year teaching career.

So it never really surprised me that I would sing as loudly as anyone else -

"We don't need no education.
We don't need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher leave them kids alone"

The precept primum non nocere or non-maleficence is one of the principal precepts of medical ethics. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit. To put my own spin on this, I like to think that as a teacher I "did the least harm" and hopefully did quite some good most of the time. Institutions rarely bring out the best in anyone - I suspect many of us are survivors of an education system that forced us to attend and then punished us for being present, in the real sense of the word.

I would like to thank Andrew,who contacted me today to say he enjoyed my blog. Andrew, now a writer, is a former student  of mine at that first school I taught in. He inspired me to write today as, he said, I had once inspired him. My huge relief is that neither of us were or ever will be bricks in the wall.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Poetic Forms

a Container for Creativity


A four week online poetry and creative writing course

exploring poetic forms


This exciting new course will provide the opportunity to:

·        Extend your knowledge of poetic forms

·        Explore how other writers have used poetic forms

·        Experiment with using poetic forms

·        Share your work and ideas with other writers


All resources included, as well as regular writing prompts and detailed feedback of your writing.


Cost: £35

Led by: Jill Teague – writer, Certified Poetry Therapist, creative writing facilitator


For further details contact –

Monday, 11 February 2013

Want to know more about Poetry Therapy ? - Radio Interview

                 I will be guest speaker on Calon FM on Tuesday, February 12th , 12-2pm 

on the Community Focus show presented by Dave Williams.

I will be talking about Poetry Therapy - how I discovered it, its process,training in Poetry Therapy and how I use it in my own facilitations, workshops and courses.

Calon FM is Wrexham’s own community radio station.You can tune in on 105FM if available in your area or listen online via their website 


I hope you can join me.