So there I am with my unruly pack,  in the library,  to read. Yeah right!

A handful of serious readers are face-planted in their novels. The rest,  the other 22, form clutches sprawled around our awesome student friendly reading room. Here three boys each have a copy of Guinness World records and they share bizarre facts,  a competition to see who can find the grossest recorded fact. They’re engaged,  all good.

Over there two students are doing some strange yoga or getting comfortable, too early to tell. There five students are draped over the comfy floor cushions,  giant multi-coloured squashed marshmallows. They’re reading magazines and graphic novels. One student is going the extra mile and reading his book upside down, a copy of “Where’s Wally?”.

Two girls are cocooned in the reference section, almost asleep. Lucky them!  Then there are the boomerang gang. They keep coming back with new ways of testing my ingenuity and patience.
Fancy a game of poker with us?  Tom winks while dealing to Steve.
I’ll show you a trick sir,  then we’ll read,  ok?
I say okay like it’s my decision. The trick is good,  really good but I don’t say wow! Not yet.
One more? Tom says.
One more, and tell you what,  I’ll read to you. Deal? I ask.
Deal! They echo in unison.

True to their word they do the trick, make the queen of hearts reappear, drop the cards into the plastic box and lok at me expectantly.

Tom, you’re the musician, beat-box for me I say. I happen to have my poetry anthology open at an Emily Dickinson poem, should be interesting to say the least.

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Tom begins a rhythmic tapping of the table, sounds his tchook, tsk, pututt …

                                               Because I could not stop for Death –
                                               He kindly stopped for me –
                                               The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
                                               And Immortality

I’m more shocked at how well Dickinson lends herself to rap than the sudden attentiveness of students. We do another stanza and another and now i’ve created more noise than all of the students i’ve been shushing since we arrived. Somehow it seems ok. I page through my anthology screening lines for rhyme. Lord Byron …

                                                             And thou art dead, as young and fair
                             As aught of mortal birth;
                                                               And form so soft, and charms so rare,
                             Too soon return’d to Earth!
                                                              Though Earth receiv’d them in her bed,
                              And o’er the spot the crowd may tread
                                                                                      In carelessness or mirth,
                              There is an eye which could not brook
                                                                           A moment on that grave to look.

It’s a revelation, I think I get rap! It’s awesome! I feel like a kid discovering sherbet for the first time. I have a selfish thought, if they’ve learnt nothing, stuff it – that was amazing.

Soon it’s time to pack away and on their way out two girls are jiving to a line of Byron while Tom slaps Colin’s head in lieu of a table.
Thanks for the lesson sir, they shout after me…

Thank you all I reply.
On the way home I’m rapping the witches scene from Macbeth
fair is foul
and foul is fair
Hover through the fog
and the filthy air…

staccato beats on the steering wheel, foot tapping, in minutes my heart rate is up and and I’m smiling wide, this has got to be good for me. Does this mean I’m a bro in the hood? Too far?

poetry, rap, Teaching

The day Dickinson got rapped

Emily Dickinson lends herself very successfully to rap, it’s a revelation to me.

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