I Looked and I Found

I looked and I found

first, my knees
the people I had to please
energy to tell God about my health benefits

I looked and I found

electromagnetic energy
use of marijuana
heavenly things

I looked and I found

best managers were made in my head
everything I won’t accept
spilling my guts

I looked and I found

how stressful Scripture is
who I am
all the things I had

I looked and I found

my heart could do the same in yours
a road map of how I was made

I looked and I found

family was speechless
inside of me went quiet

I looked and I found

I had no in my life
earthly things
numerous anecdotal organisations

I looked and I found

this energy cannot be seen
drug woes

I looked and I found

several purported Spirits
stress was being caused by everyone

I looked and I found

matter in science can be felt
I felt silly
I should not destroy it

I looked and I found

these traits when next to God
spinning processes reward
my Energy is Peace and Certainty

I looked and I found

second, my known spark
energy is of little consolation
how you actually purchase Creation

I looked and I found

I was seen and felt
I had been ranting to Him
material things

I looked and I found

in Creation, Energy is science trying
analyses are needed
only electricity defines who I am

Teachit [English] Revenue

My post a few days ago about Teachit’s most ‘popular’ resources mixed mild personal regret about the content/focus of those with an overwhelming support for its historical and current offering of online English subject teaching resources.

I should have then but will now recommend in particular the contributions of Trevor Millum on Poetry, whether it is to do with creative writing or study for examination. He is always insightful and engaging.

This post is simply to observe [but definitely not to gloat] that with the latest revenue I received from Teachit for the resources I have placed there, I bought a bottle of Woodford Reserve – unfortunately, I opened this prior to enjoying the England vs Ireland game last night, though there was some consolation in the quality of the alcohol over the England performance.

My ‘revenue’, by the way, is little more than the value of a bottle of bourbon, but appreciated all the same, especially if this is a consequence of the material having been of use in the classroom. The fact that I offer most of my ideas and work for free on this site is to do with the genuine urge to share for the sake of that sharing, though Teachit quite obviously presents similar of mine to a significantly wider audience.

The other point of this post is to encourage anyone reading who has tried and tested ideas for English teaching to consider contributing these to Teachit, especially with the dual prospect of its positive outcomes!



Michael Gove Still Ending Good Things

The Darkening Slopes

This post-Brexit ‘victory’ and vacuum it has created for those of us who expected a different outcome is painful, to say the least. It is also genuinely disturbing and worrying – even, I suspect, for many who voted Leave, but I don’t mean those apparent hoards who did so not imagining the consequences and who are now regretting that decision. There might be some, even many, but I think it is a fanciful idea to want there to be legions of guilt-ridden Leave voters. Those fuelled by the hatred urged through years of UKIP’s nasty rhetoric and that Farage poster won’t be crying in their comfortable sleep.

That vacuum is being filled by many other ones, and perhaps what I write here will be as empty of substance. I mean the newspaper and online and TV/radio commentaries and interview outpourings of angst and retribution and rethinkings and accusations and…..it is endless. Much is extremely articulate and convincing – for those of us wanting to hear why the country’s democratic decision was wrong – but it is too late. And all of the observations about the lies of the Leave campaign – for example the notorious £350 million per week to now go to the NHS – are meaningless because surely we all knew this at the time, apart from the morons who thought that singular example possible. Why act so outraged that politicians lied?

It will probably appear churlish considering the actual reality of our political situation as well as the existence of this preamble, but I want to turn my comments here to an observation linked with examining. I know, that sounds like what follows is going to be quite ridiculous. When I state this will be connected to Michael Gove, it could appear to resonate with EU and British/Conservative political relevance, but those in the know of my writing about him on this blog will realise instantly it is all to do with Gove’s time as Education Secretary.

Before the ‘educational’ focus: with Michael Gove likely to be the major campaigner/orchestrator of Boris Johnson’s Tory Party leadership bid, and then offered a major cabinet post as reward if successful, there is this political relevance. However, my link is to do with the quality of understanding students are continuing to demonstrate about John Steinbeck’s book Of Mice and Men as I mark their GCSE essays. What strikes me as such a pervading irony is that so many students’ empathy with Steinbeck’s care and concern for the disenfranchised and marginalised and vulnerable at the time the book was set mirrors precisely what seems to have been lacking as a similar care and concern in the demographic – that older generation, to put it simplistically but not wholly inaccurately – who voted to Leave [I know that vote is/was more complex than this: I think specifically of those who harboured a sole anxiety about ‘immigration’ and the fear-factor attached to this – like that infamous poster – above and beyond understandable concerns]. Could Michael Gove have foreseen the need to prevent a younger generation encountering and being persuaded to identify such cares and concerns in literary texts – in this case American texts – and thus had them banned from study for this reason?

Obviously not. His decision was bereft of anything other than miserable megalomania. Also, we must presume many who voted to Leave had read these very American texts in their own GCSE studies as teenagers from some years ago! Indeed, a far more relevant literary text that might teach us to care for one another in the way many of us perceive to be the philosophical and social and communal point of belonging to the European Union is The Inspector Calls, a book that hasn’t been banned. I am currently marking hundreds of students’ responses to this where they demonstrate as well their clear understanding of, and apparent agreement with that play’s theme of a shared responsibility and community spirit.

So, where has this surmise taken me and any readers? Into that vacuum, as I suggested. I think my point must be that amongst all the turmoil of these last few days post-Brexit and the volumes of reflection written and spoken already about this – to which I add this miniscule contribution [there is more on Facebook….!] – I have taken rewarding and comforting solace in the wise words of a younger generation writing in their GCSE exams as part of a larger process of hoping for a happy and prosperous and positive life in their futures. From the solid knowing to stunningly outstanding responses, I feel humbled and honoured so often by their writing. The fact that so much of this has come from writing about the closing of the book Of Mice and Men where George shoots Lennie, and that empathy I have referred to with which students understand the language and imagery and thematic touchstones, it has struck an emotive chord in these current traumatic times.

It also therefore makes me, as ever, incensed that Michael Gove is still so instrumental in ending good things.

Teachit Fan Despairs, a Little

I am a Teachit fan, the long-standing online English teaching resources site, and I have been a contributor for some time, though not supplying a huge number of materials.

I have been pleased to have an A Level English Language and Literature resource used quite a bit, though this has now come to an end as the Spec. has ceased to exist – this the last year of examination.

My other regular contributions have been ideas for National Poetry Days, and these have over the years been used – which sounds simplistic – but this is what one wants: used by teachers with their students.

I should make an effort to contribute more, though I have increasingly used this site for sharing. It is simply that the spirit of sharing  English resources on a popular and national site is such a positive one, and so practically useful.

I am, therefore, a little disappointed – though not overly surprised – to see the site’s most popular resources of late, these largely functional and certainly not the creative offerings I’d like to see. I have looked at them all in whatever detail they contain, and am not making any criticisms, either overall or specifically, though most I would not use. I have expressed similar about the most ‘popular’ TES English resources. I suppose this reflects the pragmatic needs and demands of many classroom teachers. I fear it reflects a lack of desire to be more adventurous. Here are is the current ‘Top Five’:

1. Writing to argue and persuade: techniques (23342)
2. E-x-p-a-n-d your vocabulary! (22421)
3. Spelling and punctuation game (24130)
4. Narrative bookmarks (25138)
5. Apostrophe practice (22604)

The numbers of downloads tell quite a story. It isn’t the most uplifting I have read.


Nebraska 13 – ‘Hailstorm, 1965’ by Twyla M. Hanson

This poem is by Twyla M. Hansen and she is currently the Nebraska State Poet [2013-2018]. It has a special appeal because it may be about – though I cannot be sure – the hail storm that I recall from around this time which hit, literally, my home town then of Norfolk Nebraska.

Not that I was there at the time. I was staying with my grandparents in Elk Horn, Iowa for a one week vacation in the summer. Whilst I was there, a hail storm had struck Norfolk [and if the poem is about the same event/time, it had a broad sweep] and when I returned home it was as if winter had set in: all of the leaves had been stripped from the trees in the road where my house was and as far as I can recall the rest of the town, and all of the roofing shingles seemed to have been obliterated from the houses – again, certainly on most of the those in my road.

I can’t be sure the Norfolk storm was 1965, but it seems about the time I would have been in Elk Horn [Hansen 16; me 10]. Another reason I can’t be sure is because such hail storms were relatively common [though I must confess, not to my knowledge in Norfolk, though I only lived there for about 1 to 2 years, in two different houses]. That area, and perhaps most of Nebraska/the midwestern states, were subject to tornadoes and similar – Norfolk was in a cyclonic area: this from distant memories – and so again storms were common. Indeed, in the first house I lived in there, all the downstairs rooms were slightly uneven because the house had been flooded on a number of occasions, being near a river, and I do recall my swing-set being destroyed during one heavy storm when a branch was ripped from a large tree in the garden to fall on it.

All of these storm ‘incidents’ have featured in my writing here and there, e.g. here – dramatic moments from childhood and therefore vivid memories. Thus my affinity for this poem, from Hansen’s book Potato Soup published by The Blackwaters Press:

Hailstorm, 1965

Q: What is the largest hailstone in the US?
A: There have been six reports of hailstones eight inches in diameter.
-The Weather Channel

It was the summer I turned sixteen, one brother
was soon to be married and we’d sold the farm.
I remember wanting desperately to be kissed.

Everything wavered on some kind of edge, elm trees
a graceful dome over the dusty streets. Nothing to warn,
only cumulonimbus clouds in the afternoon, intense up—

drafts, sky hazed sulfur-green, hail starting as crystalline
seeds that grew to marble-size, geometrically then,
to the size of softballs, clattering heavy against metal,

wood, glass, against the only small world we knew.
All the west windows in the high school, every roof,
field corn stripped down to stubs, lives shattered

that day by crop failure, gouges, even holes in the ground.
There had never been any guarantee. Always there is
a risk, a gamble, hard choices to make. My oldest brother

and I scooped out stones that ripped through
the ragtop of his ’62 Impala. I can’t imagine hail the size
of a melon. Somehow that day I sensed that youth

had dissipated, that through the vapor of downed leaves
and broken branches, there would always be another crisis,
and another close call, and yet there was something more out there

circling, the open road where I drove west—my oldest brother dozing
in the passenger’s seat, my learners permit in tow—eighty on I-90
toward Missoula, toward the end of what we know now as innocence.

Grandpa’s House – Santa Facial


An extension on the Grandpa’ Wallet series, this is a picture/memory I have previously mentioned I would return to describe.

It was the tradition when I was a little boy – here three years old in 1957 – to visit my Grandparents’ house in Elk Horn, Iowa, with the rest of the Carlson family on Christmas Eve. We would always return home that night to Omaha [just across the state line into Nebraska] to have Christmas morning there, enjoying another tradition of sharing a smorgasbord for breakfast/lunch. I won’t have appreciated then, as I do now, how hard my mother will have worked preparing everything around all of this.


Another tradition on Christmas Eve was that Santa Claus would visit. In the second of these pictures of that happening, I would appear to be amazed and delighted. I am sure I was, but this is not the salient memory I have.

Before I get to that, it is hilarious – for a number of reasons – that it never occurred to me that there was something amiss in the fact my Dad would always disappear for a short space of time and therefore miss Santa’s arrival, returning in surprise after Santa’s eventual departure to say he had seen him leaving on his sleigh, or at least hearing sleigh bells ringing as he was flying away.

The other reason is the mask. The memory I do recall with intensity is the one occasion I got too close to Santa’s face and immediately burst into tears because it was so grotesque. I think the whole plastic fakeness will have been enough to strike terror at such a moment of apocalypse, but it will also have been the shock created in that happy and naive expectation by the brutal reality of what I suddenly saw.

I presume it could be the time when the first picture was taken because my face is turned away from the camera. The stare on the Santa face as he enters the room is terrifying. I wonder if it is just after this when I became haunted? I do seem mesmerised and completely fooled by it all in the second: had I completely forgotten about the other visual assault? I am pleased about that latter happiness. I have no problem with the joy of such childhood innocence. The fact this all took place in the warm comfort of my Grandparents’ home, surrounded by a loving family [in the first picture I am sitting on my Uncle Glenn’s lap, and I will write about him too at some stage], is such a solid and fundamental root of the happiness I did have – if not always – in growing up.

I have kept both of these photos quite large for this posting to exemplify the scariness of Santa who clearly hasn’t aged. In this one I have just received my present – here at 5 years old in 1959 – and Santa is about to give one to my cousin who I guess isn’t crying at this time either.


Favourite Haiku

For deliciousness
try fording this rivulet
sandals in one hand

by Buson


I’ve always liked this, and used in my teaching. I first came across this haiku many years ago in an English teaching textbook called Sandals in One Hand by Gareth Boomer and Morris Hood, that kind from the 70s/80s which was simply and richly filled with all kinds of stimulus and activities – from poetry to reading comprehension to writing workshops,


The image I have used of a rivulet just for this posting is called Mother Cummings Rivulet and is by JJ Harrison.