My personal revenge will be your children's
right to schooling and to flowers.
My personal revenge will be this song
bursting for you with no more fears.
My personal revenge will be to make you see
the goodness in my people's eyes,
implacable in combat always
generous and firm in victory.
My personal revenge will be to greet you
"Good morning!" in streets with no beggars,
when instead of locking you inside
they say, "Don't look so sad!"
When you, the torturer,
daren't lift your head.
My personal revenge will be to give you
these hands you once ill-treated
with all their tenderness intact.
Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy (b. 1945);
translated by Dinah Livingstone
(This is a song based on words by Tom s Borge addressed to his jailers and torturers. After the triumph of the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979, Tomas Borge became Minister for the Interior and, famously, had his revenge by forgiving them.)
This extraordinary poem was chosen for Poems for Refugees by the actress Harriet Walter. Some poems gain from our knowledge of the circumstances in which they were written, and this is one. Give your class the opening line and ask them to predict what comes next, in preparation for reading the poem. The last three lines are breathtaking; the poem demonstrates that forgiveness is a form of strength, and, paradoxically, can be the most powerful form of revenge. "Revenge" is based on Tom s Borge's famous speech. Get your pupils to write poems by adapting another text, a famous speech or an extract from a journal or work of fiction. The advantage of this type of work is that pupils will not be stuck for ideas or choice of language; their entire focus will be on how to structure the language for maximum impact.
Next week: "The Forest of Tangle" by Charles Causley.
Cliff Yates is deputy head of Maharishi School, Lancashire. He is the author of Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society) 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. For the next two weeks we will be publishing a poem a week from the book plus teaching tips in TES Teacher, and teachers and pupils will also be able to hear an audio recording of the poem by the writer or a celebrity on our campaign web pages www.tes.co.ukafghanistan