Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Autumn poetry and enthusiasm

This is nothing like my walk to church. It's a photo we took at Westonbirt Arboretum last autumn, but this is what my walk to church looks like in my head...

I am not a poet and I don't write poetry, nor do I read it much if I am honest. But, somehow, every year autumn brings long forgotten poems back...
I walked to church this morning in velvet light that smelled of earth and spent leaves. And a line or two from Wordsworth dropped into my mind, straight and clean like a stone: -
"To the still influx of the morning light,
Open, and day's pure cheerfulness..."
The flavour of them rolled pleasantly around my tongue as I crossed the road toward the railway line, muttering like a mad woman. They transported me back to school - dust motes rising, wooden desks and inkwells, acrid smell of polish. Miss Grayson, my English teacher, would get so excited when she read poetry, that sometimes tiny bits of spittle would fly out of her mouth and land, glistening, on the front row girls. Understandably, everyone scuffled for the back seats. But I never minded Miss Grayson's mucoid excitement. It showed she cared. Anyway, she loved Jesus and was beautiful. So I always sat, brave and glistening, at the front.

There seems to be some disagreement as to whether Wordsworth had a faith, but my English teacher certainly did, and it came across in the way she taught us, in the way she listened to us and encouraged us and inspired us. That is why, I'm sure, lines of poetry, pieces of plays, snippets of writing from those lessons often fall, unbidden, into my mind, adding pleasure to the day, making the ordinary extraordinary.

I tell myself that the writers whose words I remember have no idea of it. Their words, carved in sweat or silence, from desks with views of trees or walls, were flung out there not knowing who they would touch and in what way. Yet, here am I, many decades later, allowing them to lend praise to my morning or bring comfort at dusk. Here is another favourite Shakespearean sonnet: -

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

And of course, the Keats: -

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun:
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run...

Miss Grayson taught us to love poetry with all her heart, Wordsworth and Shakespear wrote with all their might. Let me, too, be a spittle-throwing enthusiast in all I do - writing, teaching, cooking for my family, organising the church panto - and who knows? God, in the unexpected way He often has, may well use something I have written or taught or cooked or organised, to do something extraordinary for someone some day. Even if I am not here to see it...

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Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on writing school textbooks for Macmillan. She is also writing a full length novel in the odd spare moment. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver. 


  1. Heaven help us if you go into beat-boxing. I'll come to your gigs, but I'll sit at the back :) Great post, Mrs J. I like posts about English teachers.

  2. I wonder why that is?! Thanks Fran.

  3. Ev,em if one isn't primarily a poet, there are certain places and moments when only a. poem will do. I had a superb, enthusiastic, young English teacher in my final year at school. I had always loved reading but he opened up the world of literature and ideas for me. I've never forgotten him.

  4. You are so right. And, as a teacher, these kinds of things inspire me too. Thanks for reading and commentung Fran B ☺️