Debbie and Mark and Creative Writing

In reviewing recently the excellent theoretical and practical teaching resource Making Poetry Happen – Transforming the Poetry Classroom here, I singled out one chapter by Emma Beynon, Engaging Invisible Pupils through Creative Writing.

I subsequently came across my poem Debbie which I will post at the end of this brief introduction. In Benynon’s chapter she references a Write Team project funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation which aimed to engage ‘pupils who keep a low profile: invisible pupils who are quiet and undemanding’.

My poem’s subject Debbie was actually the reverse in terms of being quiet and undemanding: she was vocal and complaining and a classic disaffected student. The other person I mention, Mark, did however fit the quoted profile perfectly.

Both were liberated by their love of creative writing in those few occasions I could give time to this in their GCSE English lessons, though I also feel they were both engaged by the chance to just express themselves and have that valued – and for both this was through writing as Debbie’s voluble anger and Mark’s almost total reticence were in their separate but similar ways a block to conveying private, meaningful thoughts and feelings.

The poem dedicated to Debbie was written shortly after her sad and untimely death in her early twenties – a tragic accident – and after she had found peace and security in a job in a retail outlet locally where I would occasionally see her working and talk briefly about old times at school: again, a ‘classic’ example of the annoying [though not to me] and angry student who grew up and found a place in life for herself.

I wrote the poem after attending her funeral and talking with Mark there, who had also grown up to [without being sarcastic] talk and share his feelings. A little sentimental perhaps, but genuine in how I know creative writing had been a positive outlet for Debbie and many others like her.


The church is dark and dull
but all the pews are full
as I sit with friends from school
wrapped in our sharing spool.

She wrote poems whispers Mark
and he smiles but they were dark
as he offers what she got
from the lessons that I taught.

Yes she snarled and she sneered
and I’d no idea what she feared
so for her noises and her looks
I gave paper, pen and books.

But with goading and with guile
anger turned a fleeting smile
and in such a switch as this
are the moments I will miss.

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