This week something different again. I have asked Patricia M Osborne to talk about her poetry conversation, Sherry and Sparkly (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2021), with fellow poet, Maureen Cullen.
Thank you, Nigel, for inviting me on your feature to talk about a poem from my co-authored pamphlet Sherry & Sparkly. It’s not often you’ll find me writing narrative poetry from life experiences; however, I made an exception when Maureen Cullen and I came together in poetry conversation for Sherry & Sparkly. Here we draw on memories from childhood to the millennium.
My chosen poem is ‘First Day at Junior School’.
. I chose this one because it shows what corporal punishment was like in schools during the early sixties. Even, as in my case, if a child hadn’t actually done anything wrong. The poem recalls my class teacher when first going up to Juniors. Miss Evans (that wasn’t her real name) was all smiles but underneath she was barbaric. I can still see her now. Dark hair just below the collar and flicked under. ‘Yes.’ She’d smile. ‘Of course you can go to the toilet but…’ She’d pick up the rulers. ‘You know what happens when you return?’
Therefore, we could go to the toilet during lessons but knew on our return there would be a price to pay. Now this may (note the may) have appeared reasonable if a child hadn’t bothered to go to the toilet at playtime but if a child had a weak bladder, particularly during the cold weather, this didn’t seem fair.
As it shows in the poem, on the return to the classroom, Miss Evans would pick up two wooden rulers from her desk, not the thin ones used today but those old thick ones. The child would hold out a hand and she’d rap their palm with the rulers at least three times.
I remember sitting in the chair trying hard not to ask to go to the toilet because I knew what would happen afterwards. I was a quiet, well-behaved seven-year-old but was still subject to these punishments almost every day while I was a pupil in this teacher’s class.
The punishment would not only occur if a child wanted to go to the toilet but also if they hadn’t finished their work. I remember one day she lined up the whole class, probably close on forty pupils, and slapped everyone in turn.
The rest of the pamphlet recalls memories starting from a young child, through to the teenage era, becoming young brides, young mothers, and then finalises with snapshot memories from the late nineteen fifties through to the millennium.
All proceeds from copies bought direct from the poets of Sherry & Sparkly will be donated to Cancer Research.
Next week read my review of Sherry and Sparkly.
Unmuted, the latest collection by Nigel Kent is available NOW for £7 + P&P (£1.90) UK only, for more details, including how to order, click here and message him using the contact form.