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Power of suggestion

Poems for Refugees is a collection of poems specially written by well-known poets or nominated by celebrities. Buying the book (see information below) will contribute to The TES-UNICEF campaign to help children in Afghanistan return to school. Here, Cliff Yates suggests ways of using "Defying Gravity" in class.

Defying Gravity

Gravity is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Let go of the book and it abseils to the ground

As if, at the centre of the earth, spins a giant yo-yo

To which everything is attached by an invisible string.

Tear out a page of the book and make an aeroplane.

Launch it. For an instant it seems that you have fashioned

A shape that can outwit air, that has slipped the knot.

But no. The earth turns, the winch tightens, it is wound in.

One of my closest friends is, at the time of writing,

Attempting to defy gravity, and will surely succeed.

Eighteen months ago he was playing rugby,

Now, seven stone lighter, his wife carries him aw -

Kwardly from room to room. Arranges him gently

Upon the sofa for the visitors. 'How are things?'

Asks one, not wanting to know. Pause. 'Not too bad.'

(Open brackets. Condition inoperable. Close brackets.)

Soon now, the man that I love (not the armful of bones)

Will defy gravity. Freeing himself from the tackle

He will sidestep the opposition and streak down the wing

Towards a dimension as yet unimagined.

Back where the strings are attached there will be a service

And homage paid to the giant yo-yo. A box of left-overs

Will be lowered into a space on loan from the clay.

Then, weighted down, the living will walk wearily away.

Roger McGough (b. 1937)

A function of poetry is to make us see things differently, by making the familiar seem strange and new, as Roger McGough does in this brave and powerful poem: "A box of left-oversWill be lowered into a space on loan from the clay". In writing about the funeral, without using words such as body, coffin, funeral, and ground, Roger McGough makes the event seem strange and unfamiliar. After reading this poem with the class, get pupils to write about something without using the names usually associated with it. This encourages children to observe closely, ask questions, and be conscious of the way in which they are using language. Can they, for example, describe a football match without using the words football, pitch or goal, and describe someone brushing their hair without using the words brush or hair? Can they write about a refugee camp without using the words refugee, country, fighting or war?

Cliff Yates is deputy head of Maharishi School, Lancashire. He is the author of Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society) and Henry's Clock (SmithDoorstop), winner of the Aldeburgh poetry prize Under a special offer from publisher Vintage and The TES, for every copy of Poems for Refugees (pound;6.99 including pamp;p, available now) you buy through our special phone line, 0970 191 9932, pound;1.20 per copy will go to the TES-UNICEF appeal and pound;1.20 will go to War Child's work in Afghanistan. By contrast, only pound;1.20 will go to charity from copies sold in bookshops. Teachers and pupils can listen to an audio recording of the poem by the writer or a celebrity on our campaign web pages

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